99 Easy-Breezy Ways to Get Your Creativity On

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And I have been inspired. Well… sort of. Don’t worry. I’ll explain that cryptic statement at the very end of this post. But first, let’s establish a few ground rules. Because ground rules everything starts with. 

The Six Basic Principles of Creativity

  • Creativity is a natural state of being for every single human under the sun. That includes you. (Unless you’re actually an alien from another planet, in which case … I confess, I don’t know. But probably you, too.)
  • Creativity isn’t something you do — it’s a way you approach life and everything in it.
  • Creativity cannot be created, because it’s a form of energy. But it can be increased, and it can be triggered, and it can be managed.
  • Creativity is not something that strikes you, like the old trope of “the whims of the muse.” Screw that bitch. Creativity is a force that is always at your disposal. ALWAYS.
  • Creativity can be triggered and magnified by three things in particular: awareness (or mindfulness), change, and curiosity.
  • Creativity does not care one flying fig about being “right” or “perfect.” EVER.

Now that we’ve got that settled, let’s dig into the good stuff.

I’ve got 99 fun, easy, and cheap (or free) ways you can boost your own creative powers. Some of them are specific creative problem-solving approaches. Some of them are habits you can develop to be more creative day-in and day-out. Some are one-offs that are just fun to do.

Ready? Deep breath — here we go!

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life.” – Sophia Loren

Maria’s Monster List of 99 Ways to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

  1. You don’t have to turn the TV off, contrary to most popular advice on the subject. Simply watch it differently — mindfully, openly, actively. Question plot choices and acting styles. Pause and challenge yourself to come up with a better plot twist or to appreciate a particularly lovely composition.
  2. Take a different route to a frequently-visited place.
  3. Unplug. Spend a little time every day completely away from electronics.
  4. Pick one new piece of produce at the market — something you’ve never tried before. And eat it.
  5. Cultivate mindfulness in everything.
  6. If you normally use a dishwasher, once in awhile do the dishes by hand. Or scrub a floor or a tub — but do it mindfully, focusing on the sensations.
  7. Create a new ritual to perform before you do creative work.
  8. Take a walk through your neighborhood. Choose a different path than usual. Pay attention.
  9. Take a sketchpad and charcoal pencils to a park or a coffee shop. Even if you think you can’t draw, draw. Sketch what you see. Don’t aim for accuracy. Just do short timed sketches of several different views.
  10. Make a habit out of being creative and doing creative work. Approach it ritually, at approximately the same time of day, every time.
  11. Improve your vocabulary with a word-a-day site or widget.
  12. Listen to music that’s unfamiliar.
  13. Watch an unfamiliar movie with the sound off. Pay attention to colors, facial expressions, body language … can you guess what’s going on without hearing the dialogue?
  14. Get a cheap kid’s watercolor paint set and a few different sized brushes. Paint regularly. Select something unfamiliar to you — a city, a type of flower or plant, a kind of topography — find an image of it on Freeimages.com or Google Images and then reproduce it. (Constraints actually help free creativity, believe it or not.)
  15. Develop the curiosity habit. Carry a small notebook with you all the time and whenever you hear or read of an unfamiliar person, book, place or subject, write it down. Then take some time regularly to consult the list and indulge your curiosity with a little purposeful web browsing (call it “research” if you want).
  16. Creativity depends on forming connections where connections didn’t exist before. So challenge yourself to find at least one new connection between two seemingly random, unrelated things every day. Example: an apple and the Eiffel Tower. Or a stormtrooper from Star Wars and a banana. (Can you tell I’m jonesing for some fruit right now?)
  17. Try a different art. If you sketch, write. If you write, dance. If you dance, write a song.
  18. Play around with unusual color schemes on Kuler. Then come up with a wildly creative name for the new scheme.
  19. Recite an unfamiliar poem out loud.
  20. Memorize a long complex poem.

  21. Play the alphabet game. Come up with a different type of the same thing from A to Z — animals, colors, cities, occupations, books, names …
  22. Pick your favorite medium and your favorite creative piece in that medium. Then reverse engineer it. Analyze it critically. Understand as much as humanly possible about the work and its genesis, why it works, why it speaks to you, how it was made, the artist … then try another, and another. Keep a written record of this in a separate composition book or journal.
  23. Take a classic poem, then make a new one using the old one as a recipe, swapping out verbs and nouns and adjectives for other verbs and nouns and adjectives.
  24. Challenge yourself with timed writing prompts.
  25. Read The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp.
  26. Go to one of those painted pottery places and paint yourself a new coffee or tea mug.
  27. Go to a store that sells essential oils and lets you experiment with them. Create your own signature fragrance.
  28. Learn a new recipe — something more complicated than your usual repertoire.
  29. Clean your house. Make your bed, especially. Do it routinely. Creativity likes a blank slate.
  30. Get a big white board and several colors of dry erase markers. Jazz up a list of pending projects and deadlines with the pens — draw flowers, shooting stars, rainbows, whatever floats your boat.
  31. Get in the doodling habit.
  32. Write down your dreams every morning, in as much detail as possible. Our subconscious minds are The Shit when it comes to putting together unusual images in unusual ways.
  33. Throw a dance party for one in your house.
  34. Play with collages — not necessarily as a vision board exercise, just to play with images, colors, themes, composition … mainly just to play.
  35. Next time you wake up at 3 AM, do something different: assume it’s a creative wake-up call from On High and get your ass out of bed. Get up FOR REAL, and engage in an artistic pursuit of your choice. Writing is especially attuned to this exercise, for some reason, but that could just be me.
  36. Turn off the TV. Sit and listen — really listen — see how many sounds in your environment you can identify.
  37. Go see a movie by yourself. Experience it like a kid.
  38. Find out where and what kind of live entertainment is available in your area. Go to at least one live event.
  39. Go browse in a store you’ve never been in — preferably one that sells antiques or anything on consignment. Find one item that speaks to you in some way and create a story in your mind (or in writing) about its history.
  40. Or, do the same but this time predict where the item will go next. Where it will end up.
  41. Check out a museum or art gallery. Something about seeing art live and in-person triggers creativity in a way that seeing reproductions just doesn’t.
  42. Read Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg.
  43. Listen to Baroque music. There’s some evidence to suggest this style in particular has a beneficial effect on brain waves that impacts creativity in a positive way.
  44. When you’re stuck on a particular project, take a mind-map approach. Hand-drawn ones are best, I find, but apps can help make them more manageable.
  45. Learn the rules. Then break them. Like Picasso. Emulate a master in your field, then revisit the same subject matter from a rule-breaking perspective. Like Picasso.
  46. Read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

  47. Interview a kid. Present them with a problem (in terms they can understand, of course) and see how they would go about solving it.
  48. Change your environment up. Go to a different location to work. Coffee shop instead of couch. Park instead of coffee shop.
  49. Rearrange your furniture.
  50. Think of a problem that you’re facing. Hold it in your head, then turn on the radio or television. Listen for a message. (Yes, you’re kind of pretending here, but you will be AH-mazed at how often you actually come up with helpful approaches you hadn’t considered before.)
  51. Go inventory your wardrobe and list out all the colors you see. Then go buy an inexpensive piece of clothing — a scarf, t-shirt, socks, whatever — in a color you don’t see on the list. Wear it. Pay attention to how you feel in it.
  52. Pick a color every morning and then throughout the day, see how many times and in how many contexts it shows up.
  53. Set your schedule on its ear. Shower in the afternoon. Have breakfast for dinner.
  54. Schedule daydreaming time every single day.
  55. When you take a walk, set an intention around a problem. Ask for guidance (from your subconscious brain, if you prefer, or from God, or your Higher Self). Then put it out of your brain and take a walk.
  56. Interview Future (successful) You. Write it all down with a kick-ass headline. Put a great photo of yourself in it — Photoshop it if you want, but it must “feel” like you. Then print it out and hang it where you can see it and be inspired by all that creativity that got Future You where s/he is.
  57. With every new creative idea you get, challenge yourself to figure out a way to launch it immediately. You don’t have to actually do it — just see if you can figure out how you could do it. Y’know. If you wanted to.
  58. When you’re problem-solving, REALLY brainstorm. No editing. Give yourself permission to write down as many wild-assed, completely impractical ideas as possible.
  59. Create an email-free space — also no phones or appointments — every week at the same time. Set up an appointment with yourself to do some high-level brainstorming for your business.
  60. Whatever huge dream project you’ve got going on — an ebook, a play or novel in progress, you really want to get back into acting, whatever — make sure you spend at least fifteen minutes on it every day. Commit to this. NO EXCUSES.
  61. Cut out the news-watching and gossip-site-reading. If something’s big enough, you’ll hear about it. If not, it’s just taking up your mental bandwidth unnecessarily.
  62. Challenge yourself to come up with five ways to improve something every single week. Even if it’s just the vacuum cleaner or the schedule at your kid’s school.
  63. If you do read news, look for the odd stories, and create a short plotline for a novel or movie around it. Make it a tragedy. Then turn it into a funny story. Then turn it into a mystery.
  64. Go to a large bookstore and buy a magazine you’ve never read before. Read it. Every single word.
  65. People watch with a purpose. Construct character sketches around the people you see.
  66. Pick a hot button issue on which you have a strong opinion. Research the opposing position thoroughly. Challenge yourself to see the other perspective. If nothing else, you’ll be in a better position to destroy ’em next time it comes up at the neighborhood bar.
  67. Buy fresh flowers “a la carte” and put them together yourself.
  68. Play the intuition game. Close your eyes and ask yourself a question. Open your eyes and pick the first three items your eyes happen to light upon. Find the answer to the question in those items. You may have to free associate for a bit for this to work.
  69. Read up on your hometown’s history.
  70. Play the alternate history game. What would have happened if Lincoln had lived? If Hitler hadn’t killed himself? If you’d said “yes” to that geek who asked you to the junior prom?
  71. Take a kid to the park and actually play with her. Swing ’til you’re dizzy.
  72. Design the ideal day — for your eight-year-old self. Then do it.

  73. Think of all the people who tried to rain on your creative parade throughout your life. Write a response to them all. Pour your heart and soul into it. Tell ’em what you really think of them and their uninformed opinions. Then burn it. Let it go.
  74. Challenge your assumptions when you’re stuck. Keep asking “Is it really true that _____?”
  75. Research a specific place you’ve always wanted to visit. Learn its history, its culture. Find ways to incorporate that place into your life. Cook the food. Listen to the music. Learn the language.
  76. Find the script to your favorite movie online. Watch it with reference to the script. Pay attention to what the writer intended and what choices were made by the director, the actors, the composer… figure out how it became the movie you know.
  77. Get in the habit of asking questions, especially open-ended and impossible ones.
  78. Before you research those questions you asked, brainstorm possible answers for yourself. Then do the research and see how close you came.
  79. Give yourself to suck at an initial creative attempt. Out loud. In writing. Say, “I have permission to write a shitty first draft,” as Anne Lamott put it.
  80. Drink a large glass of tea or water before sitting down to starting to work on a creative project. Don’t let yourself get up to the go to the bathroom until you’ve worked for a certain amount of time.
  81. Read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.
  82. Go cloud watching. Make the pictures as complex as you can.
  83. Have one place to capture your creative ideas. Take it with you everywhere. Write everything that occurs to you down — don’t keep anything in your head.
  84. Get a set of fridge poetry magnets. Do a poem a day.
  85. Try forming a new scent association for creative work. Get candles in one pleasant scent, and light them when you start working. Save that scent for creative work. (Then you’ll start to associate being creative with that scent. One whiff will put you in the mood to work.)
  86. Make a creative swipe file. Whatever inspires you, moves you, angers you … copy it. (Evernote is really good for this.)
  87. Have approved distractions — i.e., mini-projects you can work on when you start feeling a little burned out on your big project.
  88. Try stopping mid-stroke or mid-sentence when you’re ready to shut down for the day. This gives you a place to start next time.
  89. Conquer a fear.
  90. Play “what if.” Play it a LOT.
  91. Redefine sticky problems by trying to explain them to someone outside that field.
  92. Try writing or sketching with your non-dominant hand.
  93. Do a “Q&A” with yourself in writing, using two different colors of ink. Write the question down, then pick up the other pen and write the answer. Aim for free-association writing, stream of consciousness style.
  94. Go ahead and play Words With Friends or Mafia Wars or whatever competitive game you like. (Just set a time limit.) Indulge your inner winner.
  95. Have a conversation with the dog or cat or fish. Really. Imagine his/her/its end of it, too. Write it down, even.
  96. If you’re being flooded with negative self talk, write it all down. Give yourself permission to be as down on yourself and your abilities as you like. Wallow in your fears. Then, declare “enough” and burn that sucker. Let ’em go.
  97. Make a solid commitment to finish.
  98. But give yourself as many do-overs as you want and need.
  99. Set yourself an impossible and random goal. Something like “come up with 99 ways to be more creative and make the list into a blog post…”

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