If you're sitting at an assistant's desk or typing out number's in your accountant's office, it could feel hard to encourage creative thinking when you have a more technical or cut-and-dry job. Where artists and poets can play with paints and words all day long, and writers can surround themselves with literature and articles until the sun goes down, you're stuck dabbling with spreadsheets and going over reports. When the most creative thing you can do is choose the colors for a pie chart, things can feel very black and white: You're either a creative person in a creative field, or you're just not built for that imaginative, innovative stuff.
But that's not true. All of us are curious and all of us can try a hand in innovation and inspiration, no matter where we work or what we choose to do. All it takes is creating an atmosphere where your mind is allowed to flex its muscles and look at things in a new, interesting way. Easier said than done though, right? Wrong — you just have to seek out inspiration. Below are seven ways you can lead a creative life, no matter your job. Get ready to be inspired!
1. Surround Yourself With Inspiration
The best way to facilitate a creative mood is to surround yourself with things that have caught your eye and made you think. Whether it's an interesting postcard or an article that really pulled at you, pin it on a cork board or store it in a file on your computer. Just get it in your face.
Entrepreneur writer Annabel Acton told career-development site The Muse, "Whenever you see something from the big wide world that captures your attention, put it on display. It can be any discovery: an awesome ad in a magazine, an unusually arranged menu, or even a well-written email that made you laugh." The more you see these things, the more your mind will wander off into a creative space.
2. Embrace The Weird
When you experience something slightly absurd or out of the ordinary, you get a boost in creative thinking. You start putting patterns together in different ways and go off on a tangent that you might not have explored if you haven't experienced the trigger. So seek out the absurdities.
Gregory Ciotti, content strategist and writer of creativity site Sparring Mind, shared, "The conclusion was that the mind is always seeking to make sense of the things that it sees, and surreal/absurd art puts the mind in “overdrive” for a short period while it tries to work out just exactly what it is looking at or reading." Thumb through Alice in Wonderland, read short stories that are head-scratchers, read poetry that plays with words in an interesting way, or look through art that shows the world through a surreal lens — find the odd and see what thoughts it triggers.
3. Make Someone Keep You On Track
Magic happens when you can bounce ideas off of a person and hear their input, so find yourself a creative partner in crime. Not only will you help each other think of rad new ideas, but you'll keep each other accountable to keep the habit going. Acton explained, "Pick a colleague you feel comfortable with with and make yourselves accountable to each other. Encourage him or her to keep trying new things, whether it’s trying a new place for lunch, pitching an idea in an unorthodox manner, sharing articles that inspire, or just doing some old-fashioned brainstorming." Whether it's sending a simple email asking what cool new thing they read today or asking to meet for coffee after work, having a creative friend will help you stay motivated and curious.
4. Take Notes On Your Passing Ideas
Sometimes the fleeting, random thoughts we have can be developed into gold — but they don't have a chance if you don't catch them by the tail and write them down.
Camm Rowland, creative director at Digital Kitchen shared in Alex Cornell’s Breakthrough! 90 Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block & Spark Your Imagination, "Take notes. In the morning, 75 percent will be unintelligible, 20 percent will be laughable, and 5 percent might actually be pretty awesome." You never know what idea you can develop further into something truly special, so write it all down!
5. Focus On The Small Stuff
If you have a more conventional job that doesn't let you get crazy when it comes to creativity, try changing small things to see where they can take you. It might not lead you to become acting creative director, but a small tweak can at least get you thinking about other side projects or brain-storming how to tackle problems from a different angle.
Acton suggested, "Try changing lots of small things, like how you sign off your emails, how you reward yourself for good work, or how you kick off meetings." Flexing your creative muscles in small areas counts.
6. Ask Questions
If you want to flex your creative muscles but are stuck, a great way to get around the block is to ask questions about your project. If you want to make it better or want to give it a new angle, ask what reactions you're trying to pull from interacting with it.
For example, Robert Andersen, product designer at Square shared in Alex Cornell’s Breakthrough!, "If you’re stuck in the middle of the design, it probably means that you’re not asking enough questions. Who is the audience? What do they feel? What do they desire? What will improve their life and create joy? How do other designers tackle similar problems?" Ask out of the box questions and get out of the box answers.
7. Feed Your Mind First Thing In The Morning
You get into a creative mood when you surround yourself with art, and thoughts, and ideas. Do that first thing in the morning, before your work and job and responsibilities get in the way, ensuring you start off with an open mindset.
Acton agreed, "Feed your mind with creativity instead of diving into the email deluge (that can wait). Pick your favorite song, podcast, or blog to kick-start the morning. Whatever it is, make sure it fuels your imagination.ż
By going out of your way to surround yourself with inspiration, imagination, and encouragement, you can facilitate a creative space for yourself no matter the job. Make these small tweaks and develop these habits and you'll begin innovating in no time!