10 Things Creative People Do

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Have you ever wondered why some people are more creative than others? Did you ever wish that you had more of that particular gene? The good news is that research shows that happiness and creativity are not only related, they can be developed. Here are 10 ways to jumpstart your creativity, starting now:

1. Listen In: Listen to your intuition and capture your new ideas. Whether from your morning shower, nighttime dreams, when running, in the car, or in nature, keep an idea notebook and jot it down.

2. Mind Your Mindset: When you start something new, you can either choose to put yourself down and succumb to the inner critic (fixed mindset) or enjoy the process of creation (growth mindset).

3. Get in the Flow: Focus on the moment rather than the goal. When you are totally immersed in a creative activity, when hours feel like moments, you open to tapping into something bigger than yourself. Let it flow through you.

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4. Let Your Senses Come Alive: Notice not only how things look, but how they feel in your hand, how they smell, the sounds surrounding you, even the nuances of taste. Don’t forget to listen to your gut — that’s an important sense too!

5. Happiness Spurs Innovation: Sadness inhibits innovative ideas, causing people to exercise more restraint, but happiness expands creative thinking, fresh associations and new perspectives. Remember to take a break and make time for fun! You’ll come back refreshed.

6. Gratitude Rules: Being grateful for where you’re at and “taking in the good” helps sculpt your brain’s neural pathways to receive more of it. Imagine what you are creating. Like an athlete training for peak performance when you visualize something special, your can embody it even more.

7. Seek Out Challenging Tasks: Just for fun, challenge yourself with projects that don’t have solutions, like how to make a horse fly (no — we’re not talking unicorns) or build a perfect model of a part of the body. This opens the mind for all types of strategies, which helps generate fresh ideas.

8. Surround Yourself With Interesting People and Things: Spend time with diverse friends, listen to new music, see new exhibitions to broaden your horizons. Having unusual objects around you also helps you develop original ideas.creativity-poster

9. Learn Something New: By taking a class outside your typical area of interest, you can have a wider range of ideas to draw from and interconnect. Research shows that connecting in new ways is the basis for all creative thought.

10. Know Your Strengths and Passions: Get to know what makes your heart soar, what makes you feel most alive and energized, and use it as fuel for the creative process.

By nourishing your creative side, you’ll bring happiness not only to yourself but to those around you. You’ll also know what you had inside yourself all along. What do you do to tap into your creativity?

Thanks to Randy Taran

Understanding Your World, Your Brain, and Zen Philosophy

Here are nine books that can help you understand the modern world, make better decisions, be more creative, and control your emotions.

1. Don’t Bite the Hook – Pema Chodron

Pema, a Buddhist nun who converted later in life from American roots, is a great teacher. She is able to simply and clearly connect with listeners and readers about a few powerful insights. In this book she talks about shenpa, the cycle of anxiety we buy into whenever confronted with a stressful situation.

2. Awakening the Buddha Within – Lama Surya Das

There are countless books for Westerners in search of the simple insights of Buddhism. This book is quite detailed and serious.

3. Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity – Hugh MacLeod

There are a million books about creativity. There are very few books that challenge the resistance so directly and effectively. This book eliminates the excuses that have been holding you back from being creative.

4. Presentation Zen – Garr Reynolds

A collection of effective tactics that are available to anyone who has made the choice to be more productive using a Zen approach.

5. The Lonely Crowd – David Riesman

This is a great sociology book; the key argument is that fitting into a large group is a relatively new phenomenon and it has changed the way human beings interact.

6. The Managed Heart – Arlie Russell Hochschild

Hochschild was given significant access to stewardesses working at Delta Airlines in the 1960s. She chronicles the deadening pain they felt as they were forced to bring cheerfulness and emotion to work each day. This was a breakthrough on the study of human emotions.

7. Stone Age Economics – Marshall Sahlins

Despite the clever title, this book is actually about how primitive cultures worked. One key takeaway is that hunter-gatherers were the idle rich. They worked about three hours a day and spent the rest of the day resting.

8. Honest Signals – Alex Pentland

Pentland is a professor at MIT, and this is ostensibly a book about some amazing technology he’s putting together that measures the interactions people have all day. This is about the incredible power of nonverbal communication and tribal hierarchies in the way we interact.

9. Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless.

Hat tip to Love My Life Right Now

10 Fascinating Insights into Creativity

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1. We say we like creativity, but we really don’t

In the United States we are raised to appreciate the accomplishments of inventors and thinkers—creative people whose ideas have transformed our world. It’s all a lie. This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.

2. It’s not mess — it’s creativity

Historically, the evidence has favored the tidy camp. Cleanliness, as the proverb says, is next to godliness. But if messiness is so bad, why do so many people tolerate, and even embrace, it?

3. Mental tricks to jumpstart creativity while waiting in line

Breathe, look around, eavesdrop. Your next big breakthrough could be one observation away.

4. Wearing headphones blocks creativity by blocking out real life

They may be a modern day emblem of the ideas-generating classes but the wearing of headphones is stifling original thinking by blocking out real life, one of British advertising’s most revered figures has claimed.

5. Specific smells, colors, and sounds help unleash your creativity

Smelling peppermint, turning up the volume, looking at plants, and smiling all enhance creativity.

6. The creative person’s hierarchy of needs

In a nutshell, as humans, our basic needs are: Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualization. Creative people have additional needs. Recognizing these needs and making sure they are met are essential to applied creativity.

7. Unexpected ways to spark your creative genius

While a strike of creative genius can’t necessarily be forced, here are a few clever ways to get your juices flowing.

8. John Cleese on 5 factors to make your life more creative

In this excerpt from his fantastic 1991 lecture, John Cleese offers a recipe for creativity, delivered with his signature blend of cultural insight and comedic genius. Specifically, Cleese outlines “the 5 factors that you can arrange to make your lives more creative.”

9. Can trauma enhance creativity?

In addition to all the destructive consequences that may follow traumatic experience, some people say it also has power to encourage creative expression.

10. Drugs for Parkinson’s unleash creativity in some patients

In a bad news, good news story, specialists from around the world are reporting Parkinson’s disease patients are displaying new creative talents — presumably as an offshoot of medications for their condition.

7 Creativity Tips from the Masters

Generating creative, inventive ideas may not be as hard as you think.Creativity tips from master artists and writers

“We learn, from the time we’re little, the process of the scientific method–how to discover things–but we don’t teach the parallel art of how to invent things,” Stanford innovation scholar Tina Seelig says. “That’s one of the reasons creativity seems so mysterious.”

However, creativity and invention can be as simple as connecting the dots, according to Steve Jobs. Here are a few tips from Albert Einstein, Jobs, and many other creatives.

1. Einstein: Play with multiple ideas before taking action

Einstein had a delay-oriented form of problem solving: If given an hour to tackle a monstrous problem, he’d spend 55 minutes thinking about it and five minutes putting the solution together. His approached creativity the same way.

Brain Pickings editor Maria Popova noted that Einstein thought of creativity as “combinatorial play” among the ideas brewing inside your mind. He would play with elements and concepts before attempting to put the resultant ideas into words.

2. Jobs: Collect lots of different types of experiences

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” Creativity feeds on diverse experiences, or a large career vocabulary, to get enough dots to connect. “The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” To accumulate more creative raw material, have more expansive experiences; for example, travel more.

Creativity tips from master artists and writers3. Notice more

In addition to collecting more experiences, you should notice more: According to Seelig, “The first step to becoming more creative is certain appreciative, inquisitive mindfulness: We need only to observe the world with acute focus.”

“When you realize that we’re influenced by so many things that we don’t even pay attention to, then you can start seeing the opportunities in your midst. If you don’t pay attention, not only do you not realize what’s affecting you, but you also don’t see the problems that can be turned into opportunities.”

4. Do a little bit every day

Every artist in Mason Currey’s book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, found some way to carve out time to work, says Jessica Grose, “either in the early morning, or before binge drinking the rest of the day like Francis Bacon. In some cases, it’s not that long. Gertrude Stein would only work for 30 minutes each day. Some other writers said two to three hours every day is great, but more than that wears them out and hurts the next day’s work. But they worked at the same time every day, regardless of their other obligations.”

5. It’s the spaces between the work that matter

Many creative behaviors, Grose discovered, relate to taking breaks. “Taking a nap and drinking coffee were typical. Igor Stravinsky would do a headstand. Thomas Wolfe had the weird fondling-himself habit. Walking seems the most common, especially among composers. Composers all seemed to take a long walk every day.Creativity tips from master artists and writers

6. Clean body, creative mind

Many artists used bathing habits as part of their creative process. “Beethoven would stand at the washstand and pace back and forth and then go back to the washstand and put water on himself,” says Grose. The novelist Somerset Maugham would think about the first two sentences he wanted to write while soaking in the bathtub in the morning. Woody Allen would give himself the chills so he wanted to take a hot shower.”

7. Always ask questions

PayPal founder Max Levchin talks to tons of random creative people, asks them questions about their craft, takes extensive notes of their quandaries, and then compiles–and reviews–all of his research. What comes out of it? Companies–like his new mobile payment solution Affirm.

This slide show explores the specific creative habits of artists from poets to directors.

Hat tip: Brain Pickings and Fast Company

Creativity tips from master artists and writers

Thoughts: Zen and creativity

Is the goal “no mind,” or “no I-centered mind”?

Zen creativity writing spiritual fictionWe are all creatives–authors, artists, performers, but also innovative cooks, parents, seekers. In addition, we are all writers; we cannot express our emotions and ideas, either to ourselves or others, without stringing words into sentences. As such, most of us have thoughts rattling around in our brains  nearly every waking moment. We can’t help it.

And yet, there is a clear connection between emptying the mind and becoming more creative. Everyone has a shower stall or gardening “ah ha!” story. Buddhist Geeks recently posted a fascinating interview with Gary Weber, a Zen practitioner, senior executive, and author who was able to stop his thoughts. He experiences virtually no self-referential thoughts or emotions, a Zen state called “no mind.”

Let go of I-centered stories

Weber still experiences neural responses (emotions). However, “What you lose is the desire leading up to them and then after they are over you don’t make stories about something that needs to be repeated together or something that was really done badly or something terribly. You just don’t have the storylines. So the emotions are there very quickly but then they fall away.” Weber still has plenty of thoughts, but now they are purposeful and appropriate to the situation. He has let go of “I want. . . I feel . . . I need . . . I should . . . I like . . . I hate . . .” Those self-referential thoughts don’t consume his mind the way they do for most people.

My personal “ah ha” from the interview is that, if we let go of our I-centered thoughts and stories, we make room in our minds for creativity. In other words, you don’t need to shoot for “no mind” to spur creativity, simply “no self-centered  mind.”

How do we make room for creativity?

I try to write down impersonal thoughts such as creative ideas and shopping lists; they vanish if I don’t. However, I think it’s harder for writers in particular to let go of our stories. I get hung up on crafting a thought I want to share later. My brain turns the thought over and over, sometimes for days, polishing the words and rehearsing my delivery. Sometimes I rehearse the story so often I’m not sure if I shared it or not! And if my mind is consumed by such I-centered thoughts, there’s no room for truly creative ideas to arise.

When minor events occur–say, someone cuts ahead in line–try not to spin a story with yourself as the main character so you can share your indignation later. Listen to whose stories you’re telling in your head. If they typically center around you, and in particular if they’re stories you’ve told yourself before, try to let them go.

Some stories are so personal, so deeply entrenched, they’re difficult to release. For those, self-help books abound. I’m more interested in letting go of the transient I-centered stories that clutter our brains virtually every waking moment. If we release those stories, we open our minds to creative possibilities.

Sometimes those I-centered stories are easier to release if you write them down as they arise. You can experiment with a notebook, a recorder, or whatever works for you (there’s probably an app for that). Mindfulness is an easy place to start.

As a creative, how do you let go of your personal stories to make room for creative ones?