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How to be more creative: Learning how to think out of the box

Updated on February 22, 2013

How to be more creative? How to think out of the box? Creativity knows no boundaries and is applicable to intensely creative professions like writing or fashion designing and even seemingly straightforward ones like accounting or marketing. Boosting creativity levels will help in all areas of life – from profession to personal. These tips to become more creative apply to hardcore artists and everyday people alike.

Writing down ideas will allow you to channelize your creativity and give it closure.
Writing down ideas will allow you to channelize your creativity and give it closure.

1) Write down idea flashes

People get disappointed with themselves when their ideas don't flow naturally or sequentially. They come to a conclusion that they aren't creative but that may be far from the truth. You have to put effort in connecting random flashes of ideas and track down chains of fleeting thoughts to give your creativity form and meaning.

Jotting down your flurry of ideas on your smartphone, tablet or notepad is a practice you must inculcate to be more creative. An idea may not be complete by itself but when it gets linked with another one later on, your creative expression will receive closure.

2) Utilize and channelize stress to your advantage

Stress may not always be a bad thing. Experts have seen stress in the right amount, intensity and frequency to actually boost creative thinking and other cognitive abilities. The next time to you find yourself in the middle of a problem, attack it creatively and use it to your advantage.

Use the association forming technique or think about how a person with a different life experience would have approached the problem. This method of thinking will increase your creativity in two significant ways. It will allow you to look at the problem with fresh eyes and find creative solutions in other areas of life.

Stress can also be channelized by performers or artists to bring variety to their art form. For example, a poet can pen down the emotional trauma of ending a relationship in the form of heart-touching quotes about breakup. Similarly, a painter facing stress can use dark colors to paint a canvas that depicts her fragile state of mind.

3) Break out from inhibitions and constraints to creativity: Embrace things that are outside your comfort zone

Intense bursts of creativity stem from the happiness of being comfortable out of your comfort zone. This applies especially to artists and performers who can notch up their creativity levels by getting rid of inhibitions.

These inhibitions and constraints to creativity can range from being afraid to perform in front of an audience to feeling conscious in the public eye. Free yourself of these constraints and watch your creativity spiral upwards as it breaks away from the chains of inhibitions.

4) Cultivate interdisciplinary interest: Dabble in creative art forms that are not your mainstay

Creativity can be extremely nebulous because of which it is difficult to contain it inside a single category or domain of knowledge or expertise. Being stuck in the same art domain constantly for a long time can inhibit the growth of an artist's creativity. Such a situation can frame the person's thought process in a box, hindering the infusion and acknowledgment of different school of thoughts.

To overcome this block, artists and performers should consciously dabble in an art form that is separate from their own mainstay. For example, a writer going through the dreaded writer's block may regain his or her creative panache while trying to learn the piano.

This tip to be more creative also applies to people who are not artists. A physicist can expose himself to a new sport while a basketball player can start learning a new musical instrument. Overall creativity levels in life can be boosted by getting rid of a single-minded focus.

5) Read more books, magazines, journals

Reading more books and other material is crucial to multiple mental faculties including improving memory, developing a sense of humor, keeping the brain agile and knowing what is happening around the world.

Reading across a wide range of categories and genres will expand your creative horizon. It will allow you to be more creative by being able to think out of the current box that your thinking capacity is stuck inside.

6) Interact and collaborate with people who have different life experience than yours

Increasing your interaction with people of varied ages, backgrounds and interests can add significantly to your creative quotient. They present a worldview different from your own which can help you think outside the box.

Get rid of your fixed paradigms and perspectives by collaborating with people having different life experiences. The insights that you find in the opinion of a ten year old, an immigrant, a septuagenarian or a nun can be drastically different from one another. As you experience the beauty of this variety, you may be able to see things differently and increase your creativity.

7) Think of how you can do things differently

An absolute and unique result of creativeness is not a by-product of following a set of rules. It is the result of a person's unique approach. Use this principle in all walks of life to be more creativity.

It is very important to follow rules and adhere to standards in life. However if your work or life situation demands you to display your creative potential to the maximum, ask yourself a simple question – how can I do this differently?

8) Watch world cinema and documentaries of niche genres

Cinema is a medium which can take you through the strangest corners of the world and the deepest of life experiences without moving from your seat. It can give you an overall sensory experience by showing you a range of characters, stories, points of views and narratives.

Scratch beyond the surface of this overwhelming medium of creativity by going beyond mainstream Hollywood. Watch all types of world cinema or documentaries that you can get your hands on - from a movie with only sights and sounds called Baraka to Michael Moore's riveting documentaries about contemporary America, from the Spanish classic Volver to a masterpiece of German Expressionism called Metropolis. You will be able to boost your creativity by understanding different points of view, perspectives and techniques with which these films are made.

Wikipedia is an easy-to-access information gold mine. Use it to ignite your creativity.
Wikipedia is an easy-to-access information gold mine. Use it to ignite your creativity.

9) Read a couple of Wikipedia page every day

Pick any Wikipedia page and read it. The related items at the bottom of the page and links inside paragraphs are a never-ending loop of knowledge and insight that take you from one page to another.

Becoming more creative is all about widening the boundaries of your creativity and you can do just that by reading at least a couple of Wikipedia pages every day. The topic can be about performing arts, physics, dance, fashion, human biology or any other domain.

10) Set aside time to daydream and do nothing

This tip applies especially to artists and professionals who rely on their creativity levels to deliver work. Being stuck in an environment that constantly requires a person to channelize creativity in a specific domain can heave onto someone's creative quotient.

If you find yourself in a similar spot where your creativity levels are draining because there is constant pressure to deliver, set aside time every day when you can daydream. Allow your mind to reboot so you can calm down and refresh.

11) Take a different route to work every now and then

The logic behind choosing a different route to reach work or school every now and then is to venture outside your mundane routine. To make your mind receptive of new ideas and thoughts, it is important to flip your routine, expect the unexpected and do things that you usually wouldn't.

By doing something as simple as changing your route to work, you are likely to be more alert, notice new shops on the way, discover more public transport options or bump into interesting people. Creativity can become stagnant if your routine is not given an opportunity to be updated, refreshed or challenged.

12) Embrace change

It is a human instinct to be wary of change. To be more creative, this fear of change must be put to rest. Creativity in personal life or at work arises from looking at things with a different perspective. This may be impossible to achieve if there exists an adverse approach to bringing in change.

Travelling enriches the soul, spurting creativity from within.
Travelling enriches the soul, spurting creativity from within.

13) Travel overseas

Creativity cannot emerge from a shell of limited references. It crosses the limits of geographical boundaries and cultures. Traveling will also expose you to new places, people, cultures, landscapes and ideas which will give your creative cells food for thought.

Bursts of imagination could stem from experiencing Yum Cha in Hong Kong, feeding kangaroos in Australia, drinking with fellow revelers at Oktoberfest, taking a ride in the Palace on Wheels, cutting through Alaskan glaciers or witnessing the Paris Fashion Week. Traveling can open your eyes to a range of things you never even knew existed.

14) Spot creativity in ordinary things and make it a habit

It is a false notion that the end result of creativity must always be something grand, radical or revolutionary. The reality is that creativity can be sought in the simplest of things in everyday life.

Train your mind to see creativity in the most usual things through the power of observation. Some of the world's most creative advertising campaigns, revolutionary movie shots, evergreen dialogues and groundbreaking products have been a result of people's abilities to spot the extraordinary in the ordinary.


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