5 Habits of a Creative Mind
Beyond the usual gimmicks for finding new ideas to thrive in your creative work, take time to embrace the value of these 5 habits of a creative mind. I am not talking suspicious notions and oddities. It is fascinating, but not necessarily helpful to research about the “air baths’ Benjamin Franklin used to take, or the nocturnal sketching of I.M. Pei, or even the peculiar obsession of Picasso to never throw away any of his nail clippings.
There are plenty of quirky and odd notions of history’s famous inventors and creatives. While fascinating, these oddities are not helpful for you or me to duplicate. (i.e.- I have yet to hear of another visual artist finding a tremendous breakthrough because they followed Picasso’s model of collecting their nail clippings). For a fascinating read on these habits, which range from helpful to quirky, check out this book: Daily Rituals How Artists Work
Creative Habits that Work for You
What I am talking about are habits you can try to utilize, and in the process discover the creative habits that work for you. We are all creative, but there are techniques to increase your creativity. This ability comes from much more than just your ‘right brain’. Researchers are now telling us it comes from the ability to utilize the cognitive and emotional parts of your brain, as well as the deliberate and spontaneous parts of your brain. Creativity is an all encompassing feat. Simply put, creativity is a mysteriously complex process. Indeed, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and the latest research from neuroscientists makes this truth even more clear.
Creativity is Multifaceted
Beyond ‘right brain’, or ‘left brain’, neuroscientists have uncovered the reality that creativity is multifaceted. It does not reside in one half, or even one quadrant of the brain. Creativity utilizes our conscious and subconscious domains, as well as our default network, executive network and salience networks. I won’t get overly technical here, but if you want to get a deeper understanding of all this, consider this book: Wired to Create. This book is a great addition to the classic book by Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit.
Twyla Tharp has choreographed over 160 works, won Tony Awards, Emmy’s, and countless other awards. A few key takeaways from her book on the Creative Habit are 1) inspiration does not simply appear out of nowhere, 2) fear is always going to rear its ugly head, and 3) you need creative discipline and habits in order to have a long lasting body of work.
The 5 Habits
So what can you do? What habits can you explore to boost your creativity? I will offer up 5 Habits of a Creative Mind for you to consider. Please leave a comment below and let us know which ones seem to promise new hope for you today. To be clear, this list is more about mental habits than physical habits. I want you to consider how your mindset and your imagination can be directed, enticed or provoked toward new ideas, approaches and perspectives. These mental habits can change your entire perspective and enable you to discover new ideas, inspiration and alternative perspectives.
1) Imaginative Play
Childlike, imaginative play is essential for both a healthy spiritual life as well as a healthy creative life. God never intended for us to grow up to be boring or cynical. Cynicism and the loss of “play in our life is a cancer to every part of our being. Consider how Jesus spoke of children. Jesus proclaimed his love for children and made statements about children that were both shocking and loving to children. When people tried to keep the children away, he corrected the error and invited the kids to be close to him. He never “grew up” so much that he was some pious serious ascetic. Then he said we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven unless we become as children.
There is something about the joy, imagination and faith that children possess more naturally. Life has not yet tempted them to be overly practical or cynical. Unfortunately, people read 1 Corinthians 13:11, where Paul talks about growing up and putting away things of a child, and they assume maturity is all serious business for a healthy Christian – which would be death to your heart, your spirit and your creativity. C.S. Lewis, whose imagination gave us Narnia and other worlds, has one of the best responses. He wrote, “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
Take time to stop being serious, take the pressure off, and have fun. Play with your artistic projects, laugh with your team, and enjoy the process with all your heart. God did not create you to go through the motions. He created you in His Image, which means each day we should celebrate life, create with abandon, and at the end of the day, take pleasure in our work.
Somewhere along the line in school, we were admonished for daydreaming. Maybe we were bored with chemistry or biology and stopped listening to the teacher as we daydreamed. On top of this we have a society obsessed with efficiency. Be your most productive self! The problem is to be productive you need to let your mind wander. Neuroscientists now know we need to engage very different parts and networks within our brain. We need the autopilot functions to interact with our curiosity. This happens when we take time to ponder an idea and allow our imagination to run. God gave you a fascinating and powerful imagination for a reason. Take time to foster your imagination.
Your heart and mind cannot forever withstand the daily onslaught of traffic, email, texts, and lines at the coffee store. Your brain needs a sabbath, just as your heart and spirit do. This is the reason taking a Sabbath is one of the ten commandments. You need to recharge if you are going to continue to develop new ideas and find new creative solutions. You may need a few days away, or you may need a whole month. Many of the most creative software geniuses take entire month off, and go to places like Mackinac Island where there are no cars and life slows down.
Our culture may have wandered away from belief in God, but they are realizing they are missing something – prayer, a sabbath, and spiritual peace. They are looking for their own versions in mindfulness, gratitude journals and unplugged vacations. The truth is we already knew our souls required a sabbath, and your creative mind requires a sabbath as well. So peal away from all the usual stimuli, take time to pray, and you may be surprised with the benefits for your creative mind.
4) Always be Learning
Years ago, I read a book on creativity which encouraged the reader to buy a magazine on a topic you wouldn’t ordinarily read, pick a restaurant at random for lunch, and other habits that would force your mind to continually encounter new ideas. The core of his thesis was that sitting in a room like Winnie the Pooh, going “Think, think, think, . . .” can often be counterproductive. Sometimes what you need is to learn something new. Then you can incorporate the new ideas and approaches into the projects you are working on.
5) Fostering the Right Passions
Drudgery is never inspiring. It is important not only to work hard, and keep developing your ideas, and your projects, but also developing your passions. Be careful of taking projects or working with people who dampen or crush your passions. It may be necessary when you are starting out and need to learn from people who don’t celebrate you. However, you cannot withstand that forever.
It is essential that you take time to develop your gifts, talents and passions in tandem. Following your passions without any other concerns is mere foolishness. On the other hand, following a professor’s advice or doing simply what you “ought to do” is also a recipe for disaster. If you want to produce a body of work over decades that inspires people, then you need to be inspired, passionate and hopeful in the process. You cannot do this unless you develop your passions. It is especially important that you work to develop your passions alongside your creative projects. Over time you want to develop the habit of listening to your heart, and speaking to your heart. Know how you are doing, but also know where you long to go and what you long to create.
God’s Calling on our Life
For a Christian this also is part of the invitation from God to consider His calling on our life, and the passions He has given us. We will have many passions, and aspects to our calling that change during different seasons of our life. God is always at work, and he wants to work through you as well as to love you and help you develop. He cares about your sanctification as well as the impact you have through your creativity. I don’t have room to here to get into this. To really unpack this, I would strongly encourage you to consider taking our Calling Course later this spring.
The Creative Mind Requires Creative Habits
If we fail to take care of our heart, mind and soul, are failing to take care of all that God has given us. We cannot just push through and ignore the way we were made. Our spiritual life and our creative life need healthy habits. I hope these 5 habits of a creative mind are an encouragement to you, and a reminder of how complex and beautifully you have been designed by God. Take time to consider these habits and see how you can incorporate what is needed most in your life right now.
Copyright © 2020 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.