Living the Creative Life: Cultivating Creativity

By Dave Hood

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.
—Steve Jobs

You must cultivate creativity to live a creative life—such becoming a writer photographer, artist, or musician. Several years ago, after I made the decision to take up creative writing, I would sit at my desk with pen and notebook, ready to write, but not know what to write. After several attempts, which resulted in a great deal of wasted time, I arrived at the conclusion that I ought to learn how creative people generate ideas. So, I began reading books on the writing life, such as “The Right to Write” and “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. I also read several book on creativity, especially books on creative strategies and creative thinking. One of the interesting books I read was “ A Whack on the Side of the Head” by Roger von Oech. He explains several strategies and identifies a myriad of creative thinking techniques that a person can use to generate new ideas to solve a problem or overcome a challenge.

From my reading, I learned that creative people are able to generate authentic and novel ideas to solve problems or conquer challenges. I also learned that creative people are able to transform ideas into creative writing, a work of art, a new invention, innovation, or discovery. For instance, the creative photographer can see the extraordinary in the ordinary, and then capture a memorable image. Next, I poured over these creative strategies, determining which ones were most useful for me, and then I learned them. Now, I use these strategies to generate ideas for writing and photography. Here are the creative strategies I use and recommend to anyone who desires to generate new ideas for a creative project:

Learn to live mindfully, in the present moment. Living mindfully requires that you become aware of what is happening in the present moment. You must make a mental note of what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel, in the present moment. Living in the present moment requires you to stop being part of the living dead who are lost in thought, worried about the future, or tormented by the past. The living dead or sleep walkers fail to see their lives unfolding moment by moment. Instead you must use your “senses” to become aware of your surroundings. For instance, when you see something interesting, snap a photograph with your smartphone or write down the details in a notebook you carry with you. Living mindfully will enable you to discover creative ideas that you can transform into some object of creativity, such as a photograph or personal essay or song.

Schedule a creative date with yourself on a regular basis. Julia Cameron, author of the bestselling book, “The Artist’s Way,” suggests that writers schedule an artist date every week. You might visit a book store, where you will read a few art magazines. You might purchase a ticket to see a musical concert, visit the art gallery or craft show, buy a ticket to see a film at the cinema. Anyone who aspires to live the creative life ought to schedule creative dates, and use them to nourish their mind with creative ideas.

Establish a creative space, some private place, free of distractions, that inspires you, where you will work on your creative projects. Many writers have a study where they work. I work in a small, quiet room. In the room, I have a stereo system, bookcase, desk and chair. I use the stereo for listening to inspirational jazz. I’ve learned that the right music inspires my creativity. There’s also a bookcase with inspirational books on creative writing and photography. I work in a comfortable chair at my oak desk. A laptop computer sits on my desk. I use it to write, edit photographs. I also use it to connect to the Internet, where I learn about a topic, collect information, complete fact checking, and find inspiration. The wall of my study is adorned with an inspirational landscape photograph and a calendar that includes favorite paintings by artist (Last Year’s Calendar was included paintings by Alex Colville).

Make creativity a habit by spending time each day on your creative pursuit, even if it is only for 15 minutes. During this time, work on something that moves you closer to achieving your creative dream. If you desire to paint, you might practise drawing in a sketch book each day. If you intend to master photography, you might read about some feature of the camera, how to compose a portrait, or a digital editing technique. If you desire to write, you might complete some focused freewriting in a journal each day. The way to make creativity a habit is by practising it.

Study and steal from the masters. In other words, in the field that you dream of mastering, study the ideas and techniques of the experts. Use their ideas and techniques in your own work. For instance, if you aspire to write short fiction, read Raymond Carver, learn his writing style and techniques, then use them to write your own short fiction. If you desire to take artistic portraits with your camera, study the work of someone like Arnold Newman, and then use his lighting setup, backdrops, props, posing to create your own portraits. If you aspire to paint abstract, study the techniques and styles of the masters, such as the abstract paintings of Wassily Kandinsky. Take the ideas and techniques and styles of the masters and use them to create something new and original, some object of creativity that you can call your own.

Collect ideas that inspire you creatively. Begin by keeping an idea file or idea journal. For instance, if you see a photography advertisement in a magazine that you’d like to recreate, cut it out and save it in your idea file. If you like a story in the newspaper, cut it out and save it. If someone sends you a post card that you like, save it. You will use these ideas as a source of creative inspiration in the future. Also, purchase yourself a note book and set of coloured pens, start making notes in an idea notebook or journal. Any time you see, hear, taste, touch, smell, or think of an idea that you might use in a creative project, make note of it in your idea journal. Collect postcards, poems, photographs from the newspaper or a magazine, cut out essays or articles , jot down new words or quotations, save anything that inspires you. You will use these ideas that you’ve collected to inspire your own creativity.

Learn the knowledge and skills of the creative domain you intend to master. You will teach yourself by reading and personal study, completing some training, or enrolling in courses at university. For instance, two years ago, I decided to take up digital photography. I began by purchasing a Nikon Single Lens Reflex 7000 camera, several lens, software. Next, I wrote down a few important S.M.A.R.T goals. Next, I completed several digital photography courses at university, read many books during my leisure time on how to take various types of photographs, learned how to use the digital darkroom (Lightroom and Photoshop), and began taking and editing photographs every day. After 2 years, I have become an excellent photographer. You can see my work at .

Learn a few creative thinking techniques to generate new ideas, which you will then transform into some object of creativity, such as a poem, photograph, painting, music, product, or discovery. Everyone can learn to generate new and authentic ideas by learning and implementing a few creative thinking techniques, such as mind mapping, metaphorical thinking, attribute listing, asking what if?, searching for alternatives, starbursting or asking journalistic questions (Answer Who? What? When? Where ? Why ? How?). There are several excellent books that you can learn from. I recommend “A Whack on the Side of the Head” by Roger von Oech and “Thinkertoys” by Michael Michalko.

Read a variety of books, magazines, articles, commentaries, stories, poetry. As well, use the Internet to read useful information from useful websites and blogs, view photographs and watch videos, and investigate social media. By reading, you learn. By reading, you acquire new information. By reading, you discover what other people are doing. By reading, you will teach yourself. By reading, you will find something that inspires you. The other day, I viewed the Communications Art website to see what other photographers have done with photographs in the field of marketing. By viewing a photograph or video, you will learn, discover, teach yourself, and find creative inspiration. Yesterday, I used YouTube to understand how to photograph use a soft box to light a wine glass and bottle on a white background.

Join some creative community of artistic people or people who aspire to achieve some creative dream. These people will provide you with ideas, help you learn various techniques, provide you with useful information, and inspiration. The simplest way to embrace a community of is to take a course, or join a club, or sign to some online community. For instance, when I enrolled in my first photography course, I did not know how to attach my digital camera to the tripod. Thankfully, a nice woman showed me how. If I had isolated myself, I would have wasted time learning by trial and error.

Embracing creative writing and photography have enriched my life, adding pleasure and enjoyment to my life. They have also challenged me to create. And so, my confidence is enhanced. I feel that I’m living my creative dreams by doing something that is meaning and purposeful, and not squandering time on things that have little or no value in my life, such as sitting in front of the television and watching mindless reruns or another reality show.

To live the creative life, you must cultivate creativity. If you find yourself procrastinating or weighted down by the internal critic in your mind who says, “I am not creative,” you must ignore both and move forward. Creativity requires that you become curious, seeking out answers to questions. It also requires that you persevere, be persistent, take risks—and not worry about failure. Ideally, you will want to make creativity a daily habit, and you can develop this habit of creativity by doing something creative each day, such as sketching in a sketchbook or reading an inspirational chapter from a book. Anyone can learn to be creative by first making a conscious choice to embrace creativity, and then following some path of creativity. Next, you must do what it takes to live your creative dream. You can begin to live this dream by learning a few creative strategies, which you’ll use to generate novel ideas. Once you have a novel idea, you can transform it into some work of art, an invention, or a new discovery.

About Dave Hood

Lover of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. Professional photographer and writer. Without the arts, life would be rather mundane, like a walk down the same old path on a dull day.
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