5 Easy Ways to Become More Creative

Everyone is looking for ways to be more creative, both in their work, life, or their photography. Following are five easy ways to help break the routine and old ways of thinking to work, think, and be more creative.

Start something. Just start. Maybe you have a gut feeling or intuition about a project without necessarily having an end game. Hey, that’s okay. Just start anyway and see where it goes. Planning is generally a good thing – especially with those really big, important life decisions with serious repercussions – but all too often, over-analyzing a project just leads to too many “what ifs” and other negative thoughts from the responsible version of you. Next thing you know, you begin having doubts and you never start at all. It’s amazing how, after starting something, you just find your way once you’re in the thick of it – particularly if youre good at it…or passionate about it. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on a good idea. Just start and see what happens.

Write it down. When you get an idea, immediately write it down. Carry a pen and paper pad in your briefcase. Email it to yourself. Use the Note App on your smartphone. Heck, you don’t even have to write it. Call yourself and leave a message on your voicemail. Just get it out of your head and make it tangible someplace.

Some of our very best creative ideas come to us when our mind is quiet or in a meditative state. When our dominant left brain is resting, it can be temporarily outflanked by our imaginative right brain to allow ideas to see the light of consciousness. But once you get busy again, they’re gone and you just can’t get them back – I don’t care how old (or young) you are. Ideas are fleeting and ephemeral and they will be lost to the wind unless you write them down to act on them later.

Do the Opposite. This is also known as the George Costanza Principle. If you want different results, it only makes sense that you make different decisions. Why not try the opposite of what you would instinctively do? If you’re in a rut or stuck in a rigid thought pattern, this might be a good way to start.

It must be said that common sense is to be used here so you don’t ruin your life or die by doing something really stupid. But if applied to photography, for example – where you probably wont die or ruin your life by the decisions you make, you might try doing the opposite of what you would normally do in that same shooting situation. Going out for a landscape sunrise shoot? Leave the wide-angle at home and bring only a telephoto lens. Bring only a mid-range zoom for a wildlife shoot. Photograph birds or sporting event using only long shutter speeds (like the image at the top of the page). You get the idea. What have you got to lose, after all? The answer is either nothing or the same old thing. Sometimes just asking the question, or at least raising the possibility, can shatter old ways of thinking and lead to creative results.

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Break The Rules. I wrote at length about this in the Creative Principle, but it’s worth mentioning yet again. Learn the rules so you can creatively break them. The best metaphor I could think up is the one I recited in the Creative Principle about how actors and actresses agonize over learning their lines, only to forget them and ad lib when the emotional tone of the scene calls for it. Some of the best scenes in motion picture history are the result of this kind of creativity freelancing.

Be Humble. When you’re humble, you’re a lot more open to learning something new than believing you’re always the expert. At least once each month, you should put yourself in a situation where you are the most ignorant or unskilled person within a group of other people. I once spent an afternoon with a group of very skilled portrait photographers and was easily the dumbest person there, with regard to portrait photography. I was humbled, obviously and I didn’t say much because I didn’t want to embarrass myself. But I watched and listened (they were photographers so we did speak the same language) and I picked up quite a few things that I could take with me and apply to my travel, wildlife. and nature photography.

You’ve never done yoga, you say? Attend a yoga class with a group of experienced practitioners. Go to a chess club meeting, even though you’ve only played a few times as a kid. Go to a lacrosse game. Just get out of your element and areas of expertise and humble yourself a little bit. It’s good for the soul and you might learn a few things too – particularly about yourself.

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