finding creativity?

Where does creativity come from? Knowing & practicing the answer to this very question enables the artist to become more successful. Your creative art, whether it be photography, writing, singing, or dance… doesn’t necessarily rely on your ability to perform a creative act, but create a creative act. Creativity has to come from somewhere. But where?

Turns out, creativity is the mother of innovation and invention. Harness it and your eye becomes a unique commodity appreciated as art by your clients. A great thing, indeed.

I argue the source of creativity lies in three fundamental instruments: Our past, inspiration, and luck. 

Have you ever seen something so simple, so creative, and think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Superbowl commercials every year remind me of that very question.

Creativity is an answer, a response, to a challenge. Without a challenge, creativity is not possible. Creating a challenge comes from pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Taking a step that scares the bejesus out of you… but excites you in the same time. Learning a new skill, tool, technique, opens our brains up in ways we will never know until we try.

The Past
Our past shapes us who we are today. The art classes we took in grade school or the mentors we have today offer perspective on the world as we know it. Our past exerts heavy influences on our opinions, both what we like and what we don’t. Ever get food poisoning from eating shrimp as a kid? Chances are you don’t eat shrimp today. But the same goes when we see something we love. We latch on to it and never forget.

While our education forms our minds, we never forget life experiences which have even a more powerful force in shaping our creative vision. Mark Twain once said, “Never let school interfere with your education.”

Our Inspiration
Visiting new places exposes our minds to new landscapes, cultures, and ways of life which has does wonders for opening our minds and expanding our creativity. You don’t have to travel to exotic places to find inspiration. Just “getting out” is all it takes. Recreational fishing is a great excuse to do nothing. ‘Re-create’ is inside the word, ‘recreation.’

People have a strong ability to inspire. Motivational speakers have the ability tap into recesses of our brain to think outside the box. So do good teachers. And friends. And children. Get the point? Spending time with people offers such a great opportunity to freshen up our brains’ creativity.


Great Luck
Having great creative tools, knowledge, and techniques sometimes isn’t enough. Sometimes you need a small dose of luck or fate or the wisdom to know when opportunity knocks.

Just like you can’t learn how to ride a bike by reading a book, creativity doesn’t come from a book. So then how can you increase creativity if there is such a thing? Over the years, here are 12 things which I notice increases creativity:

12. Learn new things. Learning keeps our mind primed for make learning easier, both technical and creative. You will be pleasantly reward when it comes to satisfying your client, your talent, AND your business. When you stay challenged and creative, you won’t burn out.

11. Be positive. There’s so much in this world beyond our control. Our attitude, however, is one of the only things we can control. More creativity comes from optimism than pessimism.

10. Grow a thick skin. Creative ideas often die when other people don’t share our same enthusiasm. Worrying about what other’s think will KILL creativity. By trying to appeal to everyone, you’ll appeal to no one

9. Indulge. Stimulants like caffeine get all of our brain synapses firing full throttle. There’s a good reason; Coffee, tea, chocolate, and Diet Mountain Dew have been been appreciated for centuries. Just don’t over do it.

8. Be inquisitive. Asking the right amount of questions to opens up doors.

7. Take a break. Enjoying a vacation or break from the norm gives our mind a chance to rest. You’ll work harder in 11 months than you ever will in 12 months, guaranteed.

6. Stay motivated. Having a strong motivation to do well increases your chances that when you really need to pull off something creative, it’ll happen. 

5. Look around. We are surrounded by movies, books, magazines, people, emotion, landscapes… all ready to inspire if you are open to it.

4. Just do it. You’ll never know if you don’t try.

3. Go with your gut. Be spontaneous, then go with your gut & follow your intuition about an idea.  The key: act on it, don’t just talk about it. 

2. Learn rules, then break them. Prolific artists such as Picasso did this very well. But you have to know the rules first before intentionally breaking them. That’s where education comes in handy.

1. Make it work. Time pressure does wonders for staying focused and making creative things happen. If only have 5 minutes to make a something under less-than ideal situations, chances are you’ll pull it off… and oftentimes better than if you had more time. Take Time Gunn’s advice… watch Project Runway and see what I mean.

In Lynchpin, Seth Godin writes, “One way to become creative is to discipline yourself to generate bad ideas. The worse the better. Do it a lot and magically you’ll discover that some good ones slip through.”

10 Responses to “finding creativity?”

  1. Andrew Schaefer — May 19, 2010 @ 9:57 pm (#)

    Great post! Well thought out and so very true; I think this is something that all of us need to take the time and think about.

  2. Scott Stebner — May 20, 2010 @ 8:26 am (#)

    Awesome RJ! So true, I often get discouraged when someone else doesn’t love what I do, so thanks for the reminder!

    Your enthusiasm for what you do is obvious, infectious, and inspiring!

  3. Preston Utley — May 20, 2010 @ 9:09 am (#)

    Love this post. I know I could really improve on #11. P.S. You missed a rad pizza session the other day.

  4. Julie — May 24, 2010 @ 9:23 pm (#)

    Amen to #2 on the list! Sooo true. 🙂

  5. Stephanie Osborne — June 17, 2010 @ 6:35 pm (#)

    Great post! Love how thought provoking this is… The Tim Gunn reference is perfect for us wedding photogs!

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  10. Pjuan — December 4, 2015 @ 1:52 am (#)

    Last year we had a lot of fun making our own Christmas cards so we dedcied to take another stab at making new ones this year. Of course it’s fun to get Hope involved in creative projects and she certainly played a big part in this year’s cards. We dedcied to do just one version this year, though this year’s cards were actually MORE work than last years. The cards include a snowman made of buttons. Hope drew the snowman’s hat and arms, and insisted on making sure she drew an orange carrot nose on every snowman.

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