Releasing our creativity can be a struggle sometimes, especially in a technical environment like the energy industry. In my time as a communicator and in running my own business I have refined these 8 ways to boost my creativity which time and again have helped me break through mental blocks and find great solutions to all kinds of problems – let me know if they work for you!
First of all: forget about the desire to be correct
In the energy sector most of our work has a 'right’ answer and anything else is ‘wrong’. Being creative is the opposite of this! There can be whole varieties of ideas, methods and results which are all equally right and nothing is really wrong. Always keep that in mind, including when you try the techniques below. They might not work for you, but so what? Don't be embarrassed; it doesn't matter. Nobody is keeping score of every single thing you do, but people will all notice on those occasions when your work really shines.
Sketching and notetaking using big pieces of paper are the easiest shortcuts to creativity. Simply because it is two-dimensional, paper can help you see connections that are not apparent when we think in a linear way using words and numbers. It is cheap and easy to try. After I have interviewed someone, drawing a mind-map of their life helps me to find a logical but non-obvious way to tell their story.
Use your whole body
Did you know that 10% of the neurons in your body are not in your brain? Yes, your nervous system is made of neurons just like the ones in your brain, except they are spread around your whole body. Bring them into the action by standing up, moving around, playing music, acting things out, taking a walk, gesticulating or doing whatever feels good to you. Anything like this that involves other people can have a multiplier effect through your interaction.
Go with the flow
Just as you can’t have an idea on demand, you can’t control when an idea will come either. Learn to listen to the voices that bring you an idea and run with them when you're in the mood. This might mean flipping your laptop and playing with an idea early in the morning or late at night, or it might mean using voice notes to record those brainwaves that come in the shower. Find a method that works for you. At the same time beware of working so long on something in one session that you run out of steam and can't imagine what to do next. Take a break when progress slows or you start obsessing over details to avoid burn-out.
I find it is best to complete any piece of work in at least two steps with a night's rest in between. If I plan my work well I will finish it the day before a deadline so I can take one last look with a fresh and rested mind before I submit it to a client. There is always a little something that I notice to improve. It is really not a good idea to submit work at the end of the day when you are dog tired if you can avoid it.
While sleep can reboot your mind, meditation can give it a quick reset during the day. There are lots of guided meditations on Youtube as well as apps like Headspace that can help you calm down your mind for a few minutes. You might be surprised at the clarity and insight of the ideas that suddenly appear when the mental noise has been cleared away. A really quick way to boost your imagination and insight is simply to half-close your eyes and breathe deeply for a few seconds while you focus on a problem.
Don't expect to be good straight away
Whatever creative skill you want to develop, don't expect to be good at it straight away. It will take you a little time and some trial and error to refine techniques and weed out mistakes. Have some persistence. If there is something creative you really want to be able to do, like sketching or making videos, set a goal of doing it 100 times. That is enough practice to build up a decent level of skill. It may take a little while, but that's okay, it’s not a race.
Listen to criticism, but don't let it hurt you
When you create something you are offering a part of yourself for others to receive. By doing that you make yourself vulnerable to people's reactions – there is simply no way to avoid it. Sometimes people will not understand what you have done; other times your work will not be as appropriate as your thought for the situation; or it simply might not be as good as it could have been. All creative people have to take feedback on board for processing without taking it personally. Nevertheless, when you encounter someone toxic or unnecessarily mean it’s fine to take steps to protect yourself from them. Don’t let their lack of imagination put you off! Whatever happens, always remember that if one idea doesn't work you can always move on to another – as you become more creative you won't be relying on just one idea ever again.
Those are the ways I have found to boost my creativity when I am under pressure to come up with catchy ideas, to tackle a new problem or to face an old problem in an innovative way. Get in touch using email@example.com to let me know how they work for you.