The 7 Secrets to Creativity

Posted by Sasha Bailyn on Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Creativity can be a flaky best friend: sometimes it’s slippery and difficult to keep around, and then when it arrives, we’re not always ready to accommodate it (how many times have we scribbled furiously on a napkin, or used a finger to write on a fogged mirror in the middle of a shower?). It seems to come and go as it pleases, and the harder we work to catch it and hold it, the more elusive it becomes. At times it’s shy and scares away easily, and at other times it’s strong-willed and monopolizes our attention.

Here is some advice for working creatively:

1. Negativity repels: Approach creativity with too many negatives, and it will run away. We cannot expect to find our creative current if we’re worried about the outcome of our endeavor, or if the voices in our head say, “this is impossible,” or “this will never sell.” Having self-belief is key. Creativity cannot thrive fully if we do not trust ourselves.

2. Ease off the pressure: Creativity cannot be taken by force. This can be paradoxical when feeling the pressure of deadlines, but it’s essential to remember that the second we stop trying hard to be creative, the inspiration and imagination will resurface and take the wheel. We need to be patient with ourselves and our creativity.

3. Dead-ends don’t exist: When confronting creative blocks, we must take a step back, take a break, or change perspectives. Working creatively is not straightforward – if it were, it wouldn’t be creative! Therefore, there is no such thing as a dead-end; there are only kinks and turning points, because the process is not linear and needs to continually evolve.

4. Date your creativity: Creativity needs to be wooed and baited with grace and tact. Hurling ourselves at it in desperation will only scare it away. We must have faith that when the time is right, creativity will call.

5. Creativity does not come from a sink: One of the scariest elements of working creatively is confronting its natural ebbs and flows and facing the fear that our creativity might just “run out” one day. Creativity is not something that gets turned on or off at will, and when it appears to be gone, we need to go to the source of the problem instead of banging on the tap. The source is usually something within ourselves that we aren’t giving the appropriate attention to, such as a fear that we resist naming.

6. Go with the gut: Working creatively has nothing to do with money, no matter what anyone says. The way to connect with our personal creative flow is to go with gut instincts and to never, never talk ourselves out of something before exploring it. We should immediately question an impulse to talk ourselves out of trying things, because this can be laziness, or more commonly, fear and resistance. Feeling resistant to creative impulses is human and very natural, but comes from the head and not the gut.

7. Don’t dole: Saving and holding back good ideas doesn’t move us forward. It’s better to act on our creative impulses with as much frequency as possible. Doling out ideas only when the conditions are “perfect” shapes our creativity to be fragile and conditional. Success is not the end-goal, expression is. Taking steps beyond having an idea is sometimes the hardest part, but our ideas can go sour if they’re shelved away in the back of our minds.

Being creative is an art in and of itself, and the only genuine fuel for designing projects that people never forget. But no matter what deal is on the line or what deadline is on the horizon, we must always remember to value our creativity and show it the respect that it deserves.


Sasha Bailyn


Image source: Harper’s Magazine

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