How to become more creative – the secrets nobody told you about

15 minutes reading time

Every single human being possesses a flow of creative energy, including you. It’s not even a question of whether you can be creative or not, since the answer is absolutely yes.

The much more sensible question is how to learn to identify, nurture and express the creative energy that resides in you.

In this article, you will learn exactly that – how to become more creative.

No matter if you see yourself as a creative person or not, whether you are terrified of expressing yourself or you are the boldest artist there is, after reading this article you will acquire many ideas for how to completely awaken the creative part of your personality and then leverage it to your advantage.

How to become more creative

It’s impossible to feel complete without being creative

First, as with anything that requires effort in life, you need a strong reason why you should even bother igniting your creative spark.

Without a strong “why” you rarely have the stamina needed to start a new habit, project or learn a new skill. And creativity is exactly that – a combination of a habit, skills and little projects.

Emotions drive attention. Emotions direct the creative juice.

Among many ways you can benefit from creativity, there are two major ones. The first one is that in the creative society, creativity is well-cherished. Brilliant ideas are the drivers of success.

By being more creative, you can skyrocket your career. It’s that simple. Having only brilliant ideas is of course rarely enough to succeed, but it’s definitely the best start.

The second, even more important reason to develop your creativity is to give additional meaning to your life. You are here on this planet to grow, connect, enjoy and create.

Without creating in one way or another, it’s hard to feel complete. Finding yourself in the creative flow is one of the most divine experiences you can have as a human being.

Creativity gives you a chance to shine bright, to express your true self and to transform raw energies into subtler ones (in psychology, it’s called the sublimation of needs).

With creativity, you can even leave a legacy if you manage to impact the masses with your brilliant ideas. And there’s more. Creativity can empower your growth, gives you new ways to connect with other people, and provides a unique way of enjoying life. What more could one ask for?

The four paths to finding and developing your creative self

There are four completely different paths (based on two variables) to the development of your creative self. The first variable is about possessing obvious traditional artistic talent or, on the other extreme, considering yourself as not possessing creative personality at all.

The second variable concerns your environment. Every personality trait (including creative talent) can be enhanced, decreased, woken up or eliminated by life experiences. Your creativity can be encouraged or stifled based on your functioning in a specific environment.

The creativity matrix

Individuals in a supportive environment

Some people are lucky to discover their medium for creating at a young age while their parents provide a supportive environment for their talents to be developed. If a child shows drawing, singing, acting or any other kind of artistic capabilities that are constantly encouraged, we get “natural born artists”.

A combination of talent and the environment that enables at least 10,000 hours of practice is what creates outliers, the most successful people of humankind. There are rare exceptions, but this is the safest success formula when creative talents are involved.

Outliers = Talent + Supportive environment that enables 10,000 hours of practice + Other factors

Then we have people with no obvious artistic talent, but being in a supportive environment helps them find a way to express their creativity. These are the individuals with a very strong growth mindset.

The core of their belief system is that talent is overrated and that they can learn any skill (artistic or not) if they put in enough effort. They are hard workers who learn how to be creative with enough time and effort. They absolutely have to work much harder than the talented people to achieve the same level of mastery.

These two groups rarely have a problem being creative.

Individuals in a non-supportive environment

Then there are two groups of people who do have challenges with expressing their creative self.

People that have traditional artistic talent and are in a very critical and non-supportive environment develop strong mistrust in themselves and life, together with severe feelings of shame, guilt, doubt and inferiority.

Their true self and creative talents get stifled and the desire to shine is suppressed. They know what their talents are, they have the urge to express themselves, but they are keeping themselves locked in an emotional cage.

The last group of people are the ones with no obvious artistic talent combined with a non-supportive environment. These people most often see themselves as not creative at all and they aren’t particularly bothered by that fact.

They don’t believe they can express themselves in a creative way, so they don’t even try. But they are just letting parts of their personality go undiscovered, and the creative urges is buried deep in the unconscious mind.

In which quadrant do you fall?

The worst enemies to creativity

Creative crisis – In the dark, the stars shine the brightest

Creativity and a strong healthy ego are very closely interconnected. If you want to express your creative self, you need to believe in yourself.

Because only then can you take initiative and put your creations in front of others to be judged, while not really being affected by the judgements. Without a healthy ego, the fear of not being accepted is just too strong.

There are many ways how self-expression can be blocked. One extreme is symbolic self-castration, with common examples like laziness, procrastination and denial. The other extreme is creative aggression where good taste extends into neediness, exaggeration and narcissism.

Creative doing is a natural human desire and tendency. When suppressed, it always backfires.

If you don’t consider yourself creative or if you don’t express your creative talents, you always suffer from some type of existential crisis.

How does creativity get stifled?

The question is how creativity even gets stifled. Usually it happens during a child’s upbringing.

Here are only a few very common examples:

  • You create something and nobody gives you any praise or they focus on the mistakes
  • You are constantly criticized for everything you do (“it’s good, but it could be better”)
  • When you want to explain something, you are shut down (“don’t speak while we eat”)
  • You are not allowed to have your own style or opinion or do things your own way
  • Nobody encourages you to go through failure and to regularly practice to develop your talents
  • You are not allowed to play and you have to grow up too quickly
  • You are labeled as being childish when you don’t act grown up and aren’t serious
  • Nobody is mentoring you and showing you how you can progress in developing your talents
  • Nobody asks you about your wishes, needs and opinions or what you want
  • Your imagination is not nurtured with stories, answering your questions and being open-minded in general

Creating - How does it make you feel

Resolving the inner crisis with reframing

There are two resolutions to this conflict. The first one is best illustrated with the quote: “in the dark the stars shine the brightest”. Research has shown that rejection and isolation can be great fuel for creativity.

By definition, being creative means being different, and being different very often leads to being rejected, at least in the beginning. A non-supportive environment does exactly that, it rejects your potential instead of encouraging it, merely because you are different.

If you want to be creative, you must be rejected.

How can you be creative, if you want to fit in (and gain some approval) at all costs? Creativity means being or finding something that is different, something that doesn’t fit in.

That means you need a new context for feeling rejected, you need to reframe your thinking in a way that rejection doesn’t dry your creativity (with the desire to fit in), but fuels it (with the desire to stand out).

In the new mental frame, you must see the need to individuate stronger than the need to belong. Your urge to stand out must be stronger than the need to fit in.

You have to make your mission to express your creative self greater than any rejection or criticism you might encounter on you path to self-actualization by the society. You need to disinvest yourself from the society’s opinion and invest more into yourself and your independence.

Society feels threatened by everything different, but the moment you become like them, nobody notices you anymore.

An inner and outer environment that support your creative expression

The second way to become more creative is to provide yourself the supportive environment you didn’t have when growing up. That can be achieved from within and by changing external circumstances.

Providing yourself the supportive environment from within is the so-called self-mothering and self-fathering concept. It might sound a little bit ridiculous, but it works.

Self-mothering and self-fathering means developing a compassionate and encouraging relation with yourself, where you start to slowly encourage your creative expressions.

Mindfulness, properly managing your mind, creative visualization, bibliotherapy, exploring your subconscious and play are only a few of the mechanisms how to make a step further in this direction.

Stay creative when you grow up

Often the best first step to reconnect with your creative part is to start playing.

Videogames, sports, dancing, flirting, playing with children, reading fiction books and telling jokes are examples of good ways to loosen yourself up and see that your relaxed and creative nature doesn’t always lead to rejection, but rather to the thing you crave the most – being loved and admired.

Besides the internal environment, your external environment greatly influences your creativity. If you want to be more creative, you must build yourself a motivational and supportive environment. In the adult age, many external circumstances are under your control.

You can surround yourself with people who support your creative talents, you can join meetup and hobby groups, you can work in a company with many smart and creative people and provide everything else necessary to nurture your creativity.

It’s impossible to become more creative if you aren’t willing to make some changes in your life, internal and external.

To deeply connect with others, you have to polarize. If you want to polarize, you must express your unique creative self. There is no other way.

Find the right medium

Undiscovered self – It’s time to find a fitting medium and the right context

People with no obvious creative talent have the same issue as people with the talent in a non-supportive environment, with one additional burden.

They are not aware of their desire to create and even if they wanted to create, they have no idea how. Art, innovation and ideas are completely alien to them.

Usually their conflict seems less severe, at least on the conscious level. They are not creative types, so why bother to creatively express themselves at all.

To live a full, complete and integrated life you must find a way to creatively express yourself. Either you find a way at one point in your life, or your needs are suppressed in a nasty way; and that always brings some form of negativity in your life.

If you consider yourself non-creative, the first step you must make is to find the right medium and context that sparks your creativity. The first step is to use the search mode and experiment in what situations and with what kind of channel you can creatively express yourself.

In other words, if you fall in this group, you have to try dozens of different arts to find the one that best suits your creative self.

Logically, if you don’t possess traditional artistic talent, you have to find some uncommon one. I helped hundreds of people discover their unusual creative talents. Here are only a few ways how the people I mentored found their creative selves:

  • Connecting difficult family members in a creative way
  • Telling jokes or creating memes
  • Cooking, baking, making sweets
  • Playing games with children
  • Flirting in a creative way or applying bed skills
  • Improving processes in the company in completely new ways
  • Interpreting death or spirituality in a new way
  • Combining knowledge from two different industries
  • Finding new ways to solve big humanitarian problems
  • Organizing unique events
  • Making educational videos
  • Hacking mathematical equations
  • Tattoos, fashion etc.

In addition to that, there are hundreds of different hobbies you can try. And don’t forget to try all the traditional artistic professions.

I can guarantee you that if you try hundreds of different things you will find the one that is your perfect fit. All you need is a little bit of courage. After that, your life will never be the same again. You will open the doors to higher vibrations and divine realms.

Finding a way to express your creativity means finding the right medium. It can be connecting words, colors, moves, curves, numbers, relationships, tones, facts or anything else in new creative ways. But once you find your medium, you also need to find the right context that regularly sparks your creativity.

Your creative environemnt

Creativity is a habit and a skill, not a special gift

Creativity is not a magic wand a few possess. It’s not an unlimited resource that some people have at their own disposal and advantage when they need it to dominate others, without any cost.

Creativity is a habit. You have to practice to be more and more creative, and you have to nurture your creativity. That means you can be creative only in a specific context, with specific life circumstances and big investments in the form of time and effort.

The context is everything that encourages your creative routine.

It includes everything from reminders (habit triggers) to how you organize your environment (minimal transaction costs) and finally to deliberately practicing creative tasks with pure self-discipline and stamina (timeboxing time for practice). And we must also not forget the rewards you enjoy in the end.

The context is about organizing your life in a way that you regularly find yourself in front of the medium while you can forget about everything else and just create.

If you want to be creative, you must put in the effort to organize your life circumstances in a way that you can create in the flow without any distractions for a few hours every day.

You can be the most talented person in the world, but without practice the talent goes to waste. Hard work beats talent every time. Don’t assume some people have a gift that is only a great resource without any investment and costs. There are no shortcuts in life (or only a few).

Knowing that creativity is only a habit, here are a few ways to nurture and develop it:

  1. Create many different things every day
  2. Regularly practice opening your mind
  3. Practice makes your skills perfect

Create many things every day

Create many new things every day

Once, I visited Leonardo Da Vinci’s exhibition. I was surprised at how many unsuccessful inventions and “ugly” pictures he drew. And he is one of the biggest inventors and artists of all time. I had thought that everything he touched became a masterpiece.

But I was wrong. He had to sketch hundreds of ideas to develop a few brilliant ones. Pablo Picasso was no different. He created more than 50,000 pieces of art in his lifetime.

An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cells it occupied. – A.G.

That leads us to a simple conclusion. If you want to be more creative, you have to create every single day. And you have to create a lot. Here are a few ideas how you can achieve that:

  1. Brainstorm ideas every single day. If you don’t write down at least 10 ideas every day, don’t go to sleep. Much like you don’t go to sleep if you don’t read at least one page of a book.
  2. Don’t judge your ideas when you brainstorm. Write down every single ridiculous idea you can think of. Kick your inner critic’s ass if s/he wants to interfere. New ideas are fragile.
  3. Rank your ideas and then start prototyping. Use your medium and prototype like crazy. Prototyping is the first step to materializing your ideas. Nothing kills a brilliant idea faster than dull execution.
  4. Try to combine new ideas, all the knowledge you possess, and play with ideas in all the ridiculous ways possible. Every day, try to think in a new creative way.
  5. Make sure you use the diffused mode of thinking between creating time. Go for a walk or take a nap. Your mind will still be creating, and soon brilliant ideas will come out of nowhere.
  6. Don’t have problems being wrong. Mistake shouldn’t be the word you’re too embarrassed to use. You’re the product of a trillion mistakes. Evolution forged the entirety of sentient life on this planet using only one tool: the mistake (it’s a quote from Westworld). You should use it too.
  7. Exercise and eat brain foods! Both really do stimulate your brain and creativity.
  8. Last but not least, know that your unique style comes from your limitations, not your strengths. Your unique style gets developed by finding a way of working around your shortcomings.
  9. Mae sure you free your working memeory as much as possible

Disinvest yourself from the society’s opinion, invest yourself into examining your soul to find the creative spring in you, and then create like crazy.

Open your mind

Regularly practice opening your mind

Your mind is like a parachute. It only works when it’s open. You learned and inherited hundreds of limiting beliefs that you have to unlearn. The only way to unlearn limitations is by practicing and regularly breaking the rules (in a healthy way).

Here are a few ideas how you can achieve that:

  1. Always be curious and ask yourself and others “why” thousands of times.
  2. Know that everything can be improved and everything can be done in a better way. There is no such thing as a best practice.
  3. Regularly ask yourself: what would happen if I created, did, believed… the opposite. Every single belief you currently have is a cold blocker of imagination, innovation and improvements.
  4. Don’t get stuck on fixed ideas – stay flexible. There are many ways to achieve the same thing.
  5. Sometimes imagine that life is just a dream without any limitations. Imagine how the future will look in 10, 20 and 100 years. Imagine that there are no physical laws.
  6. Always try new things, never chain yourself by sticking solely to things you already mastered.
  7. Think about how you can do everyday tasks you already mastered in a new different way.
  8. In the beginning, be satisfied with good enough, with small first steps, and then you can scale up the quality of your work.
  9. Spend time with smart people, they will further help you develop your creativity.
  10. Constantly learn and read a lot.

Every creative masterpiece contains an element of surprise. If you want to surprise people, you must create something unexpected. To create something unexpected, you must think in uncommon ways. Dare to be different.

Practice makes perfect

Practice makes things perfect

Talent isn’t something you possess, it’s something you do. And it all starts with mastering the basics. The more you master the basics, the more creative you can become.

Because when you master the basics, you can devote more working memory to connecting ideas in a new creative way. That’s why you want to always master many different basics – “knowledge chunks” that you store in your long-term memory.

It might sound complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. Knowledge chunks stored in your long-term memory include information, experiences, motoric skills, cognitive skills and conditioning effects (habits, patterns).

These are the building blocks that enable you to mix ideas together in a new creative way. The more of these building blocks you possess, the more creative you can be.

That’s where the 10,000 hours rule (or daily hard work, in other words) comes into place. The more you master the basics and correctly practice new things, the more creative you can become. It’s a double benefit.

Not only does the practice make you master a specific skill, you can also come up with more creative ideas in that domain.

The end formula for being more creative is thus pretty simple. Make sure you master different basic blocks of knowledge (practice them until you get bored) and then put in the effort to mix them in new creative ways.

And don’t forget that keeping your mind open and regularly stretching it will help you more easily find new connections between the building blocks. That’s it.

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit.

Everybody I know who does interesting, creative work they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. Everybody goes through that.

Ira Glass

The last thing you have to know about creative endeavors is, as the quote above illustrates, that beginnings suck. The first steps are usually the hardest, but they also keep the people who are not serious about self-actualization away from creativity.

Don’t be one of them. Every next step you take becomes much easier. And make sure you don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle or the top of their career.

The secrets to creativity

The summary – how to become more creative

  1. Make expressing yourself in some creative way, no matter what it is, part of your life mission. Find your “why” to create. Your life will be greatly enriched and your existence here on this planet much more fulfilling.
  2. Reframe your creative crisis if you have issues with mistrust, doubt, guilt and shame. Make the desire to individuate stronger than the need to belong. Foresee that expressing your uniqueness will probably lead to the most honest belonging in the end.
  3. Experiment with hundreds of creative things to find the medium that is your perfect fit. Then learn to organize your environment and life circumstances in a way that you will be able to create in the flow with the right medium every single day.
  4. If you want to be creative, you must produce many new things daily – without judging yourself or minding what the society will think. In hundreds of average ideas, a brilliant one will be born. Have a goal to create at least 50,000 creative pieces in your lifetime.
  5. Ideas are never enough. When you find the right idea, have the courage to materialize it with prototyping, and then finalize the best ones. All you need is a little bit of courage. First be open-minded, then be satisfied with good enough and in the end, create a unique masterpiece.
  6. Every single one of your beliefs is a creativity killer. Thus, you have to constantly practice open‑mindedness by challenging yourself, thinking and doing the opposite, and stretching your ideas to ridiculous proportions.
  7. Creativity is a habit and a skill, which means you have to practice it daily. You have to learn to master the basics and then strive to connect the things you master in a new unique way. It only takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve that.
  8. Last but no least, the best first step to unleashing creativity is to learn how to play again and to not compare yourself with others. Individuate!

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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