How to be: Creative


omehow, we get lost along the way. As children, we’re encouraged to be creative by exploring the world around us. But as we grow up, those instincts are beaten out of us and we’re told that other things are more important, like being analytical and logical.

The world is crying out for more creative people. Businesses are struggling to recruit people that think differently to take their companies to the next level. And more ‘creative’ start-ups are happily filling that void they’ve vacated.

As with any skill, it requires practice but there are ways you can unlock creativity. Mindset is particularly important: if you’re on the lookout for ideas, they’re more likely to find you. So, stay aware!

I recently read several books on creativity. Here are the most important points I learned.

Ten tips for the creative mindset

  1. Be persistent. Your first idea is unlikely to be the best so keep digging.
  2. Be resilient. Failure is an unavoidable part of the creative process so build a thick skin and use failure as learning tool.
  3. Be light-hearted. You’re much more likely to come up with a great idea if you’re relaxed and having fun.
  4. Be curious. Desire to learn new things outside of your current knowledge will help you develop new ideas.
  5. Be daring. Don’t follow the herd or status quo; no new ideas were found there.
  6. Be present. Artists don’t create new ideas, they’re just good at spotting them.
  7. Be confident. If you tell yourself you’re creative, you’re more likely to act creatively.
  8. Be open to new opportunities. Say ‘yes’ to new experiences to gain inspiration.
  9. Be kind to yourself. Don’t overwork and stress if it’s not coming; come back another day.
  10. Be focused. Don’t get distracted by the end result; your focus should be 100% on the small part that you’re doing right now.

Ten tips for creative inspiration

  1. Nothing is original. Take ideas from your favourite artists and creators and use them for yourself.
  2. Look for inspiration beyond what you know. For example, if you’re writing a blog, don’t just look at what other blogs do. Instead, read something unrelated to your area. You’re more likely to come up with something novel.
  3. Observe how people behave in different scenarios. This is especially important if you’re looking to create a new product or service.
  4. Listen to your inner voice. Without critique, you’ll be better served coming up with creative solutions to problems.
  5. Some of the best solutions have come from errors and mistakes. Think of the invention of Penicillin.
  6. Work with people from different disciplines. They’re likely to have insights that you haven’t considered. Even the greatest geniuses were helped by others.
  7. Surround yourself with the best creative people possible. They’re likely to spark your imagination.
  8. Make your environment interesting to be in. 
  9. Spend time with people outside your inner circle. You’re likely to predominantly hang around with people similar to yourself. Diversity and creativity go hand in hand.
  10. Look to blend the old and new. Be on the lookout for two ideas that haven’t been put together before.

Top ten creative hacks

  1. Behave like a child. Ask ‘Why?’ at every opportunity. This will help you identify improvements.
  2. Quantity is important. Repetition gives you a better chance of coming up with something good.
  3. Let your mind wander on a regular basis. 
  4. Go for a walk. It’s great for the mind and allows you to connect with your inner voice. Some of the greatest minds took daily walks.
  5. Find the location where you do your most creative work. 
  6. Bury yourself in the material. Squeeze every last drop out of the information you collect. Interrogate it from every angle.
  7. Keep a journal of your dreams. They can provide a great source of inspiration.
  8. Adopt a new environment or routine. Mix up where you do your creative work.
  9. Ask open-ended questions when looking at problems, such as ‘How might we…?’. 
  10. Introduce time pressures to your creative activities. It focuses the mind.

Top ten creative challenges

  1. Truly original ideas will often be met with opposition. Many individuals prefer familiarity to improvement.
  2. The fear of exposing your ideas to the world. The brain is trying to protect us from doing scary – creative – tasks. Push through and persevere.
  3. Working at organisations where it takes a long time to push creative ideas to conclusion. One solution could be to work for a smaller, more nimble organisation.
  4. Our conditioning. From school we’re taught not to question, disagree or veer off topic. These are terrible lessons for creativity.
  5. Fear of failure can be crippling. But remember, fear is creativity’s friend. Means you haven’t found the best solution yet.
  6. The more creative the idea, the less advice others will be able to give you. 
  7. Falling for the simplest, not the best idea. Don’t get lazy, but go the extra mile to find something that’s truly original.
  8. Working in groups for too long. Everyone ends up having the same ideas. Mix up working with others and working alone.
  9. Playing it safe. It’s more comfortable to go for the smaller bases than risk striking out. But that’s not where success lies.
  10. ‘Curse of knowledge’ means you’re blinded by experiences. Try and look at your ideas from the fresh perspective of a novice.


  1. InGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity (Seelig)
  2. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All (Kelley & Kelley)
  3. The Artist’s Way (Cameron)
  4. The Human Edge: How Curiosity and Creativity are Your Superpowers in the Digital Economy (Orme)
  5. Wired to Create: Unravelling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind (Kaufman, Barry)
  6. Big Magic (Gilbert)
  7. The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice (Henry)
  8. The War of Art: Break Through The Blocks And Win Your Inner Creative Battles (Pressfield)
  9. Steal Like An Artist (Kleon)
  10. It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be (Arden)
  11. Bird by Bird (Lamott)
  12. Where Great Ideas Come From (Johnson)
  13. Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand In the Way of True Inspiration (Wallace and Catmull)
  14. The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time (Gannett)
  15. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work (Currey)
  16. A Technique for Producing Ideas: The Simple Five-Step Formula Anyone Can Use To Be More Creative in Business and in Life! (Young)
  17. An Audience of One: Reclaiming Creativity for its Own Sake (Dellabough & Rao)
  18. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life (Tharp)
  19. Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity (MacLeod)
  20. Make Your Mark: The Creative Guide’s to Building a Business with Impact (Glei)
  21. Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity (MacLeod)
  22. InGenius: A Crash Course in Creativity (Seelig)
  23. Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World (Harford)
  24. The Creative Thinking Handbook: Your Step-By-Step Guide to Problem Solving in Business (Griffiths & Costi)
May 20, 2021
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