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The Best Strategy for a More Creative Life

How to inject more creativity into your life and work.

Key points

  • We frequently rely on myths when approaching a creative endeavor.
  • Creativity is too often mistakenly envisioned as a major event.
  • Creative people make creativity a regular part of the everyday lives.

Throughout our lives, when faced with creative challenges, we often default to common beliefs and practices that diminish our creative spirit. For example, we frequently embrace the myth that creative ideas spring from a bolt of lightning with no forewarning or preparation.

Similarly, we seldom take creative chances because of an innate fear of failure, which may mean economic loss or occupational termination. Or we continually participate in brainstorming sessions in a search for “the ultimate solution” only to discover that we’ve wasted a considerable amount of time and achieved little progress.


However, I believe that the most common mistake we make is believing that a creative idea must be a big idea—on par with humans landing on the moon, the construction of the Burj Khalifa, the creation of the World Wide Web, or the development of a vaccine for COVID-19. True, those are big creative events, but true creativity is founded on a principle of little discoveries; the small treasures we find when we envision creativity as “looking for the small, not just the big.”

Discovering a synonym for “hunk” in the romance novel we’re writing. Mixing three new colors together for the sunset in a landscape painting we’re working on. Purchasing a tie, not because it’s fashionable, but because it has illustrations of pigs on it (self-admission). Doing your daily walk in a new neighborhood. Discovering that a paper clip can be used to repair a broken toy. Building a “snow-rabbit” rather than a snowman (or snowwoman). Using a brand-new spice (galangal) in your favorite soup recipe simply because…well, just because!

Producing little acts of creativity is, ultimately, more significant than big creative projects. Lots of small creative actions get us in the habit of making creativity a normal part of our daily lives, rather than just an event that happens on rare occasions. It eases us into a creative frame of mind that becomes a natural way of thinking, rather than something foreign or overwhelming.

Small Habits of Creativity

Stephen Guise, in his book Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results, makes a case for the power of small habits, rather than our over-reliance on large, wieldy, and often weighty big habits (For example, how many of your New Year’s resolutions are you still embracing?). He makes a valid point when he says, “Big intentions are worthless if they don’t bring results.”

For example, we may make a resolution to lose 40 pounds this year, but we often find ourselves giving up (usually sooner rather than later) because the perceived goal was much too large. Or we may resolve to reduce our dependency on social media by 50 percent, only to find that we’re still spending “way too much time” posting photos of our acrobatic cat or videos of our equally acrobatic grandchildren.

Guise emphatically states that most people “have big ambitions, but overestimate their ability to make themselves do what it takes to change.” Early in the book, Guise makes two clear and penetrating points: “1) Doing a little bit is infinitely bigger and better than doing nothing, and 2) doing a little bit every day has a greater impact than doing a lot on one day.”

Now, let’s put that in terms of our personal creativity: 1) Looking for one little example of creativity is better than doing nothing at all, and 2) looking for a little (creative) thing every day is much more effective and practical than trying to generate a very large idea every so often.

While conducting research for my recent book—From Fizzle to Sizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity and How You Can Overcome ThemI discovered an inescapable and consequential fact. That is, a determination to make creativity a regular and normal part of our daily activities prepares our mind to be ready for those times when we need a really large idea in our work or our everyday lives.

It’s similar to running a marathon. You have to start running, and continue to do so, several months (often, several years) in advance of the big event in order to be competitive. Without that regular day-to-day training, you jeopardize your chances of finishing near the top (or even finishing at all). The ultimate message is that creativity (just like running) shouldn’t be an isolated event, but rather a normal (even daily) part of our regular activities.

Best of all, a tiny creative act every day puts us in the growth mindset and begins to shatter those unseen forces that have negatively influenced our thinking for so long. We move away from the fixed mindset and into new realms of creative expression. Like the vitamin, we can all profit from one a day.


Guise, Stephen. Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results (Monee, IL:, 2013).

Fredericks, Anthony D. From Fizzle to Sizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity and How You Can Overcome Them (Indianapolis, IN: Blue River Press, 2022).

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