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Seven Strategies to Inspire and Nurture Creativity in Ourselves

What to Do When the Creativity Well Runs Dry

In my last post, So You Want to Be a Writer, I mentioned "creative" high achievers, which prompted questions from readers that in many ways relate to the excellent post by fellow Psychology Today blogger Michael Michalko, Twelve Things You Were Not Taught in School About Creative Thinking. The questions were ...

What is a creative high achiever? And how do creative high achievers stay inspired when they run out of creative ideas?

Kelly L. Stone, in her book, Time to Write, describes creative high achievers as people who:

  • Have vivid imaginations. And aren't afraid to use them.
  • Are go-getters. Creative high achievers like to stir things up and take calculated risks. They push themselves harder than most, and enjoy finding new directions to explore.
  • Aren't crowd followers. They're unique and enjoy living their life the way they want to live it.
  • Regularly seek out solitude. They enjoy time alone because it gives them a chance to pursue and further develop their ideas.
  • Aren't afraid to reach high. Stone says, "They set challenging but achievable goals," and when they succeed, it reinforces their belief that their efforts alone (not chance) created their successes.

But the imagination, inspiration, and motivation of creative high achievers don't come to them by magic. As Michalko points out in his piece, the gift of creativity is not an endless river of ideas, one more inspiring than the next. It takes work. So what can creative achievement-oriented people do when their rivers start to run low?

  1. Keep a journal. According to best-selling author and motivational speaker Harvey Mackay, if you spend even just a few minutes every day writing down your thoughts, feelings, dreams, and ambitions, you'll be surprised at the new ideas this can generate.1
  2. Read more. As Kelly Stone reports, creative high achievers tend to be avid readers. However, some readers get stuck in a particular genre or reading pattern, which can limit new ideas from developing. To challenge yourself, vary your reading selections and explore new genres and topics. Reading is a great way to exercise your brain and spark creative ideas that may lead you in a new direction.
  3. Get up and get out. When your brain shuts down, get up and go for a brisk walk. The change of atmosphere may generate new ideas while the walk will get more blood flowing through your brain.
  4. Learn something new. I recently followed this advice and started taking piano lessons. I've never studied a musical instrument and couldn't read a note before I started, but as hard as it is to learn a new "language" at my age, I'm finding the lessons refreshing and inspiring. The key is to do something outside your comfort zone. Art, music, dancing, cooking classes--the possibilities are endless.
  5. Make new acquaintances. Make a concerted effort to make new friends, foster new professional contacts, or even make small talk with strangers. Harvey Mackay recommends finding gatherings of people who have interests similar to yours. However, even a quick conversation with the person sitting next to you on the subway or standing in line at Starbucks may spark some new ideas. "The more people you know," says Mackay, "the better equipped you are to learn and grow."2
  6. Create something new. Whether it's painting, knitting, sewing, working with clay, drawing, or something else, create something just for the fun of it. The focus should not be on how good your creation turns out, but rather having fun and trying something new, which may, in turn, spark other ideas.
  7. Find a good cause. Volunteering for a cause can help you meet new people and enjoy the positive feelings that come from helping others, both of which can fuel new and creative ideas.

Creative high achievers may naturally be more creative than the average person, but it's by no means effortless. For creativity to develop and grow, it has to be cultivated and nurtured, but the rewards it brings is well worth the effort.

For more thoughts on the matter, see The Power of the Mind.

1 Mackay, H. (Dec. 30, 2011-Jan. 5, 2012). South Florida Business Journal.

2 Ibid.

© 2012 Sherrie Bourg Carter, All Rights Reserved

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Sherrie Bourg Carter is the author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout (Prometheus Books, 2011).