Hacking Creativity: Simple Steps to Become More Creative

Feeling a little blah, and in need of some creative inspiration?

Creativity Hack #1: Take a break

Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay

Everyone needs a day off every now and then, but sometimes it’s just about taking fifteen minutes. Do it! Walk away from the computer, make a cup of coffee, do some stretches, just get away from the keyboard and the screen.

This is not only a good practice for your creativity, it’s great for your mind in general and your body.  Constant sitting puts your body at higher risk of health problems like heart disease and depression, but it also impairs your willpower and reasoning.

“When we work, our prefrontal cortex makes every effort to help us execute our goals. But for a challenging task that requires our sustained attention, research shows briefly taking our minds off the goal can renew and strengthen motivation later on.” Nir Eyal

But, if you’re going to take your creative break chatting with friends or exploring the depths of YouTube, set a timer!

Creativity Hack #2: Do your chores

There’s nothing more menial than doing menial tasks. I don’t enjoy chores, but who does? However, your brain will get more out of it than you think. Much like taking a simple break, doing chores forces your brain to concentrate on something else. Remember: not all distractions are bad!

While you’re distracted, putting away groceries, sweeping the floor, or doing dishes, your brain continues sub-consciously working–incubating your ideas and letting them develop further.

“Avoiding work is the way to focus my mind.” Maira Kalman

Just don’t get too carried away and end up in Procrastination Land rather than Distraction Land.

Creativity Hack #3: Read a book

Just like your car needs fuel to run, your brain needs fuel to work. Not only might you find a spark of inspiration, you’ll be sharpening your writing skills as well.

“Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”
― Stephen King

Read your favorite genres, read the popular books, and read outside of your favorite genres. Study the craft in everything you read, but don’t forget to lose yourself in the pure enjoyment of it at the same time (remember, that subconscious of yours is always working).

Creativity Hack #4: Freewrite

Step away from your project and just write whatever comes to mind. There are a ton of benefits to even a short freewriting session;

  1. It’s a great way to exercise your brain. Describe your surroundings, what you’re hearing, the taste of your coffee. Capturing every day moments and thoughts is a great way to exercise your brain and incorporate your senses into your writing.
  2. It helps you clear out all of that clutter that is keeping you from finishing that last chapter. Maybe it’s an idea for a different story, just get it out and build your collection of ideas to come back to later.
  3. It can silence your inner critic. It’s freewriting! No one is going to see it (unless you refine it later) so there’s no pressure!

“The point of freewriting is to get past the voice inside your head that tells you your ideas aren’t good enough, your words aren’t good enough, you’re no writer and so forth.”
― M. Molly Backes

Creativity Hack #5: Put on some tunes

Music is emotion. It has a powerful effect on our minds and bodies. Maybe you’re not feeling sexy enough to write that perfect love scene, but a good playlist could remedy that!

Just like a good book, music has the power to take us to a different world. It acts as a powerful mental cue and catalyst allowing you to tap deeper into your emotions and memories.

Plus, it’s relaxing, and for some people can help increase focus. If you find the words distracting, you might also try listing to some ambient noise from services like brain.fm or Noisli.

“A moderate level of noise the equivalent of the background buzz of conversation prompts more-creative thought” Wall Street Journal on Noisli

Creativity Hack #6: Get happy

There’s a good reason we come up with our best ideas in the shower. First, it incorporates some of the topics we’ve covered so far: distraction, a break from the mental strain, and a relaxing ambient noise. If you love hopping in the shower and relaxing, that’s because it’s also having an effect on the chemicals in your brain.

High levels of dopamine have been shown to correlate with an increase in creativity, so when you’re doing something that makes you happy, you’re actually giving your brain the chemical fuel it needs for optimal function. Whether it’s exercise, coloring, or hanging out with your cat on the couch, whatever makes you happy will also help break past that writing block.

“People vary in terms of their level of creative drive according to the activity of the dopamine pathways of the limbic system.” Alice Flaherty

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been intrigued by the effects of dopamine. I remember a discussion in college about how a lack of dopamine is attributed to Parkinson’s Disease while too much dopamine is associated with schizophrenia.

Research supports the notion that psychologically healthy biological relatives of people with schizophrenia have unusually creative jobs and hobbies and tend to show higher levels of schizotypal personality traits compared to the general population. Scientific American

Some have argued that a writer’s brain is similar in function to the brain of someone with schizophrenia–after all, we do hear voices on a regular basis. But while writers tend to experience “positive” traits like “unusual perceptual experiences, thin mental boundaries between self and other, impulsive nonconformity, and magical beliefs,” without the “negative” traits like cognitive disorganization and apathy which would hamper productive creativity.

And now that you’ve taken a few minutes to reboot, I hope my creativity hacks help you overcome your obstacles and give you a few new tools to consider in your battle against writer’s block.

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