What happens when you run out of creative ideas? And where did they come from to begin with? Can you open a secret door to find a creativity engine, prime it with a few pumps and then use that energy to fuel any endeavor – from a masterwork in music to a novel approach to solving one of life’s biggest problems? The answer is yes, yes, and yes.
To set your creative spark on fire, you first need to realize where all creativity comes from. It is Infinite. The only thing that limits creativity is you. All ideas come from the Infinite Intelligence of the Universe. When we find ways to crack open the secret storehouse of Infinite treasure that comes in the form of a novel new approach or a profoundly different way of seeing things, we can then do things that the world (and we) see as pure “genius.”
These ideas were always there. We don’t even “create” them, per se, but instead, open our minds to access the potentiality of all creation. Since it’s a mammoth task to unlock Infinite Potential, we can break it down into smaller, actionable items that will ensure a steady flow of creative breakthroughs.
1. Read Something New
“Originality often consists in linking up ideas whose connection was not previously suspected,” wrote W. I. B. Beveridge in the wonderful 1957 tome The Art of Scientific Investigation. Creative ideas aren’t usually plucked from thin air, though it can seem as if they arrive in your mind by some spontaneous coincidence. Creativity arises when we put together facts and known constants, but rearrange them in a different way. Even breakthrough ideas often come when a scientist or inventor cross-breeds their current ideologies with information from other fields or artistic endeavors. As Paul Rand, graphic designer once said, ““The role of the imagination is to create new meanings and to discover connections that, even if obvious, seem to escape detection.”
2. Identify Your Own Peculiar Talent, and Then Work With that Oddity
The comedian Jim Carrey learned at a young age that he could make people laugh by doing strange things with his body, even though he grew up poverty-stricken and depressed. Though he might have chosen any number of fields to express his genius – science, visual art, mathematics, etc. – he found his own peculiar gift and explored it until he could explore it no more.
This is how you ensure creative ideas keep coming your way. If you were born with a specific talent, no matter how unusual, use it to your advantage. Denise Shekerjan comments in her book, Uncommon Genius, How Great Ideas are Born, “There’s no use trying to deny it: a conscious application of raw talent, far more than luck or accident, is at the core of every creative moment. … The cultivation of aptitude, far more than coincidence or inspiration, is responsible for most creative breakthroughs.”
3. Build an Idea in Scaffolding and Then Tear It Down
Just like a good building, most creative ideas can be nurtured by a secure foundation, and the succession of floors. This is true of a poem, a painting, an invention, a piece of groundbreaking code, or any other creative endeavor. Start with what you know, and place it in the structure of your creation, then build it up one floor at a time. Once you have somewhere to start, and a mental framework in which to build your work, you can simply discard the scaffolding and go crazy – building in any direction your mind is set free to go in.
Most people have imagined that all creative genius happens as a sole endeavor – picturing the lonely individual crouched over a page, or walking in the forest as a solemn figure until – BOOM – creativity magically strikes, but creativity is not only better when done with others – it is always a group endeavor.
Mozart imagined voices of composers past advising him or cajoling him about a motif, Silicon Valley is notorious for incubation houses that allow the next great technological breakthrough to percolate up from a group discussion over coffee and the latest smart phone Apps.
During Europe’s great creative revivalist era, the Renaissance, the creative collaboration between artists, musicians, writers, and philosophers was a provocative, and challenging way for people to stretch their boundaries and discover something new. If you’ve hit writer’s block, work on a project with another creative person, and watch your creativity soar.
Meditation has been shown repeatedly to rewire the brain in ways that allows a more cohesive use of the entire brain structure. This means billions more neurons are firing, in new, and novel ways than before you sat down for a twenty-minute session. Meditation also gets the neocortex revved up – the place where most new ideas are thought to arise, and releases pent up emotions that can get in the way of seeing things in new and creative ways.
The best part? Meditation calms the reptilian brain – the oldest part of the human brain that is concerned primarily with sheer existence, and therefore fight or flight, not coming up with amazing new ways to use zero-point energy, travel in space, or compose the next beat-box poetry masterpiece.