Throughout the years, I’ve become better and better at uncovering creative solutions.
I don’t struggle as much as I used to.
Creative ideas seem to arrive at just the right time.
This hasn’t happened because I’m somehow talented.
No, it’s because I’ve begun to understand how creativity works in my life.
The good news?
You already have access to it. You can start using your innate creativity.
Once you’re done reading this article, you’ll know how to do it.
But before we do that, let’s have a look at what creativity is, shall we?
What is Creativity?
Here’s a common definition: “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.”
Stephen Pressfield, author of The War of Art, often talks about the Muse.
Artists and creators talk about how their creative ideas don’t seem to come from them, but from an outside source.
In the business world, different terms are used, such as: Intuition, gut, and instinct. You could even call it your subconscious.
To me, they’re all the same thing.
Where Does Creativity Come From?
I’ve tried to force creativity through exercises, brainstorming, and other tools, but what I’ve found is that the less I try, the more creative I am.
I still put in the work.
I try to work through a problem. But I know when to stop.
I’ve learned that when I get out of my own way, I allow my natural creativity to come forth.
As Eckhart Tolle writes in Stillness Speaks: “True intelligence operates silently. Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.”
This runs counter to what I’ve learned. I was taught that I should work on my problems. And work hard.
But through experimenting in my own life and business, I’ve realized that it’s in the stillness that the answers reside.
The Secret to Tapping Into Your Creativity
That said, how does this translate into practical steps?
How do I use stillness, and creativity, to solve real problems?
As it turns out, the process I use is highly pragmatic.
Here are the steps:
To prime the pump, I work on a problem.
If I’m writing a book, and I’m stuck, I’ll do my best to come up with a solution.
For example, when I was working on my book, Do What You Love, I had long periods of confusion about what to do.
I didn’t know how to arrange the chapters. I didn’t know what to remove or what to add. It was as if I’d lost my brain. All I could do was stare at the words in front of me.
After a few weeks of this, I realized I had to take a break.
So the first step is to work on the problem. Take tiny steps. Do what you can. And then let go when you start to feel frustrated.
2. Let Go
After priming the pump, I let go.
I stop what I’m doing. I work on something else. I watch a movie.
I have fun. But I stop trying to solve the problem, or come up with a creative answer. In certain circles, this is called incubation. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia:
[Incubation:] The experience of leaving a problem for a period of time, then finding the difficulty evaporates on returning to the problem, or even more striking, that the solution “comes out of the blue”, when thinking about something else, is widespread. Many guides to effective thinking and problem solving advise the reader to set problems aside for a time.
I wrote about this in my book, How to Write Nonfiction eBooks. I use incubation in every part of my business.
It reduces stress and worry, because I know that eventually the answer will arrive. If it doesn’t, I’ll simply do what I can with what I have.
No extra stress needed. When I first stumbled onto this, I found it counter-intuitive. Who knew that letting go could help you come up with creative ideas?
When I let go of consciously solving something (after having worked on it), another part of me seems to take over.
3. Be Open
When I was working on my book Do What You Love, I didn’t know if I was going to publish it or not.
I had to take several breaks. The longest break was a month and a half. During that break, I began to wonder if I would ever finish the book.
I know some people force themselves to a schedule, but I haven’t found that to work. I’m not in a rush to get anywhere. If the book wants to get done, it gets done. But during this time, I was open to alternatives.
Sure, I had periods of worry and doubt, but I knew they were just thoughts. I didn’t have to pay attention to them.
After a month and a half of letting Do What You Love rest, I felt the nudge to have another look at it.
That evening, I ended up revising 3-4 chapters, and within a week, the book was done. Everything suddenly fell into place, and the book turned out great.
Being open means not only letting go of the problem, but noticing what’s right here, right now.
You never know when a book comes your way, a song plays on the radio, or someone says something that helps you untangle a knot in your life.
A Common Misconception
My creative process is seldom as neat and tidy as I’ve described in this article.
I sometimes go back and forth on a problem. I might leave it, and come back a few days later.
Or I might not.
The key part is that I’m open to different answers and paths. So use the process I’ve shared here as a starting point to discovering your own natural creativity.
Writing about creativity has made it obvious to me that what I call creativity is the same as following my excitement, listening to my heart, or tapping into my intuition.
It all comes from the same place.
As Rumi, the poet, once said: “There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.”
It doesn’t matter if you think you’re creative or not, because you are.
We all have the same wisdom, creativity, and intelligence within us. All we have to do is realize that it’s always there, waiting for us.