How to be more creative: expert tips to increase your creativity

Think you're just not a creative person? Think again. Ali Roff Farrar explains how we can all tap into, and increase, our creativity.

Is it possible to tap into a place of creative abundance in the brain? How can we find our own unique state of creative flow, become more creative and get over the limiting beliefs that stunt our creative potential? We take a look at some truths, myths and secrets to cultivating real creativity . . . by Ali Roff Farrar

Do what works for you

Creativity is personal, and how we tap into it and cultivate results from it is individual to who we are and how we function on a unique level. Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work by Mason Currey, is a testament to the many different ways creativity is tapped into and pursued by the most famous artists and creatives in history. It's a fascinating insight into just how personal creativity is; artist Francis Bacon for example, famously lived in creative chaos – not only in his physical world but in his daily rituals too. ‘Bacon appeared to thrive on disorder' explains Currey, and ‘lived a life of hedonistic excess'. Yet despite the excess and disorder, his albeit chaotic routine varied very little day to day. The poet W.H. Auden however, believed routine was attached to ambition. ‘Auden believed that a life of such military precision was essential to his creativity', shares Currey. The route to creativity is individual; do what works for you.

Create a creative affirmation

If there were one manual on how to be creative, it's got to be the classic The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. And a beautiful way Cameron suggests it is followed is for ‘creative recovery'. She explains that the ‘ally within' for combatting low creative confidence and core negative beliefs around our ability to be creative, is ‘affirmative weapons'. Cameron urges us to pinpoint a negative belief about our creative self, and counteract it with a creative affirmation. She gives the example ‘“I, Fred, am untalented and phony”, might be converted to “I, Fred, am genuinely talented”'.

Leap sideways

We must clear space for ourselves to be creative, explains Paul Magrs in The Creative Writing Coursebook, co-edited with Julia Bell. Take a random topic such as the earth's core, or garden furniture, advises Magrs, and write without distraction for five minutes, ‘Allow your pen to wander' he explains. The idea is that among the associations, descriptions and clichés, you'll find some real, unique connections, ‘leaps in logic and lateral thinking', and release ready-made material that you've never tapped into. Magrs reminds us, ‘You are the unique product of a unique life history'.

Cameron's The Artist's Way also promotes this style of writing for creativity, asking readers to wake half an hour early to write three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness style writing, that she advises us not to reread and keep private. ‘Welcome to the morning pages. They will change you', says Cameron.

Don't be a creative perfectionist

Creativity doesn't always (and perhaps never) arrives with a perfect ‘Hollywood' flash of inspiration or outpouring of sudden emotion. ‘None of us are much given to producing perfect works of art in a blinding crash of lightning', shares Magrs.

And there is no ‘right way' to tap into or use your creative potential. So rich was using famous creatives as a basis for understanding creative potential and realisation, that Currey wrote another book of ‘Daily Rituals' encapsulating women's stories only; Daily Rituals, Women at Work. In it, Currey shares poet Elizabeth Bishop's protracted way of working; “Some days all I do is write, and then for months I don't write a thing”. Fascinatingly, twenty years elapsed between the day she started and finally finished her poem ‘The Moose'. In another example, Currey shares the creative inspiration of choreographer Pina Bausch, who famously drew not solely on her own ideas, but on her dancers' memories and lives as inspiration for a new performance. Creative realisation doesn't always appear perfectly in the way we might imagine it to – be open to the different ways in which it might develop.

Understand your brain

And let's not forget the science. We've all heard of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Each hemisphere has different skills; the left brain is more logical and sequential and controls language and motor skills, and the right side could be said to be where creativity lives – it focuses more on intuitive problem-solving. But if you feel like you're just not a creative person – that you just don't think with a creative brain – well, think again. David Adam, author of The Genius Within, reveals that ‘most of what we think and do, especially the higher level stuff, is partly controlled by both hemispheres'. Similar to the stories we hear that we only use 10% of our brain's capacity, the idea that we are either more left- or right-sided in the way we think, is also a myth.

If you're looking for more creative inspiration, Kate Clanchy’s How to Grow Your Own Poem is full of poems to inspire, exercises to help you shape your own poems and advice to help you build your own writing practice. In this episode of Book Break, Joel from Fictional Fates turns his hand to writing poetry with the help of Kate's book.

Still struggling to get those creative juices flowing? Here, Emma shares her top tips for things to do when you're not feeling creative: