10. Take a break. Downtime is just as important as having a schedule and being productive, Simms said. Many great thinkers have understood the benefits of a break. For instance, “Charles Darwin is said to have taken several walks a day for ‘thinking time,’” she added.
11. Welcome mistakes. “Don’t worry about making it perfectly, doing it ‘right,’ or set unreasonable standards for yourself,” Hepburn said. McMeekin agreed: “Creativity is full of surprises, so you need to give yourself permission to try things, fail, make mistakes, and then begin again with new insights.”
12. Set up a creativity-boosting routine. McMeekin has a morning routine that helps her get centered and start creating. She begins by sitting quietly and studying her goals, which she’s recorded using a Treasure Map (a collage of images that you’d like to create in your life) and a mandala. Then she listens to music and spends 20 minutes journaling.
13. Carry a notebook with you—always. When on the go, Hepburn grabs a journal or sketchbook. “I jot down ideas while out or if I don’t have the time to pursue them, make quick sketches, staple fabrics/yarns or paste images, colors and textures that interest me.” When Hepburn is ready to create, she has “a treasure trove of thoughts and inspiration to draw on.”
14. Subtract “serenity stealers” from your life. McMeekin refers to “serenity stealers” as anything that sabotages your creative process, whether that’s “people, places, things [or] unsupportive beliefs.” Getting rid of these saboteurs leaves you “free to create.”
Similarly, only share your project with people who will be completely nonjudgmental and supportive, she added.
15. Shrink stress. “Stress is a creativity killer so you must avoid it and/or minimize it,” McMeekin said. Fortunately, there are many uncomplicated ways to cope with stress. (See here and here for tips.)
16. Create your own tools. You can develop your own tools to nourish creativity. McMeekin created a deck of cards she calls the “Creativity Courage Cards,” which feature affirmations and her husband’s photos. She draws a card from the deck daily for inspiration. As she said, it takes courage to be creative, and these cards help remind her to be “fearless and proactive.”
17. Make creativity a family affair. Hepburn and her daughters spend a lot of time creating together, which is no doubt inspiring for all of them. According to Hepburn, who worked almost a decade with kids and teens, “I never fail to be inspired by their innate creativity and lack of inhibition.”
She also sees firsthand the benefits of creativity (which we may overlook sometimes). For instance, Hepburn’s 6-year-old daughter came home from school crying because she said her heart had been broken. That day, she talked about her strong heart and drew a picture, which now hangs in her room. “Access to creative expression allows us to become more resilient and deal with life trauma or stress at any age,” Hepburn said.
18. Be inquisitive. Simms suggested that readers “question, wonder [and] explore.” Doing so, she explained, “wakes your brain up to new possibilities.” And you can start anywhere. You might wonder: How does “a Stairmaster work? What does that leaf smell like? What would happen if I added cumin instead of coriander?”
19. Be open. Creativity is being flexible and open to all kinds of ideas. Lawlor tries to let go of any preconceived notions and “allow myself to live in the realm of not being sure if a thing will work or not.” She admits that this isn’t so simple in our society where quick fixes are standard. “But sometimes, I think, you have to let things simmer and be open to the unexpected.”
20. Find activities that get you “in the flow.”We’ve all experienced a time when we were fully focused on an activity and even lost track of time. That’s what being in a state of flow feels like. Simms described it as “another sort of consciousness [that] takes over and you ride on instinct;” where “time is distorted.” She recommended readers “explore what activities let you work in the flow state and enjoy the effortlessness of working from there.” This can be anything from running to reading to drawing to dancing.