Think Positive, Think Creatively
It is widely accepted that creativity is essential for a fulfilled life. I would say the first step to think creatively is opening your mind to a different reality, to different possibilities. We all have an inner child that wants to play and experiment all the time, so embrace it. If you always look for the logical explanation and take things for granted it'll be harder to be original.
The next step is questioning everything that catches your attention. How did this happen? Why did it happen? Why didn't it happen in a different way? Trying to find answers will stimulate new thoughts. Some of the great things of today were based on ideological revolutions but they happened because people also fought hard for them.
Start Trusting Yourself
Sometimes creativity can be a fight, so take the effort to walk the extra mile if you have to get out of your comfort zone. Self-discipline and self-improvement are key to success. Even when it all seems lost and there is no way out, that's when your ability to push through gets tested. Set yourself a routine by simply showing up to work, starting small and gaining consistency.
But ideas are not that simple, sometimes they appear out of the blue, or in the shower or in our dreams. It might help to let go of any pressure constraining you while nature takes it's course. Positive thinking is half the battle.
Take Small Steps
It also helps to demystify some notions you might have at the beginning of this journey. When we grow up seeing the brilliant work of others, we think it must be magical talent that made it, but it all comes from generations of hard work that all led to providing the right circumstances for brilliance to happen. Some classical paintings took years to complete, but with enough self-discipline big problems can be broken down into smaller achievable steps.
Another common setback is not working enough because of lack of inspiration. In those times, there are lots of other seemingly boring things to do that are equally important like research and maintenance. Figure out the main motivation behind your work and consciously act with the right intentions. When we have demanding ideals, we might fall short of our expectations, but that's what makes us unique. Amazing stuff has happened by accident.
Positive Mood Improves Creativity
Recent studies by John Kounios have shown that being in a positive mood improves creativity. On the other hand being a little anxious could improve analytical skills. When feeling safe and secure you can take more risks. It helps to be in large spaces like a big studio or outside. Sleeping and doing nothing are also a part of the mental processes that lead our brain to new insights.
Joel Chan's research shows that the creative process is actually a collection of various cognitive abilities that can be applied to a problem or pursuit and result in something new. The main abilities are attention, analogy, memory and imagination. Some problems can be solved by logic but for creative insights, we need to make implicit connections that might not appear to be there.
Surrealists Believed Creation is Outside creator's Control
There was an interesting community of surrealists from the 1920's onward, that believed in a process outside of the creator's control. They had techniques and games based on automatism to produce a stream of random results which could be a starting point to finished works. Today we can even push this idea further and automate randomness by programming applications that generate random material based on a set of rules.
In the tech industry we are witnessing a rise on the hacker culture, which can be seen as a reaction to limits imposed by current products and finding new ways to modify them and use them for different purposes. Other counter cultures have witnessed similar happenings like alternative rock and hip-hop. By distorting an amplifier or combining samples we came up with totally new styles.
Knowledge can take us far, but experience helps to make the connections that make it useful. Many artists, when asked about the creative process say they don't know, they just do it, which shows practice in context at work.
Calm and Clear your Mind
I have found that ancient Zen teachings are very insightful. An interesting journey is trying to reach the Stillness Point through meditation. By letting go of our inner thoughts, dialogues, the past and the future we can focus on our breathing and the present moment. It's not an esoteric state of mind but rather a communion with reality, being able to see not what you think you see, but what actually is.
Meditation practice and creativity are linked because single-pointed concentration develops the intuitive aspect of our consciousness. Being more aware of our intuition helps us to enter the flow of the universe.