Creative workshop

Five ways to hone your creativity and make the most of it

man playing chess on the roadYou probably never thought of yourself as creative. But when was the last time you thought of an unusual costume to wear at a costume party, used mashed rice when you ran out of glue, used a seashell as a paperweight or wound up your clock with the sharp edge of a paperclip?

Whenever you seek to do things differently—including the last minute improvising and altering of ordinary, everyday situations—you are being creative.

Creativity can give you the edge you need in a world that is wracked with difficulties and intense competition. It can solve your problems, make your career more fulfilling, your relationships more enjoyable and those long Sunday afternoons and damp rainy days more lively and vibrant.

'By thinking out-of-the-box you'll achieve your full potential,' says Mary C Murdock, co-author of Creative Problem Solving and Role Playing. Latest studies prove that the ability to think out-of-the-box is a skill that we can develop.

Here are some interesting ways to nurture your creativity, regardless of your age, profession, and social standing.

1. Do the same things differently

Changing one's routine is essential and even the smallest of change can make a difference. If you're a late riser, wake up early for a week; change the traditional straight-back chair in your office to a swivel seat; try playing a usual game of golf with a different club.

Go out for lunch if you're always bringing home-made food. And if you're constantly surfing the net or watching television, look for alternative activities.

'Change your focus; if you're visually-oriented, pay attention to smells or if your typical action is logical, try being emotional or intuitive for a change,' suggests Roger Von Oech, author of the best-seller, A Whack in the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative. Shaking up your routine helps you find creative solutions that you may not have explored otherwise.

It can also expel boredom from your life. So whether it's packing a present with an unusual bow layered with chocolate or hard candy, or deciding to buy shoe-laces in shocking pink or green, you really have stumbled upon a creative gene!

2. Quell the inner critic

Often it is our own inner voice that discourages us from doing anything differently. For instance, you may not have considered yourself an athletic person, but if you do try your hand at a sport, you might just enjoy it.

To silence your inner critic, challenge yourself and constantly push the envelope when it comes to developing new talent and skills. This involves enrolling in activities you've always been interested in, but never thought you were good at.

If you can't draw or sketch, take a quick tutorial online and try out the basic sketches. Step out of your comfort zone to create a new dimension to your personality.

3. Take on unusual hobbies

An unusual hobby that requires time and attention allows your creativity to surface. Explore the possibility of taking up something achievable and yet different—such as bonsai culture, collecting unique [and meaningful] trinkets from around the world for a charm bracelet, signing up for a pottery class and setting up a post-card collection... unusual hobbies challenge the mind and build your cerebral forces.

4. Be spontaneous on a trip

Whether it's mountain climbing or scuba diving, attempt different activities without actually planning for them.

For instance, when you are exploring a city on a vacation, break your routine for some unusual activities such as hot-air ballooning, exploring the countryside on a bike or enjoying road-side tea. An unpredictable holiday where you discover lesser-known joys is sure to rejuvenate you more than a regular run-of-the-mill break, flooding you with fresh, novel ideas.

5. Play mind games

'Creativity is a skill', said the late former president of Princeton Creative Research, Eugene Raudsepp. 'And like any skill, if you don't practise it, it atrophies.' Playing mind games, either individually or in a group, will ensure that your creativity keeps thriving.

There are many ways to do this. You can put up an ideas board in your room and jot down random thoughts and ideas every day. You can also start a blog and write about anything that comes to mind. You could also fill a shoe-box with unusual or interesting articles that inspire you or plan for future projects and creative goals that you want to reach.

Have a group session with friends. Ask someone to start a story and others in the group to continue telling it, retaining the same characters and setting. You'll be surprised at how everyone's creativity sparks a number of twists in the tale.

Also, challenge each other to come up with original proverbs, an alternative name and designation [if you were to change your original one] or how they would react in unusual and funny situations. Another mind-sharpening exercise involves thinking of off-beat uses for everyday objects.

For instance, can you guess alternative uses of a pen? It could be an antenna, a magic wand or even a walking stick for a doll. The objective of this exercise is to be as imaginative as you can.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

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Kamala Thiagarajan
Kamala Thiagarajan is a Madurai-based journalist. Her writing interests encompass a host of genres including travel, health, entertainment and lifestyle. She is a full-time freelance journalist who works from her home in Madurai, South India. With ten years of experience in journalism, she has over four hundred articles in print in leading magazines across the globe. Her writing spans a variety of travel, health, entertainment and lifestyle features read by a diverse audience in over seven count

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