How To Harness Your Creativity In An Increasingly Distracted World
Need To Tap Into Your Creativity? Start Here
Almost everyone I know who is online regularly struggles with distractions. It’s part of living in the world of instant communication and iPhones. Social media, for as great as it is, pulls you into an online world separate from the present moment. Over time, this can hinder your focus and ability to find creativity and inspiration outside of others.
Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with apps like Instagram and Facebook. I enjoy catching up with friends and laughing at memes, but I sometimes find myself focusing more on my digital identity than who I really am as a person. And when you are struggling to connect with yourself, it’s even harder to tap into your creativity.
Thankfully, there are dozens of tips and tricks I use to stay creative and focused. I have always loved to read and write fiction, and during the COVID-19 lockdown, I leaned more into my writing than ever before. I found myself constantly working on short stories, devouring books, and spending hours watching interviews of authors I love.
However, as things start to open up again and I’ve fallen back into pre-pandemic routines, I find myself slipping away from my creativity. Here’s what I’ve done to try to combat these distractions and stay true to the creative person I know I am.
Get Outside And Breathe Some Fresh Air
As I said, the Internet is simultaneously great and debilitating. If you’re trying to brainstorm a creative idea, whether it’s for a blog post or essay or fictional story, you’re not going to find inspiration on your computer. Exercise is a great way to open up your mind and allow yourself to think and breathe freely.
Even if you aren’t a cardio fanatic, taking time to walk in a nature trail can also be therapeutic. Take deep breaths, let the air settle into your lungs, and feel the breeze on your skin. Nature has always helped me return to “myself,” and reminds me what I’m grateful for and what writing and creativity mean to me.
When I talk about getting outside, I also mean being around other people. There is a timeless writing exercise you can do anywhere that involves sitting at a cafe or park and listening to the way people interact with each other. This could be body language, expressions, or listening to their dialogue (just try to act casual). As writers, we are constantly trying to recreate the human experience. To do that effectively, you have to watch and be around other humans. Who knows, hearing an interesting conversation at a cafe may give you the inspiration you need to start that blog you’ve been pushing off.
Reading Will Spark Creativity
This is perhaps the most obvious tip, but if you want to harness creativity as a writer, you have to read. And I don’t just mean one or two news stories a day. Reading has to be a priority.
If you’re a blogger, you’re probably already subscribed to other blogs and consume their content constantly. Keep doing that. If you’re a journalist or marketer, read news stories and press releases. Read advertisements. Read the packaging on a bag of chips. I know it sounds crazy, but there’s something to take away from the way a company describes even a simple product. And over time, you’ll find your writing and creativity improving.
Personally, I read books like it’s a second job. My obsession started when I was about 12, and my dad gave me an old copy of Pet Semetary by Stephen King. I didn’t even know how to describe how that book made me feel. I was completely immersed in an intense, vivid universe that I didn’t know I could travel to just by reading. I was hooked. Since then I’ve consumed thousands of books that have changed my life. I still love Stephen King. I love Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Hemingway, Alice Munroe, Albert Camus, Sally Rooney, the list goes on. And do you know what reading makes me want to do? It makes me want to tap into my creativity. When I read a good book, I am immediately inspired to create something of my own.
If reading isn’t part of your daily routine, it’s time to pick up a book.
Disconnect So You Can Connect To Your Creativity
Creativity is personal. Even if you’re writing a story inspired by the world around you, ultimately your creativity is your personal interpretation of what you see and experience. And how can you tap into those emotions if you’re spending 5 hours a day watching TikToks of other people dancing? Unfortunately, you can’t.
If your job requires you to be on social media a lot, then maybe the time to tap into your creativity is on the weekend. Have a “No Social Saturday” where you don’t touch those apps on your phone. Then try Saturday and Sunday. Allow yourself to disconnect from the constant, buzzing online world and listen to what your mind is telling you. You might be surprised where you end up.
Set Goals, And Stick To Them
I cannot stress enough how important it is to set goals for yourself, even on days your creativity isn’t at its peak. If you have to finish two blogs by the end of the week, give yourself a word count each day. Stick to it. Even if you find yourself lagging at the end, it’s better to get words on paper than to have nothing to work off of.
When I work on long-form stories, I set a goal of 1,000 words a day. For really long stories, I’ll write down in my planner “5,000 words this week.” Again, especially on a first draft, most of what you write won’t sound great. And creativity is not an on and off switch. What I have found, though, is that the more you train your brain to reach your goals, the more you find yourself inspired day-to-day. Reinforce the idea in your brain that you can do this, you are a creative person. You’ll find that your writing flows naturally over time.
Form Meaningful Relationships
I have found that so much of my creativity and inspiration comes from the people around me. Cultivating meaningful relationships is a huge part of being a creative person. This can be as simple as giving your grandparents a call and asking questions about their life, or encouraging them to share stories with you. Or it can look like going out to dinner with a friend, and hearing about the new developments or events in their life.
A huge part of what makes my relationships strong — family, friends, and romantic — is learning how that person sees the world. Sharing stories, laughter, and keeping up with the minuscule things that happen in their daily life. I know it sounds silly, but even something as simple as hearing about my mom’s drive to work might remind me of something and spark an idea. There is so much creative inspiration to be found in those you love.
Now Get to Work!
There’s plenty of ways to cultivate creativity in your life. The most important thing is that you stay disciplined and open minded, and let the world take you where it wants to go. You will never regret opening yourself up to your creative side.