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Stay Creative

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1. Carry a notebook everywhere you go. 

Steven Johnson, author of the book Where Good Ideas Come From, carries a document with him wherever he goes and calls it a "spark file." Although Johnson encourages us to carry a digital spark file, I like the idea of carrying a notebook instead. If you're a man or don't like to carry a big purse, you can get notebooks small enough to fit in your pocket, like this one. I'm a sucker for Moleskines, personally. Review your spark file once a month to remember all your great ideas.

If you're a musician or an artist, Moleskine makes music notebooks with sheet music and watercolor notebooks, among other options. 

2. Try free writing.

Free writing is normally used as a prewriting technique in which a person continuously writes without regard for spelling, grammar, or topic. I like to think of it as continuous strain of consciousness writing, because you are literally writing whatever comes to mind. This technique is super helpful for writers block because the writer loses any criticisms for himself he previously had.

I'm an advocate for unlined pages in the notebook I use for this technique because it encourages more free-flowing ideas that don't have to be just words, but pictures as well. This is also helpful for writing down any of your ideas and hunches, not just for this technique alone.

3. Collaborate and get feedback. 

It's important when trying to create that you surround yourself with other creative people. Not only will they help inspire you, but they might offer some creative feedback that you wouldn't normally think of. These creative people will also help you stay open to new solutions for any of your creative problems.

4. Make lists and create a framework.

Making lists help you break that daunting task into a few simple steps. For example, if you're trying to write a song and you only have the melody figured out so far, write down what else you need to do. It would look something like this:

    1. Write lyrics.
    2. Break the song down into different sections (figure out how many verses I want, how many chorus's, if I want a bridge, a solo, etc.)
    3. What genre do I want this song to go in? Rock, electronic, country, classical? 
    4. Think of accompanying instruments you want to embellish your melody with, based off what genre you want your song to be in.

I'm sure there are more things that could be on this list, but this is just an example of what you would want to do.

As for creating a framework, I view this as a more general idea of the persona you want to create, or your entire project as a whole. Say you're trying to lay out your career, and everything you need to do to get there. This might be a more visual version of a list, like drawing a circle in the middle of your paper with the name of the position you want in the middle. Then, you would draw smaller circles connected by a line off of this main bubble, where you would put all the things it takes to get there (getting a B.A. in your field, landing an internship, making connections, budgeting, staying motivated, etc.).

5. Take chances. Make mistakes. Get Messy.

I can't stress this enough: mistakes are okay! When you make a mistake, it means you're trying, which is all it takes to have your eureka moment.

Upon trying 10,000 different materials to make his ingenious, world-changing lightbulb work, Thomas Edison did not let his failure hold him back. In fact, he didn't see it as failure at all. 

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

6. Finish something.

Something. Anything. Just make something, put it out there and see what happens. Really, what happens if you put yourself and/or your project out there? Ok, some people might not like it. Whatever. You are your own biggest fan, so anyone's opinion shouldn't stop your creativity or make you feel insecure. Odds are someone will like what you're doing, and whoever doesn't will give you feedback that you can learn from and apply to whatever you finish next. Learn to not take any of this feedback personally, as personal as it may be. By letting other's criticisms roll off your shoulders, you become invincible. 

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