7 ways to unlock your creative potential (even if you think you have none)

Some people have gone to some pretty extreme lengths when it comes to channeling creativity. 

We’ve all heard how Beethoven came up with his best musical compositions in the bathroom.

His student Anton Schindler wrote that the composer would stand “with his washstand and pour larger pitchers of water over his hands, bellowing up and down the scale or sometimes humming to himself. Then he’d stride around the room rolling his eyes, writing down notes, and continue pouring water and singing.”

The following quest for creativity is even stranger. 

Yoshiro Nakamatsu, one of Japan’s greatest inventors—he patented the floppy disk in 1952 and also invented the digital watch—would starve his brain of oxygen to get creative ideas. 

An avid swimmer, Nakamatsu would regularly hold his head under water to the point of nearly drowning. 

“To starve the brain of oxygen, you must dive deep and allow the water pressure to deprive the brain of blood. Zero-point-five seconds before death, I visualize an invention,” he explained.

If you’re looking to unlock your own creativity, but you don’t want to jump off the deep end (pun intended) like Beethoven and Nakamatsu, here are seven more “normal” ways to tap into your own creative potential—even if you believe that you don’t have any. 

1) Stare at the clouds 

We’re not kidding. 

Years ago, I remember reading a book called The Purpose of Your Life. The author, Carol Brown, said that whenever she had a case of writer’s block or wondered what her next project should even be, she would stare out the window at the clouds. 

She would meditate on the shapes of the clouds: one maybe looked like an apple, another like a sleigh, and yet another like a ship. You get the picture. 

Amidst her mulling, an idea would start to take shape in her mind. 

Even though it sounds counter-productive to “waste time,” daydreaming it can actually enhance creativity, says Amy Beecham from The Stylist

“It may seem counterintuitive to think less directly about a specific challenge or problem, but studies continue to indicate that letting your mind wander may just be what you need to move forward,” she adds. 

“Just like when we get a killer idea or finally solve a problem while washing our hair in the shower, not only can embracing doing nothing help us recharge, it has also been found to provide us with a newfound sense of motivation when experienced in moderation.”

2) Take a different route home 

I can say that I have seriously tested this theory. 

It’s easy for many of us to fall into a creative rut—or believe that we have no creativity in us at all—if we’re always doing the same old thing.

The truth is that many live our lives on autopilot. If we’re never doing things differently, we’re sending out a subconscious signal to the universe that we’re fine with the same old, same old. 

“The redirection of thoughts and actions will start to change neural pathways as habits begin to be replaced, and new parts of the brain are used,” according to a story by Colorado State University

“The brain literally starts to rewire itself with a simple change of mindset.”

Little tweaks could mean taking a different route to work. Or taking the train instead of driving your car. Go to a different coffee shop than you’re used to. Go for a run in a different neighborhood. Do your Saturday chores in a different order. 

Small changes in our routine send a message to our brain that we’re open to doing something different. This can attract creative thoughts. 

3) Travel can turn on the creativity switch 

Nothing taps into unlocking creativity like potential. 

Jenn, a travel blogger says that manifestation (bringing your subconscious desires into your 3-D reality) is all about shifting our vibe. 

I couldn’t agree more—and manifestation and creative power are pretty much the same thing. 

When you travel—particularly when you go somewhere you’ve never gone before—“you automatically give yourself permission to step off your old well-worn treadmill of worries,” says Jenn. 

“Instead of going through the invisible laundry list of all the things you normally give your energy to, you get to think about other (new! fun!) things.”

As Jenn says, when you’re going through the world happy and curious—a natural vibe when you’re traveling—amazing things tend to fall into your lap. 

“Embrace the expansion and start noticing what happens for you.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go to a different country or continent—although that’s certainly ideal—it could even be a couple of towns over. 

4) Creativity lives just outside your comfort zone

You’ve heard this one time and time again, and it’s true: nothing unlocks your creative potential like getting out of your comfort zone. 

Creativity comes for you when you’re ready to let it in.

Have you always wanted to write a book? Feel the fear and do it anyway. And don’t wait for creativity to strike. Just do it. When you create the time and space—this could mean writing down any ideas—something will eventually start to take shape as long as you keep showing up for it. 

Write and rewrite until you absolutely love it.  

The idea that you have to have the perfect idea or be the perfect writer is absurd in my opinion. 

When I look back at some of the articles I wrote ten years ago, they weren’t bad per se, but they certainly don’t live up to the kind of features I’m capable of writing now. 

This could apply to any form of creativity: painting, coming up with an innovative product idea and executing it, and the list goes on. 

5) Follow the synchronicity

7 ways to unlock your creative potential even if you think you have none 2 7 ways to unlock your creative potential (even if you think you have none)

Your own personal brand of creativity happens when you follow your bliss. 

What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money? What are you naturally good at? What do you have an inclination for?

Sometimes you have to follow the synchronicity to unlock your creative potential

I remember reading a story years ago about a young woman who was thinking about going to the University of California or Duke University (I might have the specifics wrong). She had gotten into both colleges but was perplexed on which one was truly right for her potential and her future. 

I remember reading that she thought about it but still couldn’t come to the best decisions as there are pros and cons to both schools for her personally. 

The young woman had a day or so left before she had to make a decision when the doorbell rang. Annoyed by the interruption, she answered the door. She was dumbfounded when she saw a saleswoman wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with “Duke University”. 

A light bulb went off and she wrote her acceptance to Duke University right away. 

A great book (actually it’s a series) to read on synchronistically living a creative life is The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. It’s not a self-help book, but rather an adventure book kind of similar to Paolo Coehlo’s The Alchemist (another amazing book on synchronistic creativity). 

6) Clear your clutter 

Clearing the clutter in your home is one the best ways (in my humble opinion) to get your creative juices flowing.

What does clutter even have to do with creativity, you may ask?

What is happening in your external world is a reflection of what is happening in our internal world. 

Clutter equals stuck, stagnant energy that has nowhere to go.  

Now, I will say that some people thrive working in messy rooms. But it’s usually a “messy orderliness,” clarifies creativity coach Beth Ann Dailey

But if you’re holding on to things that you don’t need or want (clothes, dishes, paperwork, knickknacks, toys, books, etc.), then you’re holding on to what isn’t serving you. You’re not allowing new energy—creative energy—to flow in. 

“Some clutter-clearing experts argue that when you’re surrounded by clutter, it is harder to have clarity about what you are doing in your life—and that when you clear clutter, you can think more clearly and decisions become easier,” says Dailey. 

The bottom line: being clear of clutter is one of the greatest aids to manifesting the life you want. 

7) “Rock your body, yeah”

Well more specifically than the Backstreet Boys song: move your body to get more creative. 

The claim is backed by science. 

Studies have uncovered a link between physical activity and heightened levels of inventiveness. “[It’s why] countless creatives in the artistic, scientific, and business spheres have adopted a daily exercise routine as an invaluable part of their process,” says writer Anna Lodwick

There are a few reasons for this according to the research.

One has to do with the anatomy. Exercise causes the brain to be saturated with blood that is oxygen-rich: this means that exercise gives it the file to work at maximum efficiency

Scientific evidence also suggests that exercise can promote the growth of new connections between brain cells. 

We also know that exercise can give us a boost in mood and can reduce stress and anxiety. This, in turn, can greatly reduce any blocks to creativity. 

“Exercise has also been shown to stimulate and strengthen parts of the brain related to memory, like the hippocampus,” says Lodwick. “The more you remember, the more you collect and draw from for your creative ideation.”

Lodwick also suggests exercising in a different environment. This could mean at the gym, out hiking the trails, even dancing to music in your living room. 

“Getting outside or into a different space can spark creativity. Certain types of exercise also expose us to sources of inspiration, such as a jog or bike ride through nature.”

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has been published by The Globe & Mail, ELLE USA, ELLE Canada, British Vogue, Town & Country, and others.

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