It’s time to break out of habitual thinking and unleash your inner maker or artist. This compact book shows you how.
At various times, we all need a nudge or even a springboard to get our creative juices going, and get past various equivalents of writer’s block. This compact guide to creativity by Lisa Dyer provides a range of provocative stimulations and perspectives.
Titled Get Creative, it offers over 60 exercises, activities and prompts to prod your imagination. Published by London-based Arcturus Publishing, the six chapters span 125 pages, with many worksheets, tips and quotes sprinkled between.
Lisa Dyer is an experienced author and editor in the areas of lifestyle and arts. Originally from the US, she has lived in London for more than 20 years.
Here are my six cluster of takeaways from this book. See also my reviews of the related titles 1001 Ways to Creativity, How to Get to Great Ideas, The Other Ideas, Ideas are Your Only Currency, Show Your Work, The Art of Creative Thinking, and The Innovative Mindset.
1. The creative space
De-cluttering, time management and mindfulness techniques make physical workspaces more stimulating, Lisa begins. A “go to” space for creativity should have a mix of comfort, stimulation, artistic tools, and inspirational quotes. Such a space can even be envisioned from afar.
Meditation and breathing help energise the mind. Notice surroundings which you normally skip during your busy commute, Lisa advises; walking half as fast opens your eyes to new perspectives. A nature break can also be rejuvenating. Ideas can sometimes come from the possessions we use least frequently.
2. Awakening and connections
Creativity comes from connections, and this can involve finding patterns across the five senses. Identifying the full gamut of expressions on a daily basis helps set broader contexts for the emotional palette.
Lisa suggests exercise like imagining music as a cast of characters, finding words to describe textures in nature, and sketching patterns evoked by different scents. Other activities related to intense emotions include writing words in ways that vary with intensity of feeling, and connecting emotions to the tastes of different foods.
“Sometimes, simply looking at an object with fresh eyes can transform it completely,” Lisa explains. Creativity comes from new perspectives and different ways of framing and reframing a problem.
She invites us to imagine what masterpiece paintings would look like if the subjects had different emotions (a crying Mona Lisa?). Other suggested activities are constructing a team of imaginary mentors, imagining yourself as a foreigner or superhuman, and envisioning yourself 20 years in the future.
Preparing a ‘gratitude list’ or identifying your upbeat attributes can help foster positive energy for creativity. Reframing problems to identify silver linings in each of them offers new sources of consolation and even strength.
Mindmaps and Edward de Bono’s six hats of lateral thinking also help in this regard. Exercises like wacky collage or juxtaposing random phrases cut out from newspapers spur new kinds of creative connections.
4. Word play
Playing with words bolsters your cognitive abilities, memory and mental health, Lisa explains. Suggested games include mirror writing (reversed or upside down), word triggering, pictograms, free-writing for one or five minutes, composing imaginary dialogues, dream journaling, and even making up new lyrics for your favourite song.
“The singer-songwriter David Bowie famously used a technique of cutting out unrelated words and sentence fragments, and rearranging them to create his lyrics. He claimed, the unconscious intelligence that came from the pairings of ideas was a powerful tool for his compositions,” Lisa explains.
5. Visual exploration
Artistic exploration can connect the visual and physical world with the intuitive and emotional. Lisa suggests that leaf arrangements, continuous line drawing, shading backgrounds, colouring in blocks, gradient shading, changing hues in photographs, and drawing with the non-dominant hand unleash new kinds of sensations and connections.
“Spending time engaged in crafts and hobbies – from woodworking to knitting – is proven to stimulate the creative centres of the brain,” Lisa explains. She suggests activities like doing routine activities backwards, changing commute mode and route, reinventing common inventions, reimaging where doors lead, listing and doing impossible things, and designing your dream house.
In sum, the playful book can serve as a good weekend or even daily guide to unbridle your passions, release yourself from habitual thinking, and become more organic and creative in your work and home life.
The book is packed with beautiful quotes; it would be fitting to end this review with the sample below.
To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. - Thomas Edison
A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral. - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
All artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of inner stillness, a place of no mind. - Eckhart Tolle
Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch a little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. - David Lynch
An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea. - Edward de Bono
Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. - Thomas Merton
Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary. - Kahlil Gibran
The primary benefit of practicing any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one’s soul to grow. - Kurt Vonnegut Jr
For an impressionist to paint from nature is not to paint the subject but to realise sensations. - Paul Cézanne
To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make. - Truman Capote
Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. - Albert Einstein
YourStory has also published the pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups’ as a creative and motivational guide for innovators (downloadable as apps here: Apple, Android).