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Early on in life, people tend to start thinking of themselves as “creative” or “not creative.” This often stems from childhood experiences, like whether or not you had a talent for art in school. If you were better at solving a math problem than drawing a tree, you may have placed yourself in the not-creative bucket and pursued a career centered around more logical reasoning. But being artistic and being creative don’t necessarily go hand in hand. So, even if you still can’t draw a decent tree, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have the capacity to be a creative thinker.
Creativity isn’t something you’re born with or without; everyone has the capacity to be creative. You just need to learn how to tap into your creativity. One way to do that is to study the habits of highly creative people. Following their example isn’t a formula for guaranteed success, but it will help you cultivate your creativity and go beyond what you thought was possible. Here are some of the habits of highly creative people that can help you develop your own creativity.
1. They follow a routine.
Many creative people tend to stick to a strict schedule and are disciplined about when and how they work. Routines don’t inhibit your creativity but allow it to flourish. Psychologist William James said that schedules “free our minds to advance to really interesting fields of action.”
2. They combine work and play.
“Hybrid forms of work and play may actually provide the most optimal context for learning and creativity, for both children and adults, and that play and intrinsic joy are intimately connected, creating a synergy that naturally leads to greater inspiration, effort, and creative growth,” write Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire, authors of Wired to Create. In other words, having fun is good for you. It makes you happy and inspires you, which is key to nurturing creativity.
3. They can work anywhere.
Whether you’re trying to write your first novel or launch your first business, you’re probably dealing with a lot of competing priorities. But if you’re holding out for a serene environment and a completely clear schedule, you’re probably never going to realize your dream. In fact, if you feel like you can only work in a specific place at a specific time, you’re doing yourself a disservice. “Studies show that changing environments is beneficial to productivity and creativity,” writesTravis Bradberry in Forbes.
4. They daydream.
Creative people are disciplined, but they also understand the value of letting their minds wander. Kaufman and Gregoire write, “A review of the latest science of daydreaming has shown that mind wandering offers very personal rewards, including creative incubation, self-awareness, future planning, reflection on the meaning of one’s experiences, and even compassion.” When you allow your mind to travel from the task at hand, you open yourself up to new ideas and creative solutions that you hadn’t considered.
5. They know when to walk away.
Creative people are good at coming up with interesting and sometimes unorthodox solutions to problems, but that doesn’t mean they can make everything work. In fact, the difference between a successful creative person and an unsuccessful one could be knowing when to step away from something. Social psychologist Richard Nisbett and his colleagues have studied successful creative people and found that those who thrive over the long term are those who are willing to walk away from projects that aren’t working, despite how much time and effort they have invested in the endeavors, according to Fast Company. Knowing when to walk away shows that you’re free-thinking enough to realize when it’s time to try something different.