Creativity is not exclusive to art or design departments. You can be creative in any area of your life, and creativity can guide you to places you never imagined.
While working in design and advertising for the last 20 years, I saw many people in agencies saying, “I’m not creative,” or “Creativity is not for me.”
It’s a common mistake.
I often saw these same people using creativity without even noticing.
But even as a creative by trade, I also struggled with aspects of my own creativity. How can we be creative and have good ideas every day? How can we have good ideas even if we’re not in a good mood? Our life is made of highs and lows, and sometimes an account depends on you, even on a bad day.
Looking at these scenarios and thinking about the future, I studied and collected a series of techniques, articles and books about creativity and perceived “creative blocks.”
Where Does Creativity Come From?
The first thing that I understood is that good ideas are born inside our brains and the beginning of everything comes from our life experiences. You can use creativity to solve all your problems, no matter how big they are.
Creativity is not exclusive to a select group. It’s what our brain does. And it’s not just a skill for those in arts fields. In science, creativity is discovering what no one has before. In gastronomy, creativity is arriving at something new from different combinations of ingredients. In development, creativity is finding many ways to solve a single problem.
Creativity is like a muscle that must be challenged, stretched and occasionally pushed past its comfort zone in order to reach its full potential. Just like you would use a gym to develop strength in your arms, legs or core, it’s important to give your brain a regular workout to grow your creative muscle.
In our evolution, the expansion of the prefrontal cortex has made us able to imagine. It makes us consider what our options are before we do anything. In my studies, I understood that our brains will always try to take shortcuts. Training your creativity forces your brain to take the longest path.
The Creativity Circles
In my creative studies and life, I realized that the more stimuli you receive, the more creative you will become. With this in mind, I have divided stimuli into three groups: your repertory, your emotions and your experiences. I placed these groups into circles, the creativity circles, to make the concept more visual and easier to understand.
Your repertory is all the knowledge you have accumulated through your experiences, everything you have seen, learned, and know within your environment and culture — the books you have read, the works of art you have seen, the movies and TV shows you have watched, and what you see within streets, landscapes and sceneries.
Your emotions are all the sensations that you allow yourself to feel during life — your joys, sorrows and achievements. It is one foundation that makes us able to have empathy for others.
Your experiences are a combination of your life experiences and your skills in practice. What you have lived or acquired makes you capable of performing specific tasks.
Between your repertory and emotions, you have your consciousness driving the individual awareness of your unique thoughts.
Between your repertory and experiences, you have your perceptions, where you become aware of something through the senses.
Between your emotions and experiences lie your memories, individual facts and experiences you remember, as well as the brain’s ability to contain it all.
The more you stimulate your brain, the closer you move to the center of the circles to reach creativity.
The Creativity Calendar
After years studying, developing the circles and thinking of helping as many people as possible, I designed the creativity calendar: a tool that walks the path of the creative circles and helps you through small behavioral challenges. It is a hands-on tool, made so you can print and act.
How to Use the Calendar
Once you have downloaded the file, print your copy.
The calendar features four weeks — an entire month — of small daily tasks.
Follow each daily task, giving yourself some time to feel, to try something new or to make something to boost your creativity. Pure and simple. At the end of the month, you’ll feel more creative and begin to understand the process.
During week one, you’ll find tasks to boost your repertory. In week two, you will encounter tasks that challenge you to let your emotions flow. In week three, you will expand your experiences. In the final week, week four, you will find specific methods aimed at fine-tuning your creative techniques.
After you complete the challenges in the calendar, keep exercising. Repeat the steps and keep building more repertory.
Creative Bonus: The SCAMPER Tool
SCAMPER is a quick, easy and direct form of creative brainstorming. The letters in the SCAMPER mnemonic stand for substitute, combine, adapt, modify, put to another use, eliminate and reverse.
You use the tool by asking questions about existing products, using each of the seven prompts from the acronym. These questions help you come up with creative ideas for developing new products and for improving current ones.
Alex Osborn, credited by many as the originator of brainstorming, originally came up with many of the questions used in the technique. However, it was Bob Eberle, an education administrator and author, who organized these questions into the SCAMPER mnemonic.
I hope you enjoyed reading and that you use the calendar to exercise your creativity. I promise that using creativity in your life will make everything easier — or at least more fun.
Daniel Macedo is a senior product designer at Mediacurrent.
He has been drawing comic and anime characters using various techniques since he was three years old. Today, his physical body of work still boasts some of the original masterpieces created in his childhood.