How to Be More Creative in 9 Easy Steps

 by Emily Shetler

Job plus family plus social life plus chores and errands equal a very busy you. How do you find ways to make time for creativity? “It’s doing the work that matters,” says Noah Scalin, artist and author of “365: A Daily Creativity Journal.” If you want to make art but don’t know where to begin, you’re not alone.


Job plus family plus social life plus chores and errands equal a very busy you. How do you find ways to make time for creativity? "It's doing the work that matters," says Noah Scalin, artist and author of "365: A Daily Creativity Journal." If you want to make art but don't know where to begin, you're not alone. According to, the latest research shows 75 percent of people feel they have not reached their full creative potential. Here are some ways to nurture your inner artist that longs to come out.

1. Give Yourself the Gift of Time

Though it may not sound artsy, time management is the key to being creative, says JoAnne Nagler, author of "How to Be an Artist Without Losing Your Mind, Your Shirt, Or Your Creative Compass." Try her tip: "I make what I call a "time map." At the beginning of the week, I decide how much time I can devote to making art. For instance, if I think I can devote six hours, I know I have to find those six hours in my schedule." By making sure you have carved out the time in your schedule to foster creativity, you can make your artistic dreams happen. "I wrote my first book by working four hours a week for six months. I used a timer," said Nagler.

2. Take a Class

Think you're too old to take a class? Thirty-eight percent of college students are over the age of 25 says Association of American Colleges & Universities. Nontraditional students are everywhere, and so is continuing education. Look for community resources outside of local colleges, like private studios, libraries and nonprofit organizations. The hardest part is enrolling and going to the first class. After that, you just have to keep showing up.

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3. Practice Mindfulness

Meditation is used by people worldwide to lower blood pressure, improve sleep and relieve pain. But a study published in Frontiers in Cognition shows that certain types of meditation can also have a direct result on your ability to generate creative ideas and make connections. Filmmaker David Lynch's book "Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity" is an analysis of how meditation has affected his work. He writes: "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." Just 10 minutes a day can help you go deeper, clearing the way for great ideas and helping you find headspace for creative projects.

4. Let Go of the Outcome

Burned out from working a stressful job, Scalin had the random idea to create one piece of art related to skulls every day for a year. He created a blog that went on to win a Webby Award. "When I was making a skull every day, I had the best ideas 100 or 200 days into the year," he says. "But I had to get through the OK ones to get to the great ones. It's the process of creating, of putting work down on paper, that helps you get to the good part." Let go of trying to achieve perfection, and you will allow yourself the room to make the mistakes that propel you to your best work.

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5. Be Active

As a yoga teacher, Nagler knows that exercise is an integral part of her creative process. "What yoga does for me is the same thing that happened when I sung in a band; it allows me to put my brain on a shelf," she says. "I let go of the linear part of my brain, and I allow my body and my intuition to take over." Even for the beginner artist, Nagler says it can work the same way by starting with a class. A would-be sculptor begins to build on the skills of trusting his or her own hands on the clay, creating that muscle memory.

6. Look at Other People’s Art

"Shopping the shops" is what magazine editors call perusing independent clothing and design stores without having any intention of buying. The purpose is to take a look at what is for sale, letting your eyes take in the colors, details and street interpretations of high-end fashion and visual ideas. You can do the same with art: Look at book covers, go to galleries and wander festivals just to look, no buying allowed. The process will feed your eyes and inspire your own work.

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7. Find Beauty in Your Everyday World

In her landmark book "The Artist's Way," Julia Cameron suggests that people take themselves on a weekly "artist date." She recommends spending time with yourself just observing the world, be it an urban environment or somewhere more natural. It can be a slow walk around the park, a trip to the farmers market or just examining the architecture on your way to work. The important thing is to observe how your inner artist responds to the environment and to find inspiration in the details.

8. Freedom in Restriction

Making rules for yourself can spur creativity you didn't know existed. Check out writing contests that have themes or prompts, take a class that gives out specific assignments or invent your own rule and stick it out. Scalin runs a free project called CreativeSprint, a 30-day exercise in making art. "It's something you can do a few times a year to jump-start your creative process," he said. Each day, participants with all levels of experience get an email with parameters for a piece of art to make and share using #creativesprint, which also provides a built-in community. Check out the project at

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9. Look for Snack-Size Projects

When discovering your creative mojo, taking on a major opus might be overwhelming. Dip a toe in by finding projects that you can begin and finish in a short amount of time. It's part of the reason that Scalin chose skulls. When starting his project, he says, "I made rules: I had to get it done in one day, and I had to share it with other people." So instead of embarking on a feature film script, try writing a short or a single scene. Or even just scribble some ideas on Post-it notes.

How Do YOU Tap Into Your Creativity?

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