By David Joel Miller.
Extremely creative people nurture their inner child.
What is an “inner child” and why do we say that you need to get back there to foster creativity?
The idea of “inner child” work comes and goes. I think of an inner child as a developmental process. When you were young you were more in touch with feelings, more aware of not knowing things and maybe more open to experience. Many of our adult problems come from lessons that we learned or failed to learn as we grew up. If something happened to you and you concluded that was the way the world was, then from then on you lived your life based on that belief.
As a child for whom everything was new, you were more open to new experiences. Creative people practice returning to that place of not knowing and are more readily able to see things from new perspectives. If you can suspend your beliefs about what is and what has to be then you can see what might be. Here are a few ways in which a childlike view of not knowing, allowing your thinking to return to a more childlike or inner child state can boost your creativity and help you find new solutions to life’s challenges.
Keep asking why.
Children, early on, do not have fixed beliefs or interpretations of why things are and why they happen. The small child’s favorite question is why. The older we get the less we think about things. We come to believe that things are always the way we think they are. We adopt a stance of always knowing and become reluctant to admit we don’t know. We stop asking the why questions.
Practice each day asking yourself why? Why do things happen? Why do we do things this way? Remember to also ask “What” questions. Look for what could be that you have not created yet.
The dream state is one in which all things are possible. The laws of time and space do not apply in the dream. In daydreaming things that appear unconnected may suddenly reveal their connection. Daydreaming increases the possibilities. Logical thinking reduces possibilities and makes them conform to the known rules of how things have worked so far.
Learn all you can.
Little children, many of them, are sponges. They are constantly learning. Remember that old saying that people use only a small portion of their brain. Truth is that we use all our brain but there are vast spaces where we have put very little. Use the rooms in your brain as workout centers, not as hallways leading to the same old conclusions.
Your brain needs furnishing just like your house. Fill your mind with bright shiny ideas and watch the creativity soar.
Apply what you learned one place to somewhere else.
A major source of innovation is taking an idea from one area and applying it somewhere else. Creative people find that taking an interest in other aspects of life increases their creativity.
Nothing is a failure if you did it.
Innovation requires a lot of trying on new things and learning from them. Life experiments need not be failures if you learn from them. Continuing to insist that there is one and only one way to do things keeps you stuck. Consider the risks but make sure you try out new things whenever possible. If you learn from the experiment then it was not failure it was a learning experience.
Curiosity did not kill the cat. Stay curious.
Contrary to popular sayings curiosity did not kill the cat. Being curious is how the cat catches the mouse. You will never find new things if you always look in the same old places. Cats die not from curiosity but from not looking and missing the oncoming car. Keep your eyes open and looking for the unexpected.
What can you make from that pile of stuff?
Our modern throwaway culture has encouraged the concept that we need to get rid of things and then get new. Some things do wear out or become obsolete. What we often forget to do is to “repurpose” the things we have. Reuse and repurpose things for creative solutions.
Things look different depending on where you are standing.
Keep looking from different angles till you see something new. Have a problem or situation that is not working out the way you want it? Try looking at it from all possible perspectives. Ask a lot of what-if questions.
Play well with others – be a team.
Most of the great inventions we praise as breakthroughs were the result of one person building on another’s work. Creativity is not plagiarizing or copying but it is seeing the merit in an idea and then making your contribution on top of that idea. Teams are often more creative than individuals. They can each see things from a new angle with a different knowledge base.
Want to be more creative? Spend some time with other people exploring their ideas and knowledge, then see how borrowing their viewpoint would alter the problem or project you are working on.
Don’t censor your thoughts. Let them run free.
Birds look a lot different when they are flying than when they are caged. Ideas do not show themselves to best advantage when forced into rigid rules. Let the idea go where it wants. Do not chase it. Just watch where it goes and make note of how this idea would look if it were allowed to be a free range idea.
Play till you drop. Do not let go of an idea till you wear it out.
Most ideas, especially novel ones, have more applications than they ever get allowed to visit. When you see a new idea, yours or one that is just new to you, play with it. Let it explore your mind. How could this idea change things?
To think hard you need naps.
Pushing harder and longer are OK for routine tasks but for creative endeavors, you need your brain working at peak efficiency. Thinking longer and harder does not maximize new thought patterns. Get plenty of rest, take naps or breaks and learn to practice your self-care. A well-rested mind goes running off in new directions.
There are two very different kinds of focus, “pinpoint” or staying on task and diffuse, scanning or looking all around kind of focus. A well-rested mind has the energy to explore new settings and ideas.
Go where everything is new.
Seek out the new and when you are a child it is all new. Reconnect with your child mind.
Novelty promotes creativity. Travel, take a class or explore anything new. Break out of your specialty and explore new topics and disciplines. To maximize creativity learn a new language, or develop a new skill. Take a different route to work or a different mental path.
Is there another way to show you that?
There is no right way to tell your story, sometimes you need to sing or draw it out.
People use different learning styles. Some people learn better by listening, auditory learners. Others learn by seeing, visual learners. Movement, kinesthetic, is the preferred learning system for some. Anytime you process information via a new system you can get different results.
Various learning styles make use of different parts and pathways in the brain. For maximum creativity use other parts of your brain. If you read and write a lot try using your visual system and draw out your projects. See if enacting a typical interaction with a client will create new ways of seeing your problem.
Have to? Do not!
Doing what you want to do is more fun than doing what others say you have to. People who love what they do are more productive and creative. Looks for a way to make your job fun. Get reacquainted with the things that made you interested in your occupation in the first place.
Not finding anything to motivate you? Then it may be time for a hobby or vacation. You may also need to switch assignments or positions. Some people find that a period of time working in a different department or on a different task re-energize them. Sometimes it is just time to get retrained for a new segment of your life.
There are some of my suggestions for increasing your creativity and making what you do all those hours we call work more rewarding. Do you have any other suggestions that you could share with the rest of us?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books