Developing Creativity in Adults: an Overview

Creativity can take many forms and shapes

Creativity can take many forms and shapes: it is all about what matters to you!

Being creative is not just for kids or special individuals with innate talents! Developing creativity in adults is very possible, and fun! It is also the starting point with improving other skills of your liking, and developing general intelligence.

By following some of our suggestions, you will also discover for yourself that your own creativity isn’t set in stone, but something that you can improve. Furthermore, developing creativity in adults is wonderful for their well-being!

Creating vs Creativity

Some of us have strong yearnings to create something of value for us through our life times.

This something of value can be many things, concepts, people, etc.: it can be relationships and children, works of art, businesses, beautiful gardens or spacious comfortable dwellings, etc.

Some of us also have strong yearnings to be creative, which is not quite the same as creating, a point that I strongly emphasize following Robert Fritz (see my forthcoming article on Creating and the Path of Least Resistance… coming soon…).

By the word creative, we mean original and unique, at least from our own perspective.

Note that one can create something in a way that is totally uncreative, by reproducing something that was done before, or in a way that is creative, by creating with a focus of doing it in a novel way.

Both creating and being creative have their use and their place in one’s life. Sometimes separately, sometimes at the same time.

Developing Creativity for the Sheer Joy of It

As you are here, ask yourself: am I looking for tools to create or for tools to be more creative?

If your focus is on creating, then you need tools specifically targeted to what you want to create.

Creating takes effort, requires going through a whole process, from beginning to end, with a precise structure that will lead to the desired results.

We will return to the discipline of creating in other articles.

For the remainder, let’s focus on creativity per se. What is creativity to you?

Creativity is flimsy.

But it can be quite important, depending on your situation. Here are some examples. Perhaps you can recognize yourself in some of them.

As people leave childhood, they are often funneled into lifestyles and jobs where there is not much creativity left.

They can be good and productive in their careers and at home, but they can feel joyless, and that their existence is just robotic.

That life is passing them by. If you see yourself in that, then you have a lot to gain from trying creativity exercises, and persisting for long enough that they make a difference in your life.

Some people are lucky to find their favorite activities, jobs and relationships through chance. Many others are not so lucky, and they need to search.

Have you not found yet what you really enjoy doing, what you’re « meant » to be doing?

We are much more than just a brain living in a body. We are capable of so much.

Each of us has many undiscovered talents. Do you feel like you’ve many talents but aren’t sure what they are?

For the many who have not quite found what they really enjoy doing, my recommendation is to sort of try everything.

Of course, that’s not possible, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Note that you also don’t want to spend your whole life trying random things: the goal is to explore in order to find activities you like and are good at, and then stop the exploratory phase and focus on these activities, i.e. entering the “creating” phase.

But for now, we assume you don’t really know what you want to focus on creating, and that you are beginning the exploration.

You are in the creativity phase, and really just starting.

My Story

I think of myself as an uncreative child. I was very much into playing with Lego as a kid, and I built structures that were unique, so there was some creativity in there.

Then I was good in school, especially at math and science. I was terrible in sports, art stuff and socially. But I slowly discovered in my twenties and thirties that I didn’t care too much about math, although I had careers in science or in finance that paid the bills.

I had exploratory phases where I tried many sports, traveled a lot, and tried various art forms and a lot of self-help methods.

Slowly I distanced myself from science research, and I grew to be very interested in movement arts and in music, and in people. And that’s where I am now, though I am still evolving and I don’t know where I’ll be in ten years.

I have benefited tremendously from my efforts at increasing my creativity, before focusing later at developing stronger skills in my new hobbies. I want to share what I feel are the best tools to increase creativity.

The Benefits of Creativity

Quite simply, creativity can help with regaining a meaning to life and to doing activities, with experiencing joy in what you are doing.

If you feel uncreative, well the good news are:

Creativity can be increased, enhanced. Definitely, no doubt about it.

If you ever experience boredom, developing your creativity through exercises is the solution.

The Key Principles

With all the tools below to enhance creativity, there are two crucial principles to keep in mind to really benefit:

1- You have to be active. You’ll see that all the exercises below require you to do something yourself.

At the risk of being repetitive, let’s emphasize it: You get the benefits not when you read about it or are watching other people being creative, but about doing the creative activity yourself.

2- You need to have a recording device, an external objective focus.

This is so that you can and should go back and observe what you did in the creative activity, so that you can learn something from the experience and improve the next time.

Image Streaming

The tool I most recommend for developing general creativity is Image Streaming. Please check my article here.

This is the activity that will most directly and quickly improve your creativity.

It works by making all the parts of the brain work together at the same time.

In brief, it consists in yourself speaking aloud to a recording device like your phone, and describing your mental imagery in vivid detail with eyes closed, speaking quickly and without editing yourself.

Afterwards, you listen to yourself and analyze to gain insights from your image stream.

Sounds quite simple, but do try it, e.g. daily for 5-15 minutes for a few weeks, and you’ll see the enormous benefits to you.

In your mind's eye, try not to think about a purple pineapple

In your mind’s eye, try not to think about a purple pineapple

Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping is a tool for brainstorming in an organized manner.

It is useful if your head is full of ideas about a topic, and you feel confused or overwhelmed by all the information you are trying to hold at once.

Mind Mapping consists in laying it out on paper, by linking the ideas, perhaps drawing them, asking questions and answering them, using colors and different hand-writing styles to make the map appealing to you and representative.

Here is an illustration, from about 20 years ago. (I’ll write a more detailed article on Mind Mapping soon…)

Mind Mapping Example

Mind Mapping Example

Dance Improvisation

We have over 600 muscles, yet for many of us, these muscles are slow, weak and shortened and do not work independently but rather as a few blocks for doing daily activities with very limited capabilities.

A form of dance improvisation can help you discover what your body is capable of.

While Image Streaming is fantastic at working your brain, and your speech muscles, it does nothing to the rest of your body.

Even if you have very limited space at home, you can still do this exercise.

Set your phone in video recording mode, and start recording yourself exploring the space with your body. Try with eyes open or closed.

Start with small movements, try to isolate muscles, or combine them, focus on how you feel about the experience too.

Don’t neglect this improvisation exercise, especially if for whatever reason your reaction is “there’s no way I’ll ever try that”!

Along with Image Streaming, this is the most important exercise you can do to help yourself.

Example of where dance improvisation might take you! Or not

Example of where dance improvisation might take you! Or not

Theater Improvisation

This one requires you to go out and join an improvisation class.

This has the benefit that you interact with a group of people.

Wait till you feel ready to start that one: you’ll be on stage!

For most people, this requires working through at least some inhibitions.

Here your external focus will be the feedback you get immediately from interacting with people.

What an improvisational theatre stage might look like

What an improvisational theater stage might look like

Musical Improvisation

Many of us have strong musical interests.

Whether you play an instrument, and even more so if you don’t, you can play many instruments for the purpose of improvising.

Even if you don’t own a proper musical instrument, you can download a free keyboard or some other free instrument, and that will be suitable for the exercise.

Or you can even just use your voice to sing.

Again, with a recording device like your phone, play notes and explore.

Here too, it is essential to actively listen to your recording, and analyze what you played so that you can discover what was good about it, and build on it.

You’ll be surprise at how you can make “great” music that is totally your own and unique, after just a few experiments.

A selection of favorite musical instruments

A selection of favorite musical instruments

Creative Writing

I’ve kept creative writing for last, because I don’t want to put any emphasis on it.

First, if you feel like that’s the easy exercise for you from the list because you like writing and journaling, then don’t bother with it.

This exercise is for people who don’t write habitually. For writers, try Creative Painting instead.

You can read about my experience with Creative Painting here.

Second, note that I’m not using creative writing here in the usual meaning, e.g. what you will get if you enroll in a Creative Writing class or support group.

There, they mean for you to write some proper work of fiction, as opposed to non-fiction.

However, as part of the tools they will use to help you towards writing fiction, you will find some writing exercises that are similar to the one suggested next.

Briefly, the creative writing exercise consists in writing down your thoughts at random without editing, writing fast.

The written page is your external focus. Then you reread what you wrote to identify what interesting insights you had.

Creative Problem Solving

You’ll notice I’ve said nothing about creative problem solving, which is a big field of interesting methods, but it’s more specialized, especially when it’s targeted at a business or scientific audience.

This article was about general methods to increase creativity.

Creative problem solving is not all that closely related to creativity, when you think of it. I’ll leave that topic for another article.

Conclusion

This was an inventory of the main tools to develop your creativity.

The two primary tools were Image Streaming and Dance Improvisation.

I’m looking forward to hearing about your attempts and results in the comments below!

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16 Responses to Developing Creativity in Adults: an Overview

  1. Alisha says:

    I really can relate to your article.  It is certainly very thought provoking!  I found myself in life getting dumped into a life or an education just to sustain me and just pay the bills.  I never had the opportunity to find something that stimulates my creative side and makes me feel joyful.

     It can feel depressing and draining to not live life to the fullest and explore our unique creativity.

    Thank you for sharing your expertise!

    • phil says:

      Thanks for your feedback, Alisha! I am happy this was thought provoking, and hopefully it’ll help you too! Yes, when paying the bills becomes a huge priority, creativity and joy can suffer. I’ll have articles about money and prosperity coming soon. Stay tuned. 

  2. Effie says:

    I always admired creative people.
    I thought I was useless at creating things- with one exception: embroidery and poetry. Recently I have been feeling the urge to express myself in different ways than that of words. What causes this shift in us, Phil? Is it boredom or personal evolution?

    • Phil says:

      I haven’t discussed embroidery or poetry, but I am glad to hear that you are feeling an urge with expressing yourself, Effie!

      I don’t have an answer for your question: what causes this shift in us. But perhaps it is something worth exploring for you, with some of the methods suggested here! Let me know…

  3. mjds says:

    Merci pour votre article, nous en avons besoin. La créativité est quelque chose d’important pour le development. Le message est Claire. Les principes de la créativité, Les avantages, et tous. Je sais pas si vous avez deja penser a ca mais  les faudrais parler des implication du cerveau aussi dans comment developer sa creativité.

  4. Todd Matthews says:

    Your story kind of sounds like my own. While I always had an interest in creativity, especially writing, I deviated from it and instead embarked on a career in personal training. However, about four years into the career, I wanted to get back into writing and creativity. I started a couple blogs at the time, but they never went anywhere. I did start writing my own novel series which I’ve since published, and have taken time off to focus on it.

    These days, I’m getting back into training and fitness while continuing my writing and blogging endeavors. I think, with my experience, that we all crave creativity but I also think that we believe there’s a time where we grow out of creativity and that it’s something for kids. However, as I’ve found, this isn’t the case. Even as adults, we should be creative and maybe even start a small business in our creative endeavors. 

    • Phil says:

      Great to hear that you are a creative writer! Definitely, running a successful business requires much creativity.

  5. Feochadan says:

    This is a very thought provoking article and certainly resonates with me.

    I love to read books and articles about various create projects that I would like to do and then it stops there.  Your emphasis on getting on with it and actually DOING IT is certainly key and a lesson we all need to learn.

    I think that for many that are stuck in a rut, are suffering from depression, or are just not happy with our lives, getting in touch with our inner child through creativity is a must.  This can change the entire way we think about both ourselves and our environment.

    This is a great topic that so few of us even consider as we go through the usual grind in life with our jobs and looking after our children and all the necessary drudgery that comes with being an adult.  It gives me inspiration that it just doesn’t have to be like that at all.

    Keep up the great work!

  6. NSOH ALIEH LAURINE says:

    It was quite refreshing to learn that even adults could cultivate creativity. Just like you, when I was very young, my creativity was at its peak. I literally could transform anything my hands could find, from plant seeds transformed into necklaces, right down to create new Christmas designs for hand made Christmas greeting cards in my art club at school.

    All those skills have been long abandoned, and I wish more than ever before to have all of them back.

    Using a recording tool during the creative process is a genius idea, and makes a lot of sense. There are times when these creative ideas just come out of the blue, and if not recorded, one might not even remember how a particular task was done.

    Your article really got some great tips about igniting creativity in adults. I enjoyed reading.

    • Phil says:

      Thanks very much! Glad that my article brought you great past memories of your creativity. Hopefully you can actively revive it, with some of the tools on offer!

  7. Jordan says:

    Really interesting article, a lot of this definitely resonates for me.  It’s interesting to consider what you said about people feeling unfulfilled in their careers in the context of your point about how it is possible to create something in either a creative or an uncreative way.  I think one reason many people don’t find their work very interesting is because creative thinking is frequently discouraged and/or unappreciated.

    One question about the different kinds of exercises you described to develop creativity.  Do you think it is more effective to try all of these concurrently, or pick one that seems most related to the particular area of life where you are trying to develop creativity?

    • Phil says:

      Hello Jordan, 

      glad to hear this resonates with you! My recommendation is to start with Image Streaming, and see where that takes you! Other than that, it depends on what your needs are and indeed what resonates best with you. A guiding principle is to try to stretch yourself a bit, but not too much. Some people will jump at the idea of dance improvisation, others will be more comfortable to start with creative writing or painting. But by far, the most powerful technique for quick results is Image Streaming! 

  8. Twack Romero says:

    This was a great article and one that is a reminder of all that we forget we could be. After reading through a couple of times, it struck me that there is a theme, or so it seems to me, running through about how we approach creativity. The exercises are designed for us to participate but to do so without engaging that part of our brain that tends to ‘guide’ us. The sensible side that makes the decisions for us. By doing the exercises in the manner described, we are bypassing that process and are just ‘being’ almost without the conscious thought side. It was quite enlightening to read. I can play a couple of musical instruments but it has to be said that finding the ‘creative’ outlet isn’t always that easy. I shall be trying the ‘image streaming’ first as that won’t be guided by any of my preconceptions.

    • Phil says:

      That’s an excellent plan, Twack Romero! 

      As you wisely point out, these techniques bypass our rational side. But our rational side is quite important to, and there is such a thing as too much creativity! One needs the proper balance between creative experimentation and rational activities. 

      With your example of the musical instruments, you can well see where you stand on a spectrum: are you sometimes improvising and playing by ear, and sometimes playing some music that you perfected from learning precisely what was written on music sheets? Ideally, you would include a blend of these that is just right for you. An important point though is that someone who doesn’t play at all an instrument and has no musical training can still make some very valid and interesting musical improvisation on that instrument (assuming it’s not a tricky one like a wind instrument that takes a bit of skill to produce a first sound!)

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