4 Keys to Unlocking Your Creativity

During the eighteen plus hours of driving I did last week, I had the chance to listen to Anne of Green Gables. I have to admit, it was the DVD version. As I drove, my kids watched it on our little dropdown DVD lifesaver—I mean, player.

Even while listening to a really abridged movie version of Anne of Green Gables, I was still reminded of how much I like the book, particularly the main character Anne Shirley. She was the epitome of creativity. Everywhere she went and in everything she did, her creative mind was always at work, spinning new tales, dreaming big dreams, weaving clever excuses, and using fancy words.

Anne Shirley was an inspiration to my early writing career. As a young girl, I wanted to be creative like her. Fortunately, I grew up in an environment that gave me the freedom and nourishment to be creative.

Now as an adult listening to the story of Anne of Green Gables again, I couldn’t keep from trying to understand what made Anne creative. What is the key to helping any of us be creative?

I’m not sure that there is one particular key. More likely, creativity develops from a compilation of a variety of factors. But as I thought about what's helped me the most, here are four key factors:

1. Give our minds a break from the constant barrage of media noise.

In our modern world, there are numerous voices clamoring in our heads and demanding our attention—TV, movies, video games, internet, etc. The constant prattle around us doesn’t allow for the quiet time our minds need to cultivate creativity.

When I was growing up, my parents limited my TV viewing. In fact, for quite a few years we didn’t even have a television, which made me somewhat of an oddity among my friends.

But because I had plenty of media-free time, I had the quietness to contemplate, reflect, and dream. The limitations had a profound effect on my fostering my ability to play and think creatively. As a result,  I still restrict the amount of media noise in my home for myself and my children.

2. Build downtime into our schedules.

If we’re running around all the time from one activity to the next, then we sacrifice the downtime that’s necessary for facilitating creativity. In a culture that thrives on busyness, we may have to actually pencil  free time into our schedules.

Because I limit the number of outside activities that my kids can be involved in, they have plenty of free-play at home. If they ever tell me they’re bored, I say, “Good. Now’s your chance to be creative.” 

We can’t hope to fuel our creativity (or our children’s) if we’re always rushing from one event to the next without giving our bodies and brains a break.

3. See the creative possibilities that surround us.

As I analyzed Anne of Green Gables during my recent trip, I realized that Anne was always seeing the creative possibilities around her. She could peer beyond the ordinary, simple, and mundane to the romance, glamor, and life that transcended normalcy. Whether a lake, field, or tree, she could paint a picture with words that brought that particular object to life in a way that made it seem truly grand and beautiful.

How often do we take the time to examine the things around us and see beyond the ordinary to the possibilities that exist?

4. Practice using our imaginations on a regular basis.

I think Anne Shirley’s favorite phrase was, “I can imagine . . .” And indeed she was always imagining something. For example at the beginning when she was talking with Matthew Cuthbert about her ugly orphanage dress she said, “I went to work and imagined that I had on the most beautiful pale blue silk dress because when you are imagining you might as well imagine something worthwhile.”

Anne’s imagination was her constant companion. And it made me realize that the more we use our imaginations, the easier it gets to go deeper, be wilder, and freer in our stories. Like any other muscle, our brains need a regular workout to grow stronger and more creative. When we’re strengthening our imagination on a consistent basis, instead of using up our ideas, we’ll be constantly developing new fresh ones.

My Summary: Creativity is something we can cultivate if we carve out the space and time, if we work at seeing the world around us through new eyes, and if we make a regular habit of asking, “what if?”

What has influenced your creativity? And what are you doing to keep cultivating creativity in your life (and the lives of your children)? Are you shutting out the media noises and building in downtime? How well do you see the world through fresh eyes?

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