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The Creative Process: The Creative Habit

In a first post on this series about the creative process, we looked at the conditions you need for creativity. In this post, we focus on a long-term way to find more creative solutions to research questions.

Some people might be naturally more creative than others, some people might seem to enjoy to be creating things and ideas all the time and some people might think that creativity is just not for them. Well I think creativity is something you can develop over time.

Here are a few ways you can use to foster “The Creative Habit”, and train your mind to think out of the box:

1. Creativity over a whole spectrum

Pick up an artistic hobby, start blogging and journaling, sketch, get interested in fashion, arts, literature or anything that helps you break out of the bubble of your regular thinking. Debate politics and read up on history. Get your grey matter working!

When you get used to divert your thoughts and focus on other topics, pulling ideas together by looking at them from a different perspective becomes easier as well.

2. Daily creativity

Creativity comes when you make it a habit, when you train it on a daily basis. Try to break out of your research shell on a daily basis.

You can for example schedule activities (music classes, photography classes, painting workshop…) that push you to take time to be creative. Or you can pick up a challenge, like a 365 photography project, or try to write a set of poems within a few months.

3. List ideas 

When you are solving a problem in research, don’t immediately go with your first idea. Try to sit down and look at the problem from every possible angle. Make a list of possible approaches, and notice that once you start thinking about different possibilities to solve a problem, you will start generating more ideas on how to approach it differently. Again, it’s all about the mindset, and knowing that you don’t have to come *snap* with a solution, but can sit and reflect.

4. Mindmap ideas

Mindmapping itself involves sketching and drawing, and is in essence a creative process as well. When mapping out ideas, try to explore all the tentacles of your mindmap spider web and explore them just a little deeper to try and seep out some additional thoughts and ideas.

5. Courses on creative thinking

If you’re completely stuck, or can’t find a way to think in creative ways, know that there are courses out there that are especially aimed at creative thinking for scientists. I haven’t followed any of these courses, so I can’t come up with a recommendation (I’m the kind of person with more ideas than time to develop them, so a lot of bubbling is always going on up in my mind). The NWO in the Netherlands used to offer classes, it’d be good if they’d bring them back!

How do you develop your creative habit?

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