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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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My Top 6 Essential Creativity Habits
Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Something I’m often asked about is how I’m able to come up with ideas for articles on such a consistent basis. Last week this came up again, as I was a guest on my friend Michelle Blaustein’s online show, Windcatchers, and one of the topics of discussion was the creative process.

After the show, I was inspired to put together a quick list of what I do to most effectively brainstorm. The following are my top six essential creativity habits.

1. Step away from the computer

When we’re on the computer, we have the world at our fingertips. That, however, can create a world of problems, as everything from the internet, to email, are nothing more than distractions when you’re looking to brainstorm ideas.

Being constantly tempted to check social media, and perhaps comment on someone’s photos, or political rant, can easily result in your entire day disappearing with reply after reply.

Your email loves to show you that you have new messages in your inbox, but every reply generates another reply, and once again, before you know it your day is over.

I actually go as far as to close my email every time I’m writing.

Additionally, every website we go to, and every article we read (except this one!), is time taken away from what our minds really need, which is to be clear.

So close your laptop, or put your desktop on “sleep” mode (actually, finish reading this blog post first), step away for a few minutes, or even a few hours, and let your mind be free to roam, instead of giving it tasks to do online.

2. Say no to the smartphone

At this point a lot of folks know I not-so-quietly celebrate the fact that I have still never owned a smartphone. In fact, I use my landline pretty much 100% of the time when making phone calls. My cell phone is basically a texting device, and pocket phone book.

I’m not saying you have to go full on retro, like I do, but if you’re in a creative rut, consider that your smartphone may be playing into it.

I see this all the time on the train. People are staring at their tiny screens, playing simple cell phone games, or scrolling through social media. They’re never giving their mind any time to be open to new ideas.

In other words, your Candy Crush high score could be the reason you haven’t thought of anything to write about recently. So kill your smartphone … or at least turn it off every once in a while. You may be surprised by the results.

3. Hit the gym

Speaking of things people know about me, everybody knows I’m a gym rat. I work out six days a week, and you know what … sometimes I come up with really fantastic ideas for articles, and opening paragraphs, while working out.

This isn’t as strange as it seems. You know how people always wonder why they get great ideas when they’re in the shower, or sitting on the porcelain throne? There’s a simple reason for that – zero mental distractions. That same ideology applies to working out.

When you’re working out it’s just you and the weights, or you and the road ahead during a run. It’s a guaranteed mind-clearing activity. Heck, even something as simple as taking a walk can do the trick.

So if you’re feeling writer’s block, put on a pair of shorts and get to sweating some ideas out of your brain.

As an added bonus, you’ll see other people at the gym, which leads to my next tip …

4. Have a conversation with a friend

I don’t know the exact number, but I’ve come up with a plethora of article ideas – including the idea for this one – while having conversations with friends. In fact, some of my favorite pieces have stemmed from random comments during such conversations.

We’re not actively attempting to talk about work, we’ll just be just BS-ing, and having a normal, friendly, conversation, and then BOOM, an article is born.

So hang out with a buddy, or give them a call (OK, so you may need your phone), just to say hey, and talk sports, or pro wrestling, or music, or whatever else you’re into. You’ll be surprised how it enlivens your mind, and is a fantastic idea generator.

5. Always have a pen and a pad nearby

LL Cool J once rapped, "You want a hit give me an hour plus a pen and a pad," and as a lifelong journalist I always have a pen, and a reporter’s notebook, nearby. I keep them next to my bed, I carry them with me when I’m in the city, and I even have a set in my car.

Again, with the reality that our best brainstorms usually occur when we have a clear mind, you’re going to want to jot down the ideas that come to you right before bed, or during a long drive (pull over before writing those ideas down!), or when you’re walking through your city, or town.

Your mind will be clear, but I guarantee you that your notebook won’t be!

Bonus Tip – Invest in a whiteboard (and by “invest” I mean “spend $10 on”). I have two small whiteboards in my office, and love using them to jot down, and flesh out ideas.

6. Watch a little TV

I know, you may think this would be counterproductive, especially after I advised to step away from the computer. There’s an important difference, however, in the way we interact with the computer, and the TV. With the computer we’re active. We’re posting, we’re replying, we’re emailing, we’re searching, we’re reading. With the TV, we’re, for the most part, vegging out, and vegging out can be good for the soul, and your creative mind.

I’m not saying spend an entire day marathoning a random show, but a little bit of time spent sitting in front of the glowing god could be exactly what your brain needs to power down so it can be open to new ideas.

Those are my personal top six essential creativity habits. If you have a creativity habit of your own you’d like to share, feel free to add it in the comments section.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM  
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