Esther Kurtz always wanted to be a writer. She wrote her first book in second grade, and says “The idea of writing something and having someone read it was very enticing to little me.” But the ideas didn’t always pour out of her, and, like most of us, she often struggled putting words to a page.
“Part of that was my view of creativity,” she says. “It’s painted as this magical, mystical, precious thing that’s bestowed upon few people by the gods. I didn’t understand that it’s a process that we can cultivate and build upon. It took me a long time to get to that point.”
Fortunately, she’s not keeping those learnings to herself. In addition to writing a novel, Kurtz is also the author of Crack Your Creativity: How to Cultivate a Creative Mindset and Process to Let Your Creativity Flow. In the book, she dispels myths about creativity and offers practical advice for channeling your own creative ideas.
“Creativity is often presented as this exclusive, binary club — either you are or you aren’t. I wanted to take away the mystique and show people that we can all do it,” she says. “It’s not always something innate; I believe creativity can be cultivated.”
7 TIPS TO HARNESS YOUR CREATIVITY
Whether it’s writing, painting, or athletics, some people are naturally more adept than others. But approaching creativity as a skillset that can be learned and practiced opens it up to anyone.
Below, Kurtz shares seven tips to help you hack your own creativity and access it when you need it.
1. Keep a writer’s journal
When you’re already busy writing, this can feel like one more task. But Kurtz suggests keeping a journal as a way to jot down your ideas as they happen, so you can come back to them later. Consider that journal a fountain of details and observations that might strike inspiration when you need an assist.
2. Recognize how the creative process works
Creativity isn’t always linear, and remembering that fact can help you avoid frustration when you get off track. “Identify where you are in the creative cycle, so you can work with it, not against it,” advises Kurtz. “Figure out what’s getting in your way rather than giving up, then you can troubleshoot a way around it.”
3. Be open to different ideas, things, cultures and people
The more you are exposed to, the more connections you can make. Consume as many different ideas as you can, says Kurtz, and the world will open itself up to you, granting you more to work with.
4. Cultivate space for not thinking
Maybe your best ideas come in the shower or when running or doing something else beyond sitting at your desk and staring at a blank screen. Make time for these mindless activities. “When your mind is at rest, your subconscious can make connections,” says Kurtz. “Embrace the quiet, and consciously choose to unplug rather than busying yourself with music or a podcast.”
5. Be proactive about creativity
“Ideas don’t come fully formed; we have to work on them,” says Kurtz. You will regularly formulate half-baked ideas, so note what is piquing your interest, and then explore those topics proactively by researching them, jotting down notes or asking a friend for their input. “Don’t wait for the magic to happen,” adds Kurtz. “You are the magic; you make it happen.”
6. Look deeper than the end result
If you think forward to the end of a project, or view someone else’s completed project, it’s easy to get overwhelmed before you even begin. But remember: Every book, article, song, and other creative work started from scratch. “Writers will often read other writers and lament: ‘How did they come up with that plot twist?’ or think ‘I wish I could write so wittily,’” says Kurtz. “They often falsely believe that a person must be supernaturally gifted.” But she reminds us that even the best writers struggle, and revision is an unseen but vitally important part of the process.
“If you find something creative and beautiful, instead of being intimidated by it, rip it apart and devour everything you can get out of it,” she says. “You can often reverse engineer something you like, break it down, and see how it was done.”
7. Connect to a creative community
Writing can be lonely and frustrating, but so much of the experience can be shared, says Kurtz. Find a person or group that respects you and will support you or critique you, whether in-person or online.