10 epic quotes on creativity that are also easy to apply
Plus, creativity examples and exercises
Image: Mick Haupt | Unsplash
There are hundreds of quotes on creativity out there to inspire and motivate you. But the truth is you are looking for creativity quotes that actually work and give you the results you seek. You don’t just want to gawk at those awe-inspiring words and admire how they’re strung together. You want them to make you a more creative person.
Considering there are reams and pages of such quotes to browse through, I’m simplifying the process by cherry-picking 10 of them, based on personal mantras that have worked for me in the 11 years of my writing career. I’ll explain each quote with my interpretation of it, coupled with anecdotes and examples wherever possible. I’ll end each quote with an easy-to-do exercise that is sure to boost your creativity levels.
So, let’s dive into these creativity quotes and exercises and see how we can easily apply them in our lives and careers. Do share your feedback, suggestions, and experiences in the comments below.
“Everything I know, see or hear, every part of my life is transformed into dresses. They are my daydreams, but they have passed from dreamland into the world of everyday items to wear.”—Christian Dior
Want to know the quickest way to reach the pinnacles of creativity? Indulge in some absent-minded dreaming during your waking hours.
I’d even say that daydreaming is a must for every creative aspirant, without exceptions!
If I’d have never allowed myself to daydream as a habit, my book PiKu & ViRu would never have come to fruition (buy/download, read, and review it here; it’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited). Parts of my WIP, too, have been a product of daydreaming.
The Dutch lifestyle of niksen, which involves taking time off to do nothing, includes purposeless daydreaming and mind-wandering as part of the package. The benefits of niksen on health and stress levels are all well documented. It isn’t any surprise that the Netherlands is among the happiest and most prosperous nations on Earth. And it’s because so many people there harness their innate creativity by allowing their minds to take off on a journey of their own.
Exercise: Schedule between 10 and 30 minutes a day to look out of your window and let your mind wander. Also do this when you’re on the road, in a train, or in a flight, regardless of whether or not you get a window seat. Keep your phone aside. Remember you need to do this exercise for your health, if not creativity. In any case, the impacts of this activity on your creativity are more far-reaching than you can imagine.
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”—Albert Einstein
If you want to be more creative, you have to strengthen your imagination. And for that, you have to be bold enough to visualise whatever you want.
Many of us are afraid that imagining and coming up with unusual scenarios and ideas would upset our families, make our friends ridicule us, and get the people we love to ostracise us if they find out. We even feel guilty about harbouring such imagery.
The truth is that you’re only doing yourself a major disservice by not being yourself. The same people you think would be offended at your uniqueness won’t just come around but also support you with all their hearts. Those who don’t, never really loved you anyway.
So, go ahead, and get your imagination going. Your inner child is going to love you for it!
Exercise: Build a playlist of your favourite music numbers. Don’t worry about what your social group would think about your choices. Visualise your interpretation of these songs. Do you see yourself in a love ballad, romancing the hero or heroine? Or do you see two different people in there? Have your personal take on the songs’ settings, choreography, and costumes. Jot down or paint your imageries. Keep doing this visualisation exercise religiously at a set time daily, preferably at night.
“When you tune your guitar in a different way, it lends itself to a new way of looking at your songwriting.”—Sheryl Crow
Inspired by David Foster Wallace’s speech, This is Water, I now view traffic jams in another light (pun unintended).
Earlier, a red sign on the road would see me frustrated and annoyed. Only after it turned green would I get to normal.
But after reading this essay, I began asking myself, “What does the Universe want me to do while I await this red light?”
Sometimes, I’d use that time for visualisation. Or indulge in people-watching and observing my surroundings. If I was on a bus, I’d whip out a book and start reading. I also realised the temporary halt was a great opportunity to find out which car and bike models were in vogue at the time and wonder where their occupants were headed and why. And if it was my favourite music playing, I didn’t mind the delay at all. I’d want it to last as much as possible so I could squeeze in some more daydreaming!
I’m yet to apply this tenet of seeing things differently in other areas of my life. It’s hard to let go of conditioning, after all. Also, the story is a bit different when a traffic snarl happens while I’m in a hurry to go somewhere, although I’m learning to surrender even in this case. But once I overcome my default beliefs, I know I’d have unleashed a treasure-trove of dormant creativity lying within me. It’s all about treating the so-called negatives as opportunities.
Exercise: While you can apply this practice to traffic jams, see whether you can also spot opportunities in other “annoying” situations. For example, a credit-card issue, although a nuisance, can be a good chance to work out your interpersonal-communication muscles when you talk to your bank about it, especially if you’re the shy type. Not receiving that promised call from a friend, while hurtful, can free up time to read a long-pending book, watch a movie on your list, paint something, pursue a hobby, or ring another friend who may coincidentally need your advice or guidance. Tell yourself, “This is the perfect opportunity for me to…” and then observe yourself filling in the rest.
“The great thing about this thing we call art is that it has no rules.”—Kim Weston
It’s heartbreaking when a child paints the sky in her artwork red and an adult comes and tells her that the sky should only be blue.
Little does the adult realise that they’re stunting the child’s creative growth and stamping out her creative buds before they even get a chance to blossom.
By insisting on conformation to conventions, the adult is robbing the child of the ability to come up with groundbreaking ideas. Indeed, art should have no rules, as this brilliant quote on creativity rightly says.
It becomes quite an effort to unlearn all this conditioning in one’s adult years, but we’re also mature enough to catch ourselves in instances of conformity. That’s when we should ask ourselves: how we can undo this damage.
Exercise: Get printouts of circular mandalas or multiple copies of any other unpainted picture of your choice. Fill in any colour you like, without questioning or wondering about what would go best in what part. The hair doesn’t have to be black, brown, or blonde, the lips don’t always have to sport red, and the grass need not be the lushest shade of green. Don’t worry about symmetry either—just use any colour anywhere! The purpose of this exercise is to silence the convention-conforming inner critic in you, which was probably born in your childhood. Do this regularly, and you’d have found your true creative self in no time!
“A home cook who relies too much on a recipe is sort of like a pilot who reads the plane’s instruction manual while flying.”—Alton Brown
Considering we’re practising creativity in all spheres of life, why not follow it for a life skill as crucial as cooking?
Creativity in cooking is a powerful remedy for those hunger pangs (and a delicious one at that).
Once you have a hang of basic techniques and flavour combinations, you should allow yourself to trust your instincts to come up with your own dish.
Even if you prefer using a recipe, the key is to treat it as a guide, not a rulebook.
The creativity you glean from cooking can then be applied to improving other areas of your life.
Exercise: Taking a cue from the creativity quote above, enter your kitchen and check what ingredients you have in stock. See what you can put together out of whatever you have without the need to buy anything extra. Try using your own judgment and creativity here instead of following a recipe. Then, document how the recipe turned out, jot down your notes and feedback, and later, fine-tune your recipe on another occasion in the same week or month.
“Try to find if something out there is similar. If it’s already being done, now you need to find out if you can do it better or cheaper. If you have a good product and no one’s buying, improve it and tweak it.”— Cameron Johnson
Why wait for a fresh idea to knock on your door? Why not come up with your own version of an existing piece of creation?
In fact, that’s how I landed my first international byline. I didn’t have to brainstorm or rack my head for it. All I needed to do was go through my previous clips, choose one, and adapt it for a different audience. The two pieces are as dissimilar as chalk and cheese. And it made me richer by a few thousand bucks, too :)
Exercise: Take your favourite movie and see how you can improve it. Would you like to change the ending, like how I’ve shown for The Great Indian Kitchen in this blog post? Or would you prefer tweaking the climax, the way I’ve suggested for Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!? Would you remake the movie in another language or with a different lot of actors? How would the film pan out then? How would you turn the film into a miniseries? Or write a sequel, prequel, or spinoff? Let your imagination run wild in this exercise. Ditto for any articles you’re looking to pitch to publications. And remember, no plagiarism.
“I do recall how I got the ideas for some of my books. Many of them are a result of doodling.”—Bill Peet
My late cousin was a huge fan of doodling, and so am I. The proof lies in the reams of paper with pen-made figures that majorly happened during the course of lengthy phone calls. There are several people out there who sell their doodles as art. Even if you don’t harbour commercial interests, doodling is highly recommended to unlock your subconscious mind without your inner critic jumping in because, hey, we don’t really critique our doodles, do we? The health benefits are awesome, too.
Exercise: Just doodle. You can easily do that if you get to turn off your video during those interminable Zoom calls. Who knows, you may land yourself your next bestseller in the process, like how it happened in this quote about creativity above!
“It takes humility to seek feedback. It takes wisdom to understand it, analyze it and appropriately act on it.”—Stephen Covey
There was a time I dreaded feedback. I still do. But the moment I begin to address it, something interesting happens. A new solution carves itself out of nowhere, like magic. And then I find my work much better than before and at another level altogether. This is exactly what happened when P&V was being beta-read and professionally edited (buy/download, read, and review it here; it’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited).
This effect is also the reason I welcome word limits, tedious keyword research, and additional plug-ins suggested by clients that I may not initially agree with—because they all take the original text someplace better.
I occasionally play a ruthless critic myself and punctuate my text with comments in red everywhere! It’s a fun way to silence my ego (which doesn’t even mind the comments after the initial hit, BTW).
Exercise: The next time the subject line of an incoming email says “feedback,” take a few deep breaths. Open the document and go through the comments. Initially, you may find yourself offended—to the extent that you may want to throw something at the sender. But you need to remind yourself that this emotional wave is temporary. Reread the comments at least a day later, and the effect won’t be the same. The anger and fear would have long gone, and you’d be able to work on the critique with a calm, reasonable mind. You’ll find yourself stunned on seeing creative and innovative ideas flow out of you while addressing the comments. As I mentioned, treat the entire thing as a game—tackling criticism becomes fun when you believe it will improve the quality of your work and polish it.
“Your emotions make you human. Even the unpleasant ones have a purpose. Don’t lock them away. If you ignore them, they just get louder and angrier.”—Sabaa Tahir
Our culture recommends disregarding the boredom or any other emotion that shows up during the course of your work and ploughing ahead anyway. I’ve heeded this advice to regretful results, though.
Not only does boredom affect the quality of your work. I’ve also seen how the boredom that showed up while I was finishing an assignment for a publication was telling me to work on another one that would have coincided with Valentine’s Day, which was just around the corner, and given the article more traction! So, yes, your emotions do try to tell you something—pay attention.
I’m also learning to channel my other emotions such as anger into my writing so it acquires a greater degree of depth and stands out from everything else.
Exercise: The next time you feel any emotion, notice it. See what it’s trying to communicate to you. Either it needs channeling somewhere or it’s asking you to change track. The journey you’ll consequently end up on will be an enthralling place all the way, and the emotion will bow out after its job is done. Of course, you can work with a therapist here for better guidance.
“There are two fatal errors that keep great projects from coming to life: 1) Not finishing 2) Not starting.”—Buddha
Too often, we wait for inspiration to strike us before we begin a creative project.
But the truth is our personal muses show up at unexpected timings of their own, not necessarily adhering to our schedule.
So, instead of waiting for them, we need to go ahead anyway, as Buddha recommended us to do through this timeless quote on creativity by him.
Of course, it pays to note down your ideas whenever your muses drop them in your laps. It only means you’re supposed to start working on them now!
Procrastination is another devil we need to be wary of. The key is to build a routine and stick to it. Here’s an article that will supply you with all the ammunition you need to stop dilly-dallying and get your s**t done.
Exercise: That book you’ve been wanting to write but don’t know what to write on? Just start penning it down anyway. It doesn’t necessarily have to be fiction. Nor do you have to be an expert or authority on something. Your daily life is full of ideas—here’s a guide I’ve compiled so you can mine content from your routine activities. If nothing else, document your family recipes, life lessons, or trading secrets. Your life has more stories than you think.