How to Boost Your Creativity By Doing Something You’re Not Interested In

by ChristinaPilkington on February 27, 2013 · 8 comments

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Grab a piece of paper and write down ten things you have no interest in.  Ask your kids to do this, too.

Are you finished? Ok. Here’s my list.

-watching car racing

-playing football

-reading romance novels

-understanding international business

-watching horror movies

-writing a computer program

-making sales cold calls

-zip lining

-reading fashion magazines

-taking apart and putting together a TV

Now, pick one of those ten things and do it.

You’re probably thinking…Wait a minute. This is supposed to be a blog about following your interests. Now she’s telling me to do things I’m not interested in? And I’m supposed to ask my kids to do the same thing, too?

How will doing these things ever help me be more creative? Shouldn’t I spend the limited free time I have on creative projects I love?

While I think it’s important to spend most your time reaching a creative goal you’re passionate about, it’s also important to develop your creative muscles, too. And those muscles won’t grow when you use them doing the same thing in the same way all the time.

Take physical exercise as an example. You may choose to do a certain exercise routine because you want to reach a certain fitness goal. It could be reducing belly fat, becoming more flexible, or increasing arm strength.

After creating the ideal routine, you work hard to achieve your goal. After awhile you see progress. You’re encouraged and excited. But then you hit a plateau. Your progress is stunted.

It’s only by doing something different, by exercising new muscles, that you’ll increase your strength in muscles you focused on before. You’ll learn to use those old muscles in new ways.  At the same time, you’ll also learn a new set of skills that will complement and enhance your old skills.

It’s the same way with creativity.

Creativity is all about combining things or ideas into unlikely combinations. It’s about gaining new perspectives and angles, about linking unlikely things together.

If you read the same types of things, think about the same types of things, and use the same types of skills over and over again, pretty soon it’s hard to think up new ways to create because you’ve exhausted your store of images, ideas and experiences.

You and your children need to surround yourself with new ideas and experiences, new ways of viewing the world. You need new skill sets that will complement and enhance the old ones.

It’s true that you can fill your creative well by pursing new ideas and experiences that you find interesting. It’s something that I like to spend a lot of time doing.

But by occasionally doing things we don’t find interesting, we also stretch our creative muscles.

How?

When we deliberately do something we find boring or uninteresting, we tend to let our minds wander. We want to be anywhere else but in the moment.

Fight that urge. Be in the moment. Let yourself really experience what you’re doing, or watching, or reading. Make time to reflect on your experience.

This past week I finished reading a book by Richard Parkes Cordock called The Millionaire Upgrade. In the book, he talks about the importance of doing something every day that makes you uncomfortable. The chapter focuses on how true growth only comes when you move outside your comfort zone.

The things we’re not interested in usually fall outside our comfort zone. Usually this is because we’re unfamiliar with them, have some experience with them but it’s been negative, or we let the negative experience of others shape our opinions.

By developing the habit of doing uncomfortable things or spending some time learning or doing things we’re not interested in doing will help stretch us as human beings. It will broaden our perspective on life, teach us something about how we handle discomfort, and fill our creative buckets with skills, images and ideas that we’d never encounter otherwise.

I’m not at all suggesting that you shouldn’t spend a good portion of your time accomplishing dreams and goals that excite you. Nor am I suggesting that kids should spend the majority of their days learning and doing those things that they dread doing, either.

I am suggesting to occasionally do something you wouldn’t normally choose to do. Approach it in a positive way. Learn everything you can from it. Then take those thoughts, ideas and skills and see if you can approach a creative project in a new way.

Then:

Let your kids see you do this.

Talk to them about how those experiences have changed you and given you new creative insights.

Encourage them to pursue something they’ve found uninteresting.

Challenge them to use that experience to deepen their personal creative goals.

 

Photo Credit: Dione_Higgs

What’s one thing you’re uninterested in that you could learn or do this week?

 

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  • Laura Grace Weldon

    This is a fresh take on creativity. I’m familiar with being admonished to push ourselves, to try something new, to do what scares us. To do what we’re not interested in, that’s different. In my real life I do all sorts of things I’m not interested in because I have to, but I know full well I don’t come at them with the sort of zest that would open me to true growth through those experiences. You’ve really given me something to think about.

    BTW, your list pretty much sums up my list. Come on, fess up, are you reading romance novels now?

    • christinapilkington

      Not yet. But I probably should take my advice and try to read one again :) I was taken a little aback when I was introduced to this concept, too. But when I used this advice in my own life, it was amazing to me how those at first unwanted experiences really opened me up to new ways of thinking. It challenged my preconceived notions of how I thought things were going to be. It also opened me up to a whole range of opinions and perspective I would not have experienced otherwise.

  • TheresaNovak

    This is excellent. When we first started thinking about and researching homeschooling, I was drawn to unschooling or interest-led learning. But when we took our girls out of school, I lacked the courage and I still thought sometimes “you gotta do what you gotta do” whether or not you want to or like it or are interested in it. I am trying to learn to give my girls a lot of time to explore their interests, but balance that time with Math. Last night, I read Karen (Homeschool Girls) post on coding and wrote down the resources to look at with my girls because I think it’s worthwhile.

    • christinapilkington

      I think even with math that you can find ways to approach it that you’re kids will enjoy. It’s just a really hard process sometimes. The main thing I try to remember with my kids is to respect their interests and how they want to learn certain skills….and even when they want to learn them. It’s so hard not to think kids should be doing addition and subtraction when they’re 6 and 7 and multiplication when they’re 8. I know it’s so much easier said than done, though. I’ve been reading your blog recently and I can see the amount of passion and creativity your children have, so I know that you’re doing a great job with them :)

  • tereza crump

    I do this all the time… Last night, I was watching videos on YouTube and I learned how to do nail art. Those designs are gorgeous but for me it’s such a waste of time, energy and product… but hey, some people out there dedicate their lives to this…it’s their passion… so I watched about 30 min. or so of tutorials and I could probably do a few of those designs if I had the products in hand.

    After that, I watched a soccer coach teaching drills, passes and other exercises to improve your soccer game. Then I watched this lady teach on English pronunciation, (she is amazing! I learned so much)… watched videos on knitting and crocheting. All those things are not my natural drive, but like you said it’s such a “stretch” to one’s mind to learn new things, to put oneself in a different mindset… it’s always very illuminating to me. :) And I find that without thinking I incorporate what I have learned into my life.

    My DD10 sometimes will see me watching videos like these (that have nothing to do with what I normally do) and she will say “why are you watching that? isn’t that boring?” I tell her ” I am learning something new. I find it very interesting.” Maybe it will rub off on her. :)

    Anyway, your post was so on target. I think it’s important to keep our brains always guessing and trying new things… so those “muscles” don’t shrink. :)

    • christinapilkington

      This is so great! Thanks for sharing those stories. I’ve really noticed that when I make a conscious decision to learn, read or do something that I’d normally not choose to do, it gives me so many creative ways to approach my current projects as well adding to my knowledge base and skill set. And you’re example to your daughter is fantastic! That’s what I’m hoping to do with my kids, too.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kacagle Karen Terry Cagle

    I love this Chris and I want Keilee and I to do this soon. What a wonderful idea.

    • christinapilkington

      I hope you do! If you do, please, please write about it on your blog because I’d love to read about it.

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