Do You Apply These 5 Tips For Developing Your Creativity?

“The only art I’ll every study is stuff that I can steal from.” – David Bowie

I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider myself very creative. When I listen to another songwriter, I think “Why didn’t I think of that?” When I hear a great band I get depressed, wondering, “I have no idea how to do that.”

But you can increase your creativity. Creativity isn’t a gift you’re born with – it’s a discipline you cultivate.


When I wrote and recorded my first album, I didn’t know what I was doing.

I thought the whole world was going to call my bluff as an amateur who lacked creativity. Surprisingly, the album did well and inspired a lot of people. While I wasn’t on the front page of iTunes, the album accomplished what I set out to do with it, namely, to release my first work.

If creativity is a discipline you cultivate, I have to ask you, “How are you cultivating your creativity?”

I’ve written this post to help you. Because I believe there are songs within you, albums waiting to be recorded, paintings yet to be released, and books in need of a writer. Your art has potential to change the world.

If you feel a stirring in your heart to be one of those people, read on.

5 Tips For Developing Your Creativity

1. Qualify Yourself – The problem with creativity is that you disqualify yourself before you start. You see the art of someone you admire, or a friend, and decide you can’t compete. So what do you do? You consume art but never create art. You disqualify yourself because “you’re not creative.”

Let me just tell you this: every great artist deals with this insecurity. What do the good ones do? They get to work.

Take a minute and say this out loud: “I am a gifted, hard working, creative artist.” Say it even though you don’t mean it.

2. Take Risks – Great artists don’t play it safe. And since you’re a gifted, hard working, creative artist, neither should you. If you’re constantly feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re in the right place. That means you’re taking risks. That means you’re pushing your creativity to its limits and doing work that matters.

3. Release Before It’s Ready – You need to release your creations. Think about the artist you admire most. I’m sure they have a catalog of work that inspires and amazes you. It’s not because they’re a genius. It’s because they ship before it’s perfect. Sure, they work hard and put in the time, but they’re not content to tweak forever. Art was meant to be shared.

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” – Andre Gide

4. Steal – There’s a difference between stealing and plagiarizing. There’s a difference between copying another artist’s style and completely ripping them off. The goal here is to learn why and how an artist does what he does.

For example, in my songwriting I’ve copied some of Matt Redman’s song structures, while adding my own lyrics, music, and personal touch. In the end, it doesn’t sound like the original. But it works perfectly to get my creative juices flowing.

Consider this quote from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist:

“Every artists gets asked the question, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ The honest artists answers, ‘I steal them.’ How does an artist look at the world? First, you figure out what’s worth stealing, then you move on to the next thing.”

5. Surround Yourself With Creatives – There’s something powerful about the culture you create in. Jonah Lehrer in his book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, talks about the work environment of the company Pixar.

Bathrooms are placed in specific locations so that people from different departments can rub shoulders with each other. Designers don’t work in isolated rooms. People are out in the open. It’s this beautiful collision of creative people that produces breakthrough ideas. Pixar is intentional about it’s environment. Are you?

Creativity isn’t about your genes, your genius, or who your Dad was. It’s all about the work you put in today…and again tomorrow.

We need your creations.

Question: What are you in the process of creating? Share your thoughts with the community. Go ahead, it’s always better when you comment!

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  1. says

    David, I like the right brain left brain diagram. That concept comes up a lot in my teaching. I have right brained students that are very intuitively creative but lack direction and discipline. I have left brained students that are amazingly detail oriented but too self critical. That would be #3. That is what I struggle with the most. But it takes a balance of right and left brain to be productive in a constant fashion. I do believe that the most creative people have an urge to do what it is they do. They have no risk “meter”. They can’t not do it. That doesn’t mean that we lesser mortals can’t create. Time often decides what is great, after the drama, popularity, and fads of the day have faded. Many things considered great in their day do not stand the test of time.
    As far as stealing is concerned, there is nothing totally new. Someone ran a computer program and determined that “common practice” period music was completely exhausted before Beethoven ever wrote a note.
    If you want to expand your world and and do all five things pointed out, attach yourself to an agent/ manager. Search for one you can work with, that has similar motives and world view, one that understands you and wants you to be successful. Your success is their success. Start out with a non-exclusive agreement to be safe. If the business relationship doesn’t work, you are free to move on. A good manager, artist relationship will encourage all 5 points.

      • says

        My father was a structural engineer with a computer for a brain. When he closed his eyes, he saw the “matrix” on the inside of his eyelids. My mother was a singer with a “free” spirit. So, I had two opposite, extreme examples in my parents. My son is very right brained, my daughter is a balance with a left brain emphasis. They are both professional musicians. Because of experience with my parents and kids, I got a bit of informal education through reading and counselors. I am not sure exactly what I am. It is easier to see in someone else, but I believe I am more like my mother. Most normal people are probably 45/55 or 40/60. I think some artist/musicians are left brain dead. There are also different learning styles, like visual or tactile. Regardless, after e few lessons it all begins to show. I allow them the path of their preference for initial success, and try to encourage and challenge them in their weaknesses. Right brained players tend to play by ear, be good improvisers and poor music readers. I try to give them real life examples of how their weaknesses will hold them back if they don’t improve on them. Left brained players tend to be more task oriented, good at following instructions, and are excellent music readers but poor improvisers. They have a great fear of playing a wrong note. The old jokes; How do you stop a violin player from playing? Take away their sheet music. How do you stop a guitar player from playing? Put a piece of sheet music in front of them. The left brained visual learners (book worms) tend to be in band or orchestra. As a guitar instructor, I would say the majority of my students are right brained tactile learners. So are most of the other church guitar players I have worked with.
        As a guitar teacher, I try to talk all my students into playing in band or orchestra. Learning to read music, coupled with the ensemble experience is invaluable. My best over- all students are usually kids that have 2 to 3 years of band or orchestra before they take up guitar. I try to keep them in their school groups as long as possible.
        Like everything else, there are musician stereotypes rooted in a lot of truth. In short, staying in an organized discipline of anything, run by someone with superior knowledge of the subject forces you to keep balanced by working on your weaknesses. Your average guitar student doesn’t want to learn to read music for the long term benefit. They want to play something really cool NOW !! by watching YOUTUBE.

        David, I just hi-jacked another one. Sorry! I am not capable of a short answer.

          • says

            A lot of collected knowledge from different sources stored in my little head. I sort of use my own curriculum, but nothing is written down. I try to adapt to every students needs, keeping in mind where I want to take them. Basic guitar technique and basic music principles. I just try to keep in mind the strengths and weaknesses of each student.

  2. says

    We don’t copy, we learn from example, and are inspired to go that next mile because of the inspiration. I know all the reading I have done in my lifetime has inspired my writing style, and we do have to release our creations.
    I have a book out for publication and post a devotional online twice a week (did it daily for an entire year, but not reduced to two per week). Hope you will visit me at in the future.
    Love your site and your inspiration.
    Blessings to you!

  3. Justice Devon says

    Thank you so much for sharing, David! This post was very encouraging. While all 5 of those points really hit me, I think my biggest weakness is in area 5. I often feel alone in my excitement of projects or ideas I’m developing. I’m lacking in the community department. I’m not always sure where to find people who will share my views, which may contribute to me simply keeping my ideas inside and never sharing them with anyone. I think people are the biggest thing I need. I’m just not sure where to find them.

  4. Ryan Gordon says

    Ah, taking risks. Something I fail to do over and over again. But I’ll make an effort to try again, even if I do fall on my face :)

  5. says

    I believe that creativity is in all of us, because we’re all created in the image of God. You’re right about how we disqualify ourselves before we even get started. In a sense, we’ve aborted many babies even before they are conceived or born. Taking risks requires a great deal of faith and humility.

    • says

      Theresa, I agree that creativity is in all of us. We have a tendency as a society to think that creativity only applies to the arts. I think a mechanic that can take a car with 200,000 miles on it and tweak it and coax another 50,000 miles out of it is a creative genius. My dad could stand on an empty property and imagine a 65 story building and make every detail happen til it was completed. Few people thought of him as “creative”. We are created in the image of God. God is creative and eternal. I believe that God forever has and forever will create. I like this joke. The scientist said to God, I can make a man from dirt just like you did. God said proceed. The scientist began and God quickly interrupted. God then said, you must provide your own dirt.


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