How to Build Creative Muscles (even if you aren't artsy fartsy)

How to Build Creative Muscles (even if you aren’t artsy fartsy)


Everyone is capable of creativity.

While most people view creativity as something possessed by the artists of the world, most everybody has it to some degree.

So, yes, the painters, musicians, writers, and dancers are creative.  But so are the scientists, businessmen, teachers, managers, parents, accountants (hey, I didn’t say everyone uses their creativity for good), doctors, IT professionals, landscapers, architects, entrepreneurs,  nurses, craftsmen, lawyers, chefs, sales associates, administrators, and it can go on and on and on.

We are all born with creative abilities.  Some of us just have to work a little more to strengthen our creative muscles. Some of us forgot because we have been so busy coloring inside the lines.

Open Mind + Problem Solving= Flourishing Creativity Click To Tweet

At its core, creativity is nothing more than problem-solving.

When you mix in an open mind with your problem-solving skills, that is when creativity can start to flourish.

Some people are uncomfortable with the word creativity because they find it hard to get past some stereotypes- being creative does not have to mean that you are ‘Artsy Fartsy’ or ‘Hippie Dippy’.  It can also mean that you are an innovator, an inventor, a pioneer, or someone with great initiative or vision.

Benefits of Creativity in Your Everyday Life

Once you find the semantics that work for you, you can find that creativity can be beneficial in your everyday life.  Remember, it really is just problem-solving.

  • Personal Finances– When you find yourself short on cash or have a really big financial goal you are trying to reach, you can look at your budget and pinpoint areas where some creative solutions (the legal and ethical kind) might be achieved.  What can be done differently to save from one category so it could be put in another?
  • Romance– There is always a little room for improvement when it comes to romance.  What can you do, outside of what you are currently doing, to make sure your romantic partner feels loved, appreciated, and special?
  • Professional Life- Creativity can help you look like a hero at work by using your creativity to solve someone else’s problem.  Or you can find a creative way to work with an annoying boss or streamline a laborious task, making your workplace a better place to be.
  • Family– If you are a parent, creativity can help you establish new traditions, find more effective discipline, or find more ways to connect to your children.  If you’re an adult child it can also help you find a new and better ways to connect with your own parents.
  • Well-Being– Creativity can help by finding new ways to deal with your stress or bring about peace in your environment.  It can also help build confidence and reduce negative emotions.

Ways to Build Your Creative Muscle

Play Chopped in Your Own Kitchen

If you have never seen the Food Network show, Chopped, it is the most real reality show they have on.  Four contestants have to make a 3-course meal out of a “mystery basket” of food.  Sometimes these baskets contain unlikely combinations of food products and each chef must come up with something delicious to be judged.  Now, Ted Allen isn’t there to host and commentate but don’t many of us face this challenge at least once in a while? The family needs to be fed but no plan has been made.

So open that fridge, make a quick assessment, and start creating dinner.  Your family will get fed, you may or may not find a new family favorite, and you’ve solved a problem. This is creativity in real time.

The real magic here is that you’ve made it into a game for yourself.  So it isn’t a burden, it’s fun (or semi-fun) or at least a challenge.  And when you are always playing against yourself, you are always the winner.

You can do this in every area of your life by challenging yourself to “fix” or alter a situation.  Making it into a game makes it more tolerable.  Is your budget a problem?  See how little money you can spend and still have delicious, nutritious meals.  How long can you make something last before you buy a new one?  What if it is your romantic life?  How many times can you make your partner smile in 24 hours?

Outsmarting your problems just by game playing has no bad outcome.  The more you play the more you exercise your creativity.


Most other people would probably refer to this as ruminating, pondering, or reflecting.   I like to call it marinating because if you take in as much information as you can about your situation, dump all that information on that problem and then walk away from it, your brain will do the work. While your conscious brain is working on one thing, that information sits in your subconscious (marinating) and many times the answer will just ‘come to you’. 

Another variation is that when you’ve been working so hard on solving a problem that you can’t see the forest through the trees.  Just get up and walk away and come back to it later.  You can sometimes get a fresh perspective and find a solution that was sitting there the whole time.

It’s amazing sometimes, how much more creative your subconscious is than your conscious mind.


Daydreaming is a first cousin to Marinating.  It is just letting your mind wander and go in whatever direction it wants to go.

In the quest to be productive it is easy to try to forget the need to leave time for your brain to rest.

'What if?' is like barbells for your imagination. Click To Tweet

What if?

When you are presented with a problem, what if you just asked: “What if?”  Question it every way you can think of.  Say you have a project in front of you and one of your tools is broken and you don’t have time to get a new one: What if you modified the broken tool?  What if I used a different tool?  What if I find a way around that problem so I wouldn’t need a tool?

When you start questioning “What if?”, it can open your mind to new possibilities.  Sometimes the greatest solutions come from problems with the greatest limitations.

“What if?” is like barbells for your imagination.


Go for a walk. Or dance. Or exercise.  Moving helps stimulate your brain functions and can pump more blood to your head.  It also has the added bonus of giving you time to marinate or ask “What if?” at the same time.


The edges of that notebook are there for a reason.  In The Doodle Revolution by Suni Brown, she shows that cognitive breakthroughs can happen when we doodle.  She also states that doodling can help our memory and recall.  This is a personal favorite of mine and it usually produces great results.

Try Something New

Learning new things is good for your cognitive abilities, especially as you age.  When you are in the habit of learning, not only do you have new information, but your brain can establish new neuro-connections with existing information you already have.  This inevitably lets you use more of what you know in new ways.  It also trains your brain to be on the lookout for new information, leaving you open to new possibilities.

Have Fun With a Traditionally Creative Medium

Try dancing, painting, or singing.  Get a sketch pad, some play dough, or guitar.  Just something to spark creativity when it doesn’t matter.  Even if you are still problem-solving (what shape, what pencil stroke, what note?) you don’t have to get the ‘right’ answer to any problem.  It’s just for fun, all the while still building the creative muscles.

Use It or Lose It

Once you start strengthening your creative muscles you will find that you will have unlimited ways to use your creativity.  And just like any other muscle….use it or lose it.

Your Turn:  How do you practice being creative?

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