Mantras for Cultivating Creativity

Why is practicing creativity so important? As a designer who creates daily, I need to bring my A-game to our clients and our everyday work. No matter what category I’m working in, it’s essential to come to the table with an open mind and push beyond category norms. But it’s not purely about feeding my creative spirit, it’s ultimately about cultivating a culture of creativity that fuels better work.

This article was inspired by a conversation with a colleague about how to use wellness mantras as thought-starters for creativity. There are undeniable parallels between mindfulness and creativity. Now you may be thinking, “stop with the rubbish about mindfulness and leave creativity alone.” What do I say to that? Keep an open mind.

While it might sound like a Hallmark lesson, basic mantras such as ‘let go, begin again’ or ‘it’s about the journey, not the destination,’ work to cultivate creativity. There is a bottomless well of mantras that can nudge you toward the inspiration you’ve been searching for. Just remember, whether revealed quickly or a little more elusive, inspiration can ultimately be found anywhere. If design’s mission is to improve the human experience, why not dip into the mindfulness of humans to harness those creative juices?

Time for a little experiment. Let’s use some basic wellness mantras to tap into creativity in the everyday.

Wake with an open mind.
The fresh start to the day is a ripe time for your mind to be open and free to explore. Be intentionally curious and stay fresh. Keeping a mental openness vs. clenching your brain cells tight can allow ideas to flow freely. This mantra is especially helpful during immersive brainstorm sessions. If you keep an open mind when ideating, it can be the secret sauce to successful outcomes.

Let creativity come to you as a child would.
Children are inherently imaginative and open to new possibilities because they are beginners in this game we call “Life”. The intrinsic motivation of a beginner allows them to play vs. having a goal in mind. Watch a child play and realize they are in the purest state of exploration and discovery. This play invites a wide net of creativity. At the beginning of a project, I throw a wide net into my creative consciousness and absorb every piece of inspiration. In tandem with design strategists, we then channel that inspiration into pathways, weaving stories for our clients and brands. This process starts with that child-like ability to have fun and start with the infinite motivation of an eager beginner.

Stop beating yourself up in the search for perfection. Mistakes are proof you are trying. Staying loose and creative is the way to win. As soon as our team transitioned to a primarily at-home environment, we had to find ways to transport the scrappy, loose way we work into a digital forum. Mural became our go-to platform to share early and often. It’s all about leaving the formality of presentation and walking into an infinitely scalable world with a virtual whiteboard. Here, we can work real-time, make mistakes, and get a little messy.
Use equanimity to stay calm. Allow the mess to wash over you. And the easy, simple solutions will rise to the top. Far too often, we are so eager to get to the solution that we compromise our ideas. This leads to Frankensteining two (or three…or four) ideas together which only makes us lose the magic of the purest solution. But if we can allow ourselves to sit in the process, the path forward usually reveals itself.

Stay in a constant state of discovery & follow what excites you. Stay open to discovery in every aspect of your life. It can be as big as planning a trip to Florence to see the works of the great masters or as simple as reading a newspaper or playing Pictionary with your kids. For example, I am constantly surprised at how many moments of inspiration hit me while flipping through New York Times Sunday edition; from new illustrators who pepper the paper with visual candy to finding new ways to dress my bagel in the food section. One easy way to stay in a state of discovery is to follow what excites you. On the recent IDEO-U Creative Confidence Podcast, Executive Director Leta Stafford and Founder Suzanne Gibbs Howard were sharing insight into success, proclaiming “follow what excites you!” That internal flame tells us where to go and what to follow. That flame gives you your extra spark, which combined with your internal drive, is unique to you (and only you).
As creatives, we are not creating to win. We are creating to connect and to better the human experience. What better way to improve your own experience than pulling creativity into your everyday? If you need permission to allow yourself the time — here it is! Be brave and free up space to allow for discovery. Pick up that newspaper, sign up for that Masterclass, or take a walk in nature. Don’t be afraid to repeat your mantras and allow creativity to flow. I dare you to let your mind wander.


Jenny Hoverman

Design Director

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