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There is something mysterious about creativity. We can describe it, admire it, strive for it and experience it, but we can never understand just how or why a certain innovative idea springs up at a particular time in the mind of a particular individual. Indeed, most people never expect to understand or master that process. Let's hope we do not, for our world would be far more dreary if we ever fully harnessed the creative process and learned to produce results only on schedule or on demand.
Force your mind to see things differently — in a new light, from a new angle, from another scale of time or distance, or from the perspective of someone with a different background. Explore beyond the bounds of your expertise — you may have the exact perspective needed by a colleague in another field.
Schedule regular times for creative thinking. I walk to and from work daily, about 35 minutes each way. After many years of following the same route (sometimes I do vary it!), the journey is routine, but I've dedicated the walk as a scheduled time for free, creative thinking, for dreaming, for envisioning what might happen, for devising imaginative solutions. I jot down my ideas immediately after reaching my destination.
On that last note, our morning and evening commutes are very routine times when you could easily shut off the iPod or radio and just let your mind wander once a day.
I picked up this link from a tweet by animator Mike Geiger (@mikegeiger)