5 Creative games I play with myself
People ask me “how come you are so creative?”
…and the answer is straightforward – we are all creative. The trick is to let ourselves be creative and to allow our selves to be silly, random and free.
I have found that being in a state of play is one of the easiests places to be truly innovative and original.
I have a few games that I play with myself to keep my mind elastic and free. These games are all based on randomness and allow us to stop thinking with the logical left brain and more with the right side of the brain.
Warning: This feels super scary when you try this. You will also hear random voices in your head saying; “Stop that! Don’t make a fool of yourself.”
Pro Tip: If it doesn’t feel silly – you aren’t doing it right.
Ready? Ok here goes.
1. Whatever you think – think the opposite
Not only is this the title of one of my favourite books by Paul Arden, but it is a great way to think. When you have a certain problem at hand, apply opposite thinking. What do I mean by that?
When I was a student studying Applied Design, one of our projects was toilet paper packaging. Everyone focussed so much on the softness of the paper and how to distinguish between 1 ply, 2 ply and extra absorbent that all the ideas had a general blandness to it. Let’s just say the ideas where beige. Our lecturer challenged us to twist it all around. What was the opposite of toilet paper? Our answer was a cactus. We went back to the drawing board and started again. This time we focused on the opposite. When answering the call of nature, thank goodness you don’t have a cactus, you have two-ply extra soft deluxe toilet paper. This not only resulted in really creative packaging but also in a creative advertising campaign.
Next time you are stuck in a situation or on an idea, play with opposites.
2. Draw – with your less dominant hand
If you are right-handed, draw something with your left hand and vice versa.
There are many theories for how we become right- or left-handed—from sun positioning to the location of your liver. “My theory is that we’re frequently right-handed because we’re language-dominant creatures and the left side of our brain—the part that processes the sound of speech—is usually larger and more dominant,” says Carl Hale, Psy.D., a neuropsychologist with Neuropsychology and Learning Associates in Merrillville and Fishers, Indiana.
Because brain mapping shows that creativity is housed in the right hemisphere of our brains, experts say we can stimulate this right brain through working with our “wrong” hand. This also works for lefties, as studies indicate that one hemisphere is active when we use our dominant hand, but both regions are activated when we use our non-dominant hand.
In this way, we can use the combination of our two hands to create new connections between our ears. “By its design, our right mind is spontaneous, carefree and imaginative. It allows our creative juices to flow free without inhibition,” according to Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., a neuroanatomist with the Indiana University School of Medicine.
“If creativity is located in your non-dominant hemisphere, then using your non-dominant hand may stimulate those cells,” she says.
Play around and have some fun by drawing with your non-dominant hand.
3. Go on an Artist Date
“What’s that?” I hear you squirm? Well, its a one-on-one date with yourself and your inner art child. Now I am not getting all weird and spiritual here. But you seriously need to feed your creativity. You can’t just keep withdrawing from your creative bank account and expect to run into an overdraft. It doesn’t work that way. What you put in is what you get out. It’s more like a debit card than one of those fancy platinum cards.
An artist date is a block of time, 2 hours per week, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness: your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion a play date that you plan and defend against all interlopers. You do not take anyone on this artist date, but you and your inner artist. That means no lovers, no friends, no spouses, no children, no animals – no taggers of any kind.
In life when any relationship is in trouble it is always due to a lack of quality time.
YOU CANNOT AFFORD NOT TO FIND TIME FOR ARTIST DATES
A date with my artist? Yes. Your artist needs to be taken out, pampered, and listened to. There are as many ways to evade this commitment as there are days of our lives.
Your artist is a child. Time with a parent matters more than monies spent. Lots of artist dates do not cost money. It is the time commitment that is sacred. Spending time with your artist child is essential to self-nurturing. Commit yourself to a weekly artist date and then watch your killjoy side try to wriggle you out of it. Watch how this sacred time gets quickly encroached upon. Watch how the sacred time suddenly includes a third party. Learn to guard against these invasions.
In order to have a real relationship with our creativity; we must take the time to care and cultivate it.
In filling the bank account, think magic. Think delight, think fun. Do not think duty. Do not do what you should do – mind sit-ups like reading a dull but recommended text. Do what intrigues you, explore what interest you; think mystery, not mastery.
So what feeds your soul? What makes you feel energised? What will your next artist date be?
4. Play the Dada game
The Dada art movement was a crazy period in Switzerland between the two World Wars. Dada was all about the random and letting chance create art. One artist took colourful paper cutouts and dropped it from a building. When he rushed downstairs he would stick the pages on a canvas in the exact way they fell, and declare it art. Even the name DADA is due to a random act. The Dadaists took a French Dictionary and stabbed it with a knife. Where the point of the knife ended was the word they chose. Dada – meaning hobby horse in English.
Even though all of this sounds super bizarre and I don’t believe it resulted in particularly good art, the idea of using randomness is pretty handy. It allows us to make random connections that aren’t planned and juxtapose ideas.
As a commercial artist, I often needed to come up with brand names. So I turned it into a game. Every time the game was different but really bizarre. I walked through a grocery store and wrote down some random words that I saw on a page. Back in the studio, I would cut them all up individually, toss them in the air and see what falls next to each other. Sometimes this really worked in getting an awesome random name. Even if you end up not choosing any of the names it often sparks a new genius idea. Some of the biggest brands use random words – just think of Kodak.
Practise your randomness and soon it will come naturally to you. One handy game I have found is Story Cubes. It seems so simple, yet it is so powerful. It can be used as a family, with friends, or just by yourself. This is a powerful tool to combat writer’s block as well.
It consists of a few dice with pictures on them. Throw the dice and create a story using the pictures on the dice. I have used story cubes in many ways. My South African friends you can buy it here on Take A Lot.
5. The Brick Test
In one of my favourite books, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell he mentions the Brick Test. Most of the book is really awesome, but that little part kinda stuck with me.
I have always wondered, how do you actually measure your creativity? Gladwell refers to this test. You get a time limit and a word such as brick. You then need to write as many uses, associations you can make with this word on a piece of paper. The person with the most uses and the most random connections are deemed more creative.
A person with a more logical linear approach would typically write:
eg. Brick: building, clay, red, wall, cement, raw, driveway.
A person with more creativity will make more random connections.
eg. Brick: handbag, self-defence, Free Masons, a Pinterest bookshelf, door stop, firepit.
I have played this game in some of my art classes and it is lots of fun. When I am super bored, I often just pick a random word and challenge myself. If you are stuck on which word to choose, grab a Pictionary Card and use the first object word you find.
So I hope this inspires you to be more creative. Remember that it is all about having fun. In the beginning, it might feel like work, but the more you exercise your creativity, the more ripped it will be.