10 Unusual (But Effective) Habits of Innovative Thinkers

Written by:
Dave Carder


All creatives struggle at times. Writers can stare at a flashing cursor on a blank white screen for hours on end. Designers can fill an entire sketch pad with ideas that go nowhere for them. If any of your creative friends try and tell you that this never happens to them, they are lying.

Creativity stagnation happens to the very best in our profession. The key is to be able to identify when you are getting into a rut and not spend too much time wallowing in this muck. Even better yet would be to develop some routines that take a more proactive approach and help keep your creative juices flowing at a steady rate all the time.

Here are some hacks from 10 professionals who have cracked the code to maintaining sustained creativity.

RELATED: How to Unlock Your Creativity Using the Flow Method


1 Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl-Strayed make a regular practice of writing just for the sake of writing

Author of the New York Times bestseller Wild, Cheryl regularly uses writing prompts to get the creative juices flowing and to improve the writing muscle. Utilize this technique anytime you are feeling stuck or to proactively strengthen your creative thinking. Go with the flow and write two entire pages in longhand without stopping to edit or critique your content.

Here are a few prompts she recommends to students that can help get you moving forward again if you are feeling stagnated:

  • Write about a time you were mistaken.
  • Write about a time you learned something the hard way.
  • Write about the memory of a physical injury.
  • Write about the kindness of strangers
  • Write about a time you knew you had done the right thing.
  • Write about a time you lost something you will never get back.
Cheryl-Strayed-Wild Takeaway: Make a regular practice of writing just for the sake of writing.


2 James Altucher

James-Altucher liven things up with some kind of play everyday

A serial entrepreneur and successful author, James has never been shy about talking about his failures and missteps. Along the way, he has made it a point to incorporate play into his everyday life.

He is a highly-rated chess player and loves backgammon as well, but he is famous for holding meetings over ping pong sessions or archery practice. These are some of his favorite activities, but he is always looking to try something new to challenge himself. Approaching each day with a playful attitude has led to many creative breakthroughs and important relationships for James.

Takeaway: Liven things up with some kind of play everyday!


3 Dan Harmon

Dan-Harmon don't fight it. figure out how to get paid to do the things you love to do

Dan is the creative genius behind the TV show "Community." He is fairly well-known for his Plot Embryos, a tool for constructing effective storytelling in any situation. (You can read more about his algorithm for constructing a satisfying story here.) He professes to have little structure in his creative process besides this one technique.

In this 1-minute video, he talks about embracing his inner laziness and only working on projects and ideas that he loves and believes in. Moving yourself in a direction where you are working on creative projects that interest and inspire you will greatly reduce the potential to run into brick walls during the creative process.

Takeaway: Don’t fight it. Figure out how to get paid to do the things you love to do.


4 Neil Gaiman

Neil-Gaiman daydreaming and letting your mind wander is a vital part of the process

Many of you are already familiar with Neil’s “Make Good Art” speech. This speech itself should be enough to break anyone out of a creative funk. Follow the link for the best 20 minutes of your day if you have time.

As a writer of graphic novels, comics, short fiction and novels mostly in the fantasy category, tapping into his creative imagination is key. He gets many of his ideas by allowing his mind to wander where it pleases. We all do this, but writers and artists pay attention while it is happening and use these flashes of inspiration to create our next piece of work. He takes the next step by asking “What if…” and other open ended questions.

Neil-Gaiman-The-Graveyard-Book Takeaway: Daydreaming and letting your mind wander is a vital part of the process.


5 Aaron Draplin

Aaron-Draplin-1 you get to create art for a living everyday. have fun with it!

Aaron needs no introduction among designers and has been referred to as the Yukon Cornelius of the design world. His agency Draplin Design Co. works with clients like Nike, Burton, Patagonia, and the Obama Administration. He has an amazing body of work, including his wildly successful Field Notes line of products.  

Aaron spins yarns, is gregarious and downright happy to get to create design work each day. He does not even subscribe to the idea that getting over a creative block is hard, he just puts it in the proper perspective. The more you make it a battle, the harder it will be to overcome any difficulties. Take a deep breath and embrace the process.

Aaron-Draplin-1 field notes Takeaway: You get to create art for a living every day. Have fun with it!


6 Leo Babauta

Leo-Babauta your best work is done in solitude

Leo’s blog is read by over 2 million people. He credits solitude for all the best work he has done. He uses his alone time to unwind and reflect. By taking the time to separate himself from the hustle and bustle, he is able to stay in touch with his own inner voice and allows the stream of creativity to continuously flow.

His entire philosophy revolves around finding simplicity and mindfulness in all that he does. One of his favorite quotes captures the essence of this perfectly:

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the earth revolves.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Takeaway: Your best work is done in solitude.


7 Chase Jarvis

Chase-Jarvis-1 shake up routines to stimulate fresh perspectives

Chase is an award-winning photographer who co-founded CreativeLive back in 2010. He feels the first step to becoming a successful creative is to believe and know that you are creative and living a creative life.

Chase encourages people to seek out and meet new creative people each week for ongoing inspiration. This does not mean that things are going to come easy once you adopt this mindset, but you do have to wake up everyday and see the world through the lens of a creative. When he feels like he is getting into a rut, he will break some routines to disrupt the flow of things.

Takeaway: Shake up routines to stimulate fresh perspectives.


8 Ali Edwards

Ali-Edwards-quote have some balance in your life and be ble to set creative work aside

An author, designer, and a leading authority on scrapbooking, Ali also juggles the responsibilities of being a wife and mother. To keep a fresh perspective, she embraces her time away from her creative endeavors and is fully present when spending time with friends and family. She often receives new inspiration once she returns to her work and finds it easier to focus on what she is creating.

Ali-Edwards scrapbooking Takeaway: Have some balance in your life and be able to set creative work aside.


9 Felicia Day

Felicia-Day make being creative the priority, not answering emails

Felicia is a multi-talented creative across many disciplines who is best known as the creator, writer, and star of "The Guild."

There are two key strategies she uses to maximize her creative potential each day: The first is to do her creative work right out of the gate. This prioritizes creative work as the most important purpose of the day. She combines this approach with the allocation of non-creative tasks to a scheduled list that she attacks with a vengeance. Knowing she already has an effective writing session complete makes it easier to move on to others tasks without feeling guilty.

RELATED: Creativity vs. Productivity: How to Achieve Both at the Same Time

Takeaway: Make being creative the priority, not answering emails.


10 Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie-Todd-Rubin professionals have to flex their muscle daily

Jamie is a tenacious writer. In 2015, he voluntarily ended a writing streak of 500 words a day minimum after 825 consecutive days. Prior to that, he had several shorter streaks that were around 150 to 350 days.

Primarily a fiction writer, he found that during this time of his career, it was extremely valuable for him to have a daily practice that took place no matter what was going on in his life. Over time, he found he was able to write just about anywhere or anytime with almost zero warm-up.

Takeaway: Professionals have to flex their muscle daily.


Your Turn

Hopefully some of these ideas will come in handy the next time you start to feel a creative rut coming on. Everyone is wired a bit differently. Come up with your own twist on some of these suggestions to get your creative process flowing again.

Do you have any tips or tricks of your own to share? Hop into the comments section and share your best technique for getting and keeping yourself moving forward again.


65% of the population are visual learners

Create, share and download beautiful visuals with the world’s most versatile and powerful visual communication tool.

Create Your Design. Sign Up Free

    We’re stingy and don’t share emails with anyone.

    About the Author

    David Carder is a writer living in Auburn, California. After graduating from Texas A&M University he spent time as a Project Manager before eventually transitioning to a full-time writing career. His interests involve spending time in the mountains whenever he is not researching and writing about ever-evolving digital marketing trends.

    9 responses to “10 Unusual (But Effective) Habits of Innovative Thinkers”

    1. Jack says:

      ᖴreelaancing can also ennⅾ in an enormous “plus” regarding your incomе.
      Instead of having to accept the specific salary thats suppⅼіed
      by the one regulation agency that yⲟu work, youve gоt a great deal of leeway in setting yor
      personaⅼ pay rates. This factor can result in considerablу more casɦ for you.

    2. Cash Loans Online says:

      Very shortly this web site will be famous amid all
      blogging and site-building viewers, due to it’s good articles

    3. domino99 says:

      Doess your blog have a contact page? I’m having trouble
      locating it but, I’d like to send you an email. I’ve got some suggestions foor your bllog
      you might be interested in hearing. Either way, greast bloog and
      I look forward to seeing it develop over time.

    4. It’s the best time to make some plans for the fuyure and it is time to be happy.
      I’ve learn this post andd if I could Iwant to suggest you few fascinating things or suggestions.
      Maybe you culd write next articles referring to this article.
      I want to learn even more issues about it!

    5. drone powerline inspection says:

      Very interesting topic, thanks for posting.

    6. prediksi togel sidney says:

      I do not know whether it’s just me or if everyone else encountering problems with your
      site. It appears as if some of the written text on your posts are running off the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback and
      let me know if this is happening to them too? This could
      be a issue with my browser because I’ve had this happen before.
      Thank you

    7. fmu30 atpro corp says:

      Hello, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues.
      When I look at your blog in Firefox, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.

      I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
      Other then that, fantastic blog!

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Now Available: Become a Certified Presentation Expert for FreeTake the Course
    Now Available: Become a Certified Presentation Expert for FreeTake the Course