What makes you creative? Is it a place you go to find that spark? Or is it a particular routine that you do to find focus? While you can read a lifetime of books (including one by me) on the subject of creativity, here is the one thing that I have found constant across the topic of creativity:

Creativity is the act of making an idea real.

An idea in your head is just that: an idea in your head. It lives in a beautiful, safe spot, tucked away in your mind and out of view of the rest of the world. Left that way, what can that idea become? Nothing more than it already is. It is just a thought in your mind. It will persist as long as your memory holds on to it. But if you take that idea out into the real world, out to a place where it can interact with other people and things, then it can become something.

"Be as foolish and as silly and whatever as you want, but you tell the truth in some way. And how awful to not tell the truth — what’s the point, really?" - Maurice Sendak

Now no matter how small that step into reality is, an idea that is tethered to the real world is something that is tangible, something that is alive, and something that can change you. And to do that, you have to take that first step and find something that makes the idea real.

For me, my creativity usually starts with blank paper and a pencil, and I sketch my ideas. I am not an artist by any measure, but that physical act of drawing on a piece of paper brings my ideas to life. My drawings move my ideas from my mind out into the physical world, so I can see and interact with them. I have no rules when I do this, so there are no boundaries or restrictions. My pencil goes where it likes. I just sketch what I want and let myself explore.

What happens next? It depends. My sketch may simply be just a drawing that captures my state of mind at the moment. Or it could be an odd connection between distant thoughts in my mind that lead me somewhere else. Or maybe it could end up being the start of a project on my to-do list. Who knows? While each idea is different and will have an ultimate resting place, if I do not take that first step with a sketch, it is as if those ideas never really happened.

Everyone has ideas, probably more than they realize each day. Some might be odd or crazy, and others may be the next big thing. But one thing is certain: if you do not intently move your ideas out of your mind and into your world, your world (our world) will never change.


J.D. Nolen is a physician who expresses his creativity through writing. His book, Unlock Your Creativity, is now available on Amazon. You can follow him via his blog or on Twitter.

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