The Little But Really Useful Guide to Creativity

My name is Leo Babauta, and I’m the creator and writer of Zen Habits. I’m married with six kids, I live in San Francisco (previously on Guam), I’m a writer and a runner and a vegan. Read more: My Story.

The Little But Really Useful Guide to Creativity

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” – Albert Einstein

It’s easier than ever to be creative, to create, to imagine and make what’s imagined become reality.

It’s also tougher than ever, with distractions surrounding us in ways never before imagined.

No matter what kind of creative type you are — writer, painter, musician, marketer, blogger, photographer, designer, parent, business owner — you are likely always looking for inspirations, for ways to let loose your creative genius.

And while there are millions of creativity tips on the Internet, I thought I’d share the ones I’ve found most useful — the ones that I’ve tried and tested and found to be right.

Here they are, in no order at all:

  • Play.
  • Don’t consume and create at the same time — separate the processes.
  • Shut out the outside world.
  • Reflect on your life and work daily.
  • Look for inspiration all around you, in the smallest places.
  • Start small.
  • Just get it out, no matter how crappy that first draft.
  • Don’t try for perfect. Just get it out there, asap, and get feedback.
  • Constantly make it better.
  • Ignore the naysayers.
  • But let criticism help you grow.
  • Teach and you’ll learn.
  • Shake things up, see things in new ways.
  • Apply things in other fields to your field, in ways not done before.
  • Drink ridiculous amounts of coffee.
  • Write all ideas down immediately.
  • Turn your work into play.
  • Play with kids.
  • Get out, move, see new things, talk to new people.
  • Read wildly different things. Especially stuff you disagree with.
  • Get lots of rest. Overwork kills creativity.
  • Don’t force it. Relax, play, it will start to flow.
  • Allow your mind to wander. Allow distractions, when you’re looking for inspiration.
  • Then shut them off when you’re going to create.
  • Do it when you’re excited.
  • When you’re not, find something else to be excited about.
  • Don’t be afraid to be stupid and silly.
  • Small ideas are good. You don’t need to change the world — just change one thing.
  • When something is killing your creativity, kill it.
  • Stop reading creativity advice, clear away everything, and just create.
  • Most of all, have fun doing it.

“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Lewis Carroll

Post written by Leo Babauta.


Finding Motivation to Exercise

After reading Jacquie’s post yesterday it got me thinking about how difficult it is to find motivation to exercise when you are already in a bit of a funk.  Most of us realize that one of the best ways out of a funk is to get our bodies moving and sweating but taking that first step is often difficult.  So I did what I always do when I want to find an answer to a question I have.  I googled it!  I was not surprised in the least when the first of over a million results was a post written by Leo Babauta of, one of my favourite blogs.  In his post he listed no less than 31 ways to find motivation.  Here is some of what Leo suggests.  I chose 10 of the 31 suggestions he listed to share with you but you can read the whole post here.

There are a million ways to motivate yourself to exercise, actually, but these are a few that have worked for me. And trust me, I’ve had days when I’ve struggled with exercise. Most recently, the things that have helped include finding a workout partner (one of the best motivators!), logging my exercise, reading magazines, books and websites, and rewarding myself.

  1. How you feel after a workout. I always feel great after a good workout. It’s a high. And I let that motivate me the next time: “You know how good you’re going to feel, Leo!” After your workout take at least a minute to soak in the great way you feel.   Notice how proud you are of yourself.  You did it! It is easier to call on the feeling when you take the time to fully experience it in the moment.
  2. Time for you. While many people make time to take care of others (kids, spouse, other family, co-workers, boss), they don’t often make time to take care of themselves. Instead, make your “you” time a priority, and don’t miss that exercise appointment.  Because you’re worth it!
  3. Having fun. Exercise should be fun. If it isn’t, try a different kind of activity that you enjoy. As long as you’re moving, it’s good for you.  This is key for me.  I look for things to do that I can find fun in.  That’s probably why I’m not a runner…I don’t enjoy it.  But I’ll gladly go for a long bike ride, a Zumba class or paddle on the lake.
  4. How you’re going to look. Imagine a slimmer, fitter you. Now let that visualization drive you.  Keep seeing yourself at your goal.  Imagine how great you’ll feel, how good you’ll look and how proud of yourself you’ll be.
  5. Rewards. If you exercise for a few days, give yourself a reward! A week? Another reward. Do it often in the beginning. This does NOT include chocolate!
  6. Fitting into new clothes. Wanna look good in a smaller size? Work out! This could be a nice way to reward yourself.  A new dress, pair of jeans, sexy shoes, Tara Cronica t-shirt…
  7. Time for contemplation. I love, love the quiet time of exercise for thinking about things. Most of this post was written in my head as I exercised. Tracy will attest to this.  I know she gets a lot of great writing ideas when she is running.
  8. A workout partner. Best thing I’ve done.  This one is huge for me.  If I didn’t have Chris or Lorellei calling me to go with them I would have  a much harder time getting to the gym! Zumba tonight right girls!
  9. An exercise class. Sign up for a class, perhaps with a friend, and you’ll be motivated to get there and work out.  It really helps to have a schedule of when you have to be there and it doesn’t hurt if you know you’ve paid for it already too.
  10. A coach or trainer. Worth the money, just for the motivation. This one is like combing 8 and 9.  You’ve paid for it, you have an appointment with them and they are expecting you to show up.  A good coach or trainer will teach you how to make the most of your workout and offer some great motivational tips.