How to Cultivate Creativity

Expression |

Words and photos by Adam Kingman. 

Walt Disney used to say a blank piece of paper is the greatest opportunity in the world because no one has put anything on it yet. An open page is an invitation to create. Each night before bed I clean off my desk, turn my notebook to a fresh page, uncap my pen, and head to sleep. That’s the first step: remove distractions and set yourself up to make something. As soon as I’m awake, my notebook and I are ready to dream.


Ideas are everywhere — if you know how to look for them. Here are the words I’m reminding myself of in order to cultivate creativity.


If You Can’t Find a Connection, Make One

Innovation is the bond between two unlikely ideas and the result is something totally new. Sushi and Mexican food: Sushiritos. Outer space and rollercoasters: Space Mountain. British girls and pop: Spice Girls. A telephone and music and web browsing: iPhone. Think of two things you’re stoked on and see what happens when you put them together.

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Ask More Questions

Next time you find yourself searching for a light bulb, you’ve already skipped exploration and jumped to conclusions. Ask yourself, does it have to be a light bulb? How about a fire? Fireflies? What about mysterious jars of glowing plankton? You just set the mood at your party with bioluminescence. Now that’s something to write home about.


Know What Inspires You Most

A car doesn’t get too far without gas. I don’t get very far without inspiration. Take note of what brightens your day and what turns your gears and find a way to summon more of it. Books. Palm trees. Old vinyl. Postcards. I recently did a full Instagram refresh so that instead of camp vibes, my feed is full of character illustrations and Disney animators. Who and what you follow has influence on you. Follow wisely.


Create A Mood to Create In

There’s something about fire that always puts me into this trance where I’m lost in time. Perhaps it’s because our ancestors and sandlot kids alike all sat around a fire, dreaming and conversing. We all have our perfect storm that breeds creation. Next time you’re in your element, ask yourself why that is. What makes up this scene that fuels your mind? Is it the people? The temperature? The environment? The fauna? The smells? Take notes and recreate it.

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Set Goals

Everyone has his or her own destiny, so don’t be distracted by your neighbor’s. Know where you’re headed and stick to your guns.


Let the Plan Happen to You

Did you plan to meet your best friend? Or find your favorite tiki bar? Or discover that pirate ship in the woods? Most likely not, and you never will if you stick to your plan. Serendipity strikes when you embrace the unknown. Unplanned trips are the bee’s knees. We call them “serentripity,” and they’re the most surprise-per-minute kind of fun you can have.


Escape the Mundangerous

The mundane is a scary place to be. Avoid it at all costs.

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Know What You Like

And know what you don’t. Go on a trip with another photographer and you’ll immediately notice them taking photos of things you wouldn’t. You may even find yourself thinking, Wait should I be taking a picture of that, too?  Then you remind yourself, No, that’s not what I like to shoot. I shoot newts, not nudes. Of course it’s critical to break the rules and try something new, but knowing what you like keeps you from falling into temptation and confusion and creating photos that mean nothing to you.


Find Your Crew

Some people want to knock you down; some people want to build you up. Find those who support you and keep them on speed dial. That’s your team: the pillow talkers, the late night dreamers, the midnight bike riders. Side note: there’s a site called where you can search for sailboats that need a crew to sail the world with. That’s on the bucket list, so let me know if any of you go for it.

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Have a Conversation Piece

There’s an old Twilight Zone episode about a man who summons up conversation over a stopwatch belonging to a drunken man. His curiosity grants him the watch as a gift, soon realizing it stops time for everyone except him. This is important: Always have a conversation piece. Wear fancy striped socks, a flower in your hair, a mysterious pin, carry a notebook. Bring things with you as an invitation to summon up conversation, to relate to people, to break the ice. You never know who you’ll meet.

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Find the Fun

Or bring it with you. We were backpacking in Iceland a few years ago. During this wild storm, we decided to wander outside our tent and explore in the rain. I had packed adhesive google eyes, and as we wandered camp looking for victims to stick google eyes to, this beautiful Icelandic woman found us and handed us a plate of warm peaches swimming in chocolate. We huddled together in the rain, delighting in this shared bowl of heaven.

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Leave Yourself Notes

Write notes to the future you. You know yourself better than anyone else. Say the words you love to hear and need to hear. Stash them in places you’ll find later, or on pages you know you’ll flip to. I still find notes I’ve written years ago and I’m encouraged every time.


Choose to Be Inspired

Whatever keeps you up at night, whatever makes you think, whatever gives you goose bumps…find a way to get more of that in your daily life.


Write your Future

I once met a stranger who told me not to introduce myself not as I am now, but who I dream of being in five years. Suddenly, my mind went wild scheming up potential futures. Ayo, I’m Adam, a Nat Geo photographer and Disney Imagineer. I live with my family in the woods and we’re all in a band. Now you try. It feels good, doesn’t it? It feels more like a reality than a dream when you speak it into existence.


Find Your Tiki Bar

Did you know the Enchanted Tiki Room was originally intended to be a dinner show? Think back to 1963, the first time robotics were a thing. Guests entered the Tiki Room, sat down for supper, and once the birds began to croon, no one touched their food. So the creators nixed dinner and made it a solo show. There is something about a Tiki Bar that does something to your soul. Perhaps it’s the craftsmanship in the hand carved tikis, the overgrown flowers hanging from the ceiling, or the rum in my Mai Tai, but I always leave feeling confident that anything is possible. Any idea can be a winner with the right team. Anything can happen in a tiki bar. Find yours.

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