Lesson #1 may sound counter-intuitive. With most things in life, the harder you try, the better you do. But, there are exceptions. Ever TRIED really really hard to fall asleep? You can't force it - you just have to let sleep happen. Creativity is not dissimilar.
Creative ideas are there in your head. They just need to surface. But, sometimes they surface on their own schedule. In fact, and here is the counter-intuitive part, sometimes your creativity is heightened when you are totally disconnected from your need to be creative.
This is not just my opinion. There have been studies proving that ideas often flow best when people are engaged in non-creative activities.
One research project done in Australia divided 90 psychology students into three groups and asked each group to come up with as many ideas as possible (called an alternative uses test) for a piece of paper. The number of original ideas was a measure of divergent thinking (important to creativity).
The first group worked straight on the task for four minutes. The second group was interrupted after two minutes - given another task that required creative thinking - and then another two minutes back on the sheet of paper challenge. The third group was interrupted after two minutes - given another task that did not require creative thinking - and then two more minutes on the sheet of paper challenge.
Who had the most creative ideas? Group three!
The conclusion from this study (and many others) is that freeing your mind from THE NEED TO BE CREATIVE can sometimes produce a heightened creative state. You may be taking a shower, worried about which shampoo to use - and then BAM - out of nowhere, a solution to a creative roadblock.
The point is that you CANNOT always force creative thinking. Create a good environment for creative thought - a routine when you need to be productive and a spot free of distractions - BUT sometimes you need to let your mind roam to unrelated thoughts and activities - AND you may be surprised by what creative thoughts surface.