You don't have to put on a painter's smock or take a poetry workshop to encourage your brain to think in new ways. Actually, you can cultivate your imagination by taking just five minutes every day. "Creativity is like learning a language," says David Usher, author of Let the Elephants Run: Unlock Your Creativity and Change Everything. "The more you practice, the better you get." When slipping into this headspace becomes a habit—even if you just enjoy your morning coffee and people-watch in a different café—your mind limbers up. "You know when you're looking for a new house and all you see are FOR SALE signs everywhere?" Usher says. We notice the things that occupy our thoughts. Honing your creative side encourages you to follow your curiosity and make novel connections between your interests and your surroundings. "It opens your mind to different views of the world," he says. "That in itself is life-changing."

We asked some of our favorite creative thinkers to share strategies that get their brains going, and then made it fun to give their tips a whirl. Cut out, fold and play our "fortune-teller"—just like the ones you used to make in school—for an instant inspiration boost.

To Play: Hold game closed. Pick a number from 1 to 10. Open and close game in alternating directions that number of times. Pick another number and repeat. Pick a final number from one of the game's flaps, unfold it and follow the prompt.

1. Let Something Go
Set a deadline a week from today to forget a minor slight, hurt feelings, or other nonproductive recurring thoughts. It will help you focus on things that matter instead of things you can't change. —Erin McKean, CEO of

2. Perk Up Your Day
Jot one word on your coffee cup that describes the day you want to have. Seeing a positive affirmation with every sip gets your creative mind working. Maya Penn, 15-year-old eco-designer and animator

3. Handwrite A Letter
The hand is connected to the heart and the head. It's a way to communicate what you're feeling most urgently, just to one soul. It loosens you up. —Darcey Steinke, author of Sister Golden Hair

4. Draw Your Lucky Things
Luck is about feeling, not thinking. Doodling what brings you luck helps you feel your way toward your next move. —Kate Neckel, illustrator and author of Start Now! The Creativity Journal

5. Go Upside Down
Lie on your bed and hang your head over the edge. Changing your point of view changes everything. —Seanna Sharpe, aerialist and Katana Flight School founder

6. Play The Letter Game
Ask someone for a string of letters. Then come up with a sentence using words that begin with them (KXSTMC could be "Kick Xavier's shins till Mommy comes"). Outside input sends your creativity in a direction it might not go on its own, and trying to impress someone else raises the stakes. —Dion Flynn, comic and writer,

7. Create A Collage
Start a timer. Take ten minutes to collect random images—from old magazines, the junk mail pile—and then 20 minutes to cut them out and paste them on paper. The time limit allows you to make fast connections between things. This isn't about creating a pretty, perfect work of art; it's about noticing the beauty in your world. Amanda Palmer, singer and writer

8. Take Apart Your Toaster
Next time you're ready to toss a kitchen appliance, dismantle it first. Taking a thing apart without instructions gives you a better sense of how the world is put together. Heather Knight, engineer and social roboticist


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