Have you found your creativity is a bit absent lately? Or even like it upped and disappeared one night without telling you, take a big chunk of your confidence, a bucketful of your self esteem and a few of your favourite clothes, books and memories for good measure?
Whether you’re just starting to feel those first danger signs of creative block, or you’re stuck rooted in the midst of it, here are 23 effective ways to get you creating again.
1. Start something small. Trying to write a new novel in a weekend after not writing more than a couple of sentence in weeks is a short cut to frustration and disappointment. Set yourself small, manageable chunks of time, and simple, do-able creative projects. It’s far better to establish a regular creative habit of ten minutes a day every day, and build it gradually as your confidence and rhythm grows, rather than try to create for two hours a day and abandon the whole thing after three days.
2. Become an art buddy. Team up with someone to support their artwork and their creative life, and ask them to do the same in return. Much of our creative lives are spent in isolation, maybe even in complete secret in many cases, with only ourselves to motivate us. Get someone else on your team to be accountable to and you can boost your creativity many times over. Either ask a local friend (they don’t have to be into exactly the same creative media as you) or someone you know online that would be game. Just ask, you’ll be amazed how many people will be more than willing.
3. Let your eyes be your camera. You can do this with an actual camera, which works best, or just with your own two eyes. Take time to look around highly familiar places like where your live and where you work, and find the little details that you usually overlook. Go macro, get close enough to see the fibres of clothing and the dust particles on the shelves. This helps us realise how much potential inspiration is already around us, we just need to adjust the way we use our eyes and observe.
4. Scupper negative thinking. If you haven’t been creating much lately, it’s likely that your inner critic is having a field day and taunting you with all kinds of negative shout downs. The secret to not running away trembling in fear at every word it utters is to recognise the negative thoughts and comments as soon as they appear. Just noticing them instantly lessens their power. Even better, turn them around into a positive equivalent statements before they do much damage. The more you practice this, the more instinctive it becomes.
5. Gather up idea storms. I write an article every day, which is made so much easier by having a ongoing list of topics and ideas to expand. Every now and then I just storm a whole new batch of ideas, or article titles and write them down. The more you do this, the more you gather your ideas like this, the more easily and naturally they will flow to you without thinking. Then if you do get a little stuck, you have a list of good suggestions to fall back on. (For example, this post started as 7 tips, but rapidly snowballed as soon as I started storming ideas.)
6. Start an art group. Get some friends involved in a small project like each writing a story around a theme then compiling them to make a collection, or simply meeting up over lunch to share tips and experiences on creating. If you don’t have any willing offline friends, there are plenty of supportive creative communities online where you can start your own group, or join one that’s already up and thriving. There’s nothing quite like the power and support of a group of fellow creatives.
7. Identify your three favourite procrastination techniques. Procrastination affects ALL of us who create. The crucial first step to beating procrastination is to be completely honest with yourself about when you are doing it. List your top three favourite techniques, then focus on reducing just one of these as much as possible. As you notice one, the others will start to appear too, meaning that now they’re not lurking dangerously in the shadows anymore, they’re much easier to cut down.
8. Read something you’ve never read before. Try a magazine or blog on a topic you don’t know the first thing about. Just grab something at random from a newsagent’s shelf or search random words online. Just reading about different interests and subjects can’t help but give you a new perspective on the rest of your life. You might even stumble across a new interest that you come to love as much as your other favourite passions too, you’ve got nothing to lose.
9. Write out your creative dreams. If there were no limitations and no barriers what kind of creative life what you have? What different forms of creating would you engage in? What kind of equipment would you have, where would you create? Who else would be involved? How would you share your work with the world? Be bold and brave and write down everything you dare to dream about, then a few more things that are BEYOND your biggest dreams. Seeds will be planted, your creativity will set to work.
10. Try a new media you’ve always wanted to try. This can be as bold a leap or as gentle a step as you wish. At the very least, get some new materials for a form of creating you’ve never tried before but always wanted to. You can start very small and just experiment. Being a wide eyed enthusiastic beginner again, and enjoying that early progress and evolution, is a wonderful experience that will also make you appreciate how accomplished you are in your more regular art forms too.
11. Just sit and listen. Don’t try to think of anything, don’t try to not think of anything. Just use your ears and listen to every different sound you can hear around you. Once you focus on the detail around you, you’ll realise how much stimulation is around you all the time. The same is of course true for all of your other senses, so practice the same technique with each of those. You can’t help but be inspired.
12. Go to a playground and hang upside down on a climbing frame or swing. Seriously. Firstly, just by going to a playground, you’re telling yourself that play is ok, life doesn’t have to be all serious adult work. This is a good thing. Secondly, by being upside down you’ll have an instant shift in perspective that’ll feed your creatvity. If you’re not near a playground, climb a tree. Or stand on your head up against the wall in your own home. It’ll make you smile at the very least.
13. Get random inspiration from books. Go to a library or bookstore and go to a random shelf, pick a book as quickly as possible, one you like the colour of the spine of, then go to page 27 and point your finger in the centre of the page. What are the first three words you see? Do the same for two other books, then with the words you have, let your mind start to construct new ideas and stories. Write them down as they flow.
14. Invent a new language. If you’re feeling bold with this one, involve a few friends, and make up an alternative way of communicating between you without using any recognisable words. On your own trying compiling the beginnings of a new dictionary, with new words for familiar objects and actions. If you want to be really adventurous, start a whole new alphabet. Just by experimenting and reinventing like this, it’ll encourage you to be more creative in other areas, and question the way you do things without thinking.
15. Listen to music you’ve not heard before. Go to a library or record store, or go online and sample music in a genre that you’ve never even heard of, let alone heard music in. Try a few different tracks then maybe another genre or two. Let it open in your mind the possibilities of all that is new and undiscovered. There’s as much laying waiting to be revealed in your own mind. Let it influence you to be creative in new ways, think new thoughts, make new things.
16. Walk without destination. Just set off in any direction and focus not on where you’re going, but where you are. Hear the rhythm of your feet on the ground and the cadence of your breath. Feel the wind on your face and the sun’s warmth on your skin. Appreciate every step with all your senses. See, hear, absorb everything around you. Walk freely, wherever you wish too. Let the inspiration and ideas come. They will come.
17. Bake or cook something. Even if you don’t usually bake or cook. In fact especially if you don’t bake or cook! Find a simple recipe online and follow it as best you can. Take your time and enjoy the gathering of ingredients, preparing, mixing, cooking, then finally the eating. Even better, invite someone to eat with you. Cooking or baking involves every one of our five senses in a way that few other ways of creating can. Even if it doesn’t turn out like you expect, the experience will open your senses and your mind to new creative possibilities.
18. Box yourself in with boundaries. As creative people, instinctively we feel we need to be free from any limitations. But in fact often the dizzyness of complete creative freedom is totally overwhelming. By imposing a few boundaries (for example write a series of love stories, each of just fifty words), you automatically allow your creativity to become more inventive and work harder, than if you just said “write a story”. Experiment with different degrees of limitation and watch your creativity thrive with the challenge.
19. Remind yourself of past glories. Creativity doesn’t die within us, although sometimes it feels like rigor mortis is well and truly set in. Remind yourself how creative you have been in the past, which means you can and will be creative again. List your top five all time proudest creative moments, and let yourself relive the memories and bask in the glow of what you achieved once again. You did this before, and you will reach similar and greater heights again.
20. Go somewhere you’ve never been. It doesn’t have to be somewhere radical like the other side of the world, though go for it if you want to! Just going to a different town, a different park or woodland, and spending a little time absorbing all that’s around you can give you a great rush of new inspiration and ideas. Remember to note down the ideas that come to you before you return.
21. Join a new class. You could start with something you’ve always had a passing interest in, but never quite got around to trying. Or if you’re feeling really brave, pick something you know hardly anything about, just for the thrill of trying something utterly new to you. At the very minimum it’ll give you confidence and a fresh perspective on the rest of your life. It might lead to a great new passion. (For example, I tried salsa dancing on a whim a few years back, now I teach three classes a week. I never could’ve predicted that five years ago!)
22. Go back to what you know. What do you do that always inspires you, unblocks you, helps you flow? For me, walking and writing, often in that order in combination always helps me unlock stuff and get creating again. It doesn’t matter where you walk, or what you write, just engage in that action and stick with it, and something will come to fruition. Taking that physical action is the all important step.
23. Unplug, disconnect. Commit to giving up all electronic connections like computer, internet, tv, phone and so on, even if just for half a day. Go back to paper and pencil and just sketch and write, the way you could’ve done ten or 25 or 50 years ago. If you want to take this further, try an evening without electricity, where you return to simple activities like reading, writing or craft work by candlelight. Involve others and make it an regular adventure. Your creativity will blossom and thank you!
Pick one of these at a time, and give them a try.
Of course, as with any tips like these, they’re just suggestions as a starting point to get you creating.
Where you take them is entirely up to you, and you’re bound to come up with your own favourite and far more effective variations that work just for you.
Happy creating and let us know how you get on!
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