10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Creativity
There are days we sit down and get to work translating the vision in our minds into something tangible, be it an important email, a proposal, or an event.
Other days we slog along and nothing gets done. We bang our heads against the table waiting for inspiration. The muse won’t do us the favour.
Though, as Steven Pressfield reminds us in The War of Art:
“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”
We can’t wait around for inspiration to strike. We have to do the work anyway. Here are 10 ways to get the creative juices flowing, no inspiration needed:
1 Practice having ideas and associated thoughts
Creativity is like a muscle. The more you use it the stronger it gets, and the more you can lift. Creativity is combining old ideas in new ways, so you can practice having ideas with anything.
Start making lists of ideas. Write down places to visit, books to write, interesting sounding jobs, things that would look horrible in green, even horrible shades of green (and there are many). See where some free association will get you.
Collect your best ideas on index cards. When you need a new one draw two index cards from the pile and mix.
2 Steal ideas from an unrelated field
Stealing is bad. You’re not allowed to just copy what others are doing. Embarrassingly, you probably wouldn’t do it as well as they’ve had more practice. Then again why would you want to anyway? Straight copying is boring. Looking at something that seems completely unrelated and creatively seeing how that applies to you and what you do, however, that’s different.
Say you are working on workshop you want to present, what if for a moment you pretended to be an astrophysicist studying the stars. Imagine how you would approach their questions and see if you can apply the same approach to your workshop as well.
3 Talk to a friend
You don’t have to do it alone. Sometimes explaining to someone where you are at and how you are struggling is enough to figure out the next step to take. Sometimes talking about something lets you know what you really think of it. Pick up your phone. Better yet, meet at a café, or take a walk in the park. And on that topic…
4 Take a walk, or do the dishes
Funny thing about walking, it gets you going. Part of that is that the motion gets the ideas moving too. Keep your phone handy to record notes as you walk. Doing the dishes, or any other repetitive and simple activity that frees the mind to wander, can also stimulate the though process.
5 Dance it out
Scientists are known for being dry and factual and yet, every year there is a Science Dance Off, where scientist describe their projects in interpretive dance. What if instead of writing your blogpost you set out to dance it?
Or if dancing is not your thing, how about you paint your business plan, or even just get out paper and pen to handwrite. Working in a different way lets our brain look at a problem in a new way, and when you’re stuck, that’s always good.
6 Rephrase the question
Remember how our teachers used to tell us to say things in our own words? This is kind of like that. When you rephrase the question, or problem, you are taking on a new perspective and sometimes that makes all the difference.
7 Change your place, change your luck
Speaking of changing perspectives; there’s an old jewish saying that changing your place changes your luck. Why not give it a go?
Experiment and see what happens when you sit on the floor, or stand on your chair to work, or maybe go outside, down the road, turn left and sit at your favorite cafe with your favorite beverage and just the smallest, tiniest little piece of cake. Just a bite really. Friands are very tasty.
8 Write a shitty first draft
Nothing kills our creative flow like the internal pressure to produce something perfect from the first key stroke. If what I wrote down when I started this post were preserved in perpetuity, I’d definitely never touch a keyboard again.
Between spelling and run-on sentences, it was quite a mess. It’s much better now. No, it is. No. Really. IT IS! And you know what? I got something onto the page. Editing is far easier than original writing. Ernest Hemingway said the first draft of anything is shit, so getting the bad stuff down and out of the way is just part of the process. Next time you stare at a blank page, challenge yourself to write the worst possible first draft. You get extra points for every spelling mistake and every unnecessary adjective.
9 Talk to your creative blocks
Having a creative block sucks, but have you considered asking it why it is there? You can imagine it as a creature with a voice blocking your way. Ask what it wants. Listen. Often our creative blocks have overblown expectations of our perfection. Learn about what they are. Then allow them to dissipate. Your creative blocks mean well, but generally they don’t understand that safety and success are not mutually exclusive.
10 Take a nap
If nothing else helps, a nap is a surefire way to renewed energy and changed perspective. When we stop holding on to our shoulds and musts so tightly, as we do when we sleep, our unconscious has time to noodle the project and sort itself, so you can get up and directly to work.
What are your favourite ways to get into a creative flow? Let us know on twitter.
Photo by Khara Woods