How to Give Your Creativity a Jumpstart
How to Climb out of a Creative Rut
There's nothing worse than finally having time to write, or paint or do whatever your creative passion is, only to find that once you sit down it's as if the creative part of your brain has gone into hiding. Instead you're thinking about what to cook for dinner, or if the kids are having a good day at school, or whether you should just give up trying to be creative at all.
Here are a few ideas I find helpful to use when I'm in a creative writing rut.
Get Out of the House
If you're sitting there, completely void of inspiration, it's time to grab your keys and leave the house.
Head to an area that's unfamiliar to you and soak up the sights and sounds. Look at your surroundings through the eyes of a tourist. Sharpen your powers of observation, whether it's in the way the man sitting on the park bench is craning his neck to gaze down the path (Who is he waiting for? What could the story be?), or how the light creates patterns on the footpath.
Speculate on 'what if?' scenarios. What is night falls and the man is still there, waiting. Or how would this scene look at night time?
What smells are there? What colours? This is all creative fodder for you to take back home with you. Capture it by taking photos and video, and jotting down notes.
Exercise is a proven method to clear the mind and boost blood flow to the brain. Go for a bike ride, or a walk or jog. Take some time to stop and rest and observe (see paragraph above) before you head home. On the way home, think about what you're going to write/draw/make as soon as you get inside.
Soak up Some Culture
Something happens to me whenever I step into libraries, universities, writers' centres, good bookstores, museums and art galleries. It's as if I can feel the collective intellectual buzz going on and it reminds me that there is no right or wrong way to approach something; all that matters is that it is unique and honest. Seeing works created by people who weren't afraid to push boundaries and take risks always makes me feel a little braver creatively myself.
Sometimes a new gadget can be inspiring. If you're an artist, treat yourself to some new paints or pencils.
If you're a writer, a new writing app might inspire you. I love Scrivener for my Mac, but there are dozens of other writing applications. I like "A Novel Idea" for the iPad. It has the advantage of a passcode lock, so you can keep your writing away from snoops!
Get a Creativity Boost from Your Computer
Kids down for a nap and you can't get out of the house? Or is your creative time at night when the rest of the world is asleep? If you can't get out of the house to get ideas, there's no need for despair. There's a world of inspiration waiting inside your computer.
I love webcams that transport me to other places in the world (anyone seen the Bali Elephant tour webcam?).
I also use the Real Estate sections of online newspapers. Have a look at the interior of a brownstone for sale on the Upper West Side and imagine who might live there.
Or read the news from around the world. Look for the smaller, quirky stories and imagine what that situation would be like as as piece of fiction.
Use the 'Street View' function of Google Maps and take a virtual look around a far away place.
If you're an artist, there are dozens of iPad apps that display famous artworks from all over the world. Have a look at them to get some ideas for your own artwork.
Look at Etsy.com and see what crafty and creative types are making and selling, or look at Instagram and see what pictures people are posting from around the world. Sign up to Pinterest and see what people are posting on that.
Try Something New
Sometimes if you're in a creative rut, it helps to do something that is creative but different. If you're struggling to write, try sketching instead. Can't think of what to paint? Write a journal entry. Sometimes stretching your creative muscles in a different direction is just what you need.
Get a Jump Start from Someone Else
A creative writing exercise that can be very helpful is to pull out a book or short story and type the first couple of sentences. Use this as the starting block for your own piece of work. After it takes shape, of course you need to go back and re-write the first couple of borrowed sentences!
Shake up Your Routine
It can be hard to feel creative when you are always following the same routine. Do something different, whether it's getting up really early in the morning, or staying up when the rest of the house is quiet. Take a different route home from work, or sit outside to work, or use a different room of the house. Deviating from your normal patterns can be very stimulating.
Be Inspired by Your Past
Going through mementoes from the past can be brilliant for stimulating creativity. Old maps, theatre tickets, photos of people and places you've forgotten all work to stimulate long buried memories and sensations.
If you have an old journal, flick through that to see what you can work with. Find old letters and cards and recreate the feelings you had for the person you received it from. Write a story beginning from that person's point of view. It's amazing how stirring up memories can kindle the imagination.
After All, Great Art is a Matter of Opinion
Don't be Afraid to Fail
Fear of failure is the roadblock that keeps many people from attempting creativity at all. There is actually no failure when it comes to being creative. There is no work that you can't change or redo, and there is really no right or wrong. Each time you are taking on a creative project you are learning something and improving on something.
Remember when you were a child and you could draw or paint or mould and write stories without all the baggage we drag around now? Remember how fun and instinctive it was? That's what we need to get back to. We need to stop feeling that unless we're producing something that is going to be commercially successful that we're wasting our time.
Our subconscious can be our creativity's worst enemy. 'You're wasting your time,' it hints. 'No one will want to read something you've written.' 'You could be making the beds instead.' Learning to ignore these voices and just enjoying the process of creating is very important. Answer back with a 'So what?' and keep going.
Besides, what makes art great is highly subjective.
Anyone seen John McCracken's planks in some of the best museums in the world?
Creativity Boosting Book
Show up and Demand Your Creativity Does the Same
One tip I always read in books and articles written by successful writers: Show Up! In other words, sit down and try and write/draw every day, or at least as often as possible. A surefire way to getting your creativity to show up is to demand it to, day after day. There will be days when you haven't done your best work, but at least you're reminding your brain of how to be creative.