We all have those days where you just can’t seem to squeeze out an original idea. The creativity tap has run dry and no matter how hard you try to pump something out, nothing will come. You stare at the blank canvas, the blank Word document, the blank space before you, unable to think of how to fill it.
It’s on days like these you wish you could just have a bit more creativity to work with.
That’s why today I’m going to share with you 5 methods that will help you to tap into your inner creative powers. Because they are there. We just need to unlock them.
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1. Let go of perfect
I might sound like a broken record, but every day I realise more and more the negative impact perfectionism has on our lives. And 9 times out of 10, perfectionism is probably impacting on your creativity too.'In order to do something well we must first be willing to do it badly.' - Julia CameronClick To Tweet
Creativity, like any other skill, needs to be practised and developed. Along the way, mistakes will happen. You won’t get it right 100% of the time, and that’s okay. Nothing has to exist perfectly from the moment it is conceived. Rather, allow yourself to come up with and carry out lots of different ideas. Not all of them will be great, but there will still be great ones. Once you’ve generated all these ideas, you can easily pick the best ones to showcase and develop further.
Remember that perfectionism is the opposite of creativity. Perfectionism is rigid and unforgiving. Creativity is playful and experimental. Perfectionism says if you can’t get it right the first time, don’t bother trying at all. Creativity says it’s okay to make mistakes because they are excellent opportunities to learn. Which one are you going to embrace?
2. Don’t wait for inspiration
The notion of the struggling artist waiting for their elusive muse to grace them with a brief but fervent visit has come and gone. To be honest, the idea of artists waiting for inspiration to strike is old-fashioned.
What serious (read: passionate) creative people know is that the only way to get work done is to just work. Get up every morning and paint those brush strokes, write those words, choreograph those dance moves.
While I was doing Camp NaNoWriMo, I experienced a few days of “writer’s block”. When I reached out to the community for suggestions, the best advice I got was, “Just keep throwing words at the page until something sticks.” Talk about wisdom for the ages. A blurry mess on the canvas is far better than a completely blank one.
This isn’t to say that inspiration isn’t something that exists. It’s just that I don’t believe it comes from sitting around doing nothing. Inspiration will come when you immerse yourself in your craft, no matter how difficult that may seem at the time.
3. Take a break
That being said, however, don’t underestimate the power of taking a break from your latest project. Sometimes a change of scenery or working on a completely unrelated task will help to get the creativity flowing again.
Putting pressure on yourself is counterintuitive to the creative process. What I suggest is getting up from your desk, setting your alarm for an hour or two, and going to do something you really enjoy until that time is up. Remember, this break is completely guilt-free. You aren’t wasting time. In fact, taking a good-quality break may be more productive than just sitting at your workstation getting nothing done.
So what should you do in your time off? Here’s an idea:
4. Try (and learn) something new
As B.J. Neblett put it, “We are the sum total of our experiences.” Our experiences shape us and stretch us. They don’t need to be extreme occasions either. Simply taking a different route to the nearest shop counts as trying something new. There are ideas all around us, and all we need to do is tap into this wonderful stream by breaking out of our routine.
In the past six months alone, I have started a blog, begun scrapbooking, learnt to paint with watercolours, created YouTube videos and written the first draft for a novel. That’s not to mention everything I’ve needed to learn about social media marketing, photography and all those other wonderful things that come with the online business territory.
Has all of this made me a more creative person? I believe it has.
If you’re not sure where to start, I highly recommend Skillshare. It’s a great online learning platform, perfect for discovering new skills and learning how to master them. I never thought I was much of a visual artist until I took several watercolour painting classes. Now look where I am! (My apologies for tooting my own horn there, I just honestly believe that if I can do it, anyone can!).
You don’t have to learn something completely new every time though. Skillshare is also a great place to learn a thing or two about the craft you’re currently busy with. You might gain a new perspective, or get some ideas on how to move forward with your project.
Whatever you decide to do, always be open to trying new things and growing from your experiences. Time spent learning is never wasted.
5. Copy others
No, I’m not advocating plagiarism. But even Bach learned to compose by copying out the work of other composers. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but it’s also a great way to learn and to use as a starting point for coming up with your own ideas.
Simon van Booy talks about the importance of sketching as a part of the writer’s toolkit. But sketching doesn’t have to be restricted to writers and visual artists. The idea of a sketchbook is to practise and capture ideas, whether they’re your own or inspired by someone else. Composers often write out and keep sketches for their pieces. Some of the sketches are developed into the final piece, some are used at a later stage, and some are discarded completely.
Use your “sketchbook” to capture what you like in other creatives’ work. For example, I consider Garth Nix to be the king of similes (especially in his Old Kingdom series). So every time I find a particularly beautiful and effective simile, I copy it over into my writer’s sketchbook. This helps me to gain a deeper understanding of the writing as opposed to just reading the words. And then I attempt to create my own similes based off of the ones I’ve sketched. In the end, I’ve learned a valuable technique, and these sketches give me a starting point for my own writing.
As long as you don’t try to pass someone else’s work off as your own, there is no harm in copying others’ work for your own learning (if you intend to make your copies public, first check with the original artist whether this is okay, and be sure to credit them properly). As you continue, you will begin to think of ways to make the work your own, and by the end of it, you will likely have created something that looks absolutely nothing like the original. Such is the way of creativity.
I hope that these 5 methods will help you to be more creative going forward. Always remember to be gentle with yourself – I don’t think it’s been proved yet that stress and creativity are friends!
Do you have any other tips and tricks that have worked for you? What new things are you excited to try? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
As always, thank you for reading this post – I’ll see you in the next one!