One of my favorite parts of being creative is the blank canvas, the endless possibilities that are available right before I start a project. It’s exciting, almost magical, but it can also be pretty intimidating.
Some people create on a schedule, at the same time every day, saying that if the muse comes looking for you, she better find you working. Others create whenever they feel inspired, saying that their best work comes once the muse is already there.
I’ve often found that it’s best to give your creativity a little nudge, to push your limits when you find yourself against a wall.
No matter if you’re painting, drawing, writing music, writing website copy or blogs, here are 7 ideas that I’ve found to be very helpful in stimulating my creative side and unleashing all of the ideas that are inside my head…somewhere.
1. Keep A Journal
It can be a file on your computer, a notebook, or whatever makes you feel comfortable. By keeping a journal and writing down the small ideas you get throughout the day, you’ll find that more ideas keep coming and you’re better able to hold on the old ones. It’s a way to let your creative side know that you’re listening, and it also allows your mind to let go of ideas you already had and focus on creating new ones, instead of trying to hold on to the old ones until the next time you have time to develop them.
WHILE I’M A BIG FAN OF THE OLD PEN AND PENCIL AND LOVE THE ROMANTIC NOTION OF KEEPING A JOURNAL OR A SKETCH BOOK LIKE I DID BACK IN ART SCHOOL, IT’S JUST NOT ALWAYS PRACTICAL FOR ME.
I don’t keep a physical journal, but I do use both the Reminders and the Notes Apps on my phone to record ideas as soon as they pop into my head. Then, I can revisit and develop them when I have time. I usually just use Siri and say, “Remind me about creative juices” or whatever the thought is that I just had. Sometimes, if I have a lot to say, I’ll use the voice feature with the Notes app to speak out a draft of a blog post, website copy or whatever else I’m working on.
I move fast, I’m always running around at warp speeds and my phone is the only thing that can keep up with me and allow me to record my ideas before I forget them.
2. Get Your Body Moving
We’ve all heard about the wonderful effects a little exercise can have on our bodies, the way the our blood can flow better and get oxygen into our brains. I’ve found that besides the healthy side of getting 30 minutes of daily exercise into my schedule, it gives me more energy and keeps my brain alert so I can be more creative and more productive. I know it sounds like the opposite, exercise is supposed to make you tired, but if you manage to get a little bit of exercise into your schedule and make a routine out of it, you will find that it boosts your energy, and gives you a different perspective throughout the day. That might be the little push that you need to cross the barrier and get in contact with your muse!
If you’re someone who doesn’t like to exercise for the sake of exercise (like me) then try to find a way something that you love to do or something that may have the potential to spark your creativity while creating a stronger mind and body at the same time.
3. Take A Social Media Break
Social media is full of information that we’re supposed to process very quickly. It’s meant to give us as much information in as little time as possible. I’ve often felt that my mind is cluttered with other people’s ideas, and I have a hard time feeling like I have the capacity to generate anything new.
Turning off Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms can help us internalize the information we already have, give it time to process it and turn it into new original thoughts! I know it’s hard, trust me, but you can do it!
GIVE YOURSELF SOME TIME TO STEW IN YOUR OWN THOUGHTS AND YOU JUST MIGHT BE SURPRISED AT WHAT YOU DISCOVER!
4. Try Stream of Consciousness Writing
This is an exercise I started doing in high school and recently rediscovered. It’s pretty interesting to see where your mind takes when you just let it flow, but you have to turn off the judge inside your mind. I know how hard that can be, but give it a try!
Grab a notebook and set a timer. I recommend at least 5 minutes, maximum 10. Choose an object, a person, a word, anything you want to focus on, and write everything you can think that is related to your topic. If you get stuck, try using your senses.
WHAT WOULD IT TASTE LIKE IF YOU COULD EAT IT? DOES IT SMELL? WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU COOKED IT?
Write anything you can think of, even if it doesn’t make much sense!
The point is to get as much out as possible before the time runs out. Then stop, even if you are halfway through a great idea. This might be frustrating at first, but in the long run it will help you get to the good ideas faster so you can get them out in the time you set!
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
Have you heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule? It says that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice in order to master something. That includes creativity and art, every talent takes time to develop. It is just like a sport, it takes practice to get better. The good news is that for most people who love creating, it’s a passion so racking up 10,000 hours may not be that hard. Find a time that will work for your schedule and plan it until it becomes a routine.
I PROMISE, YOU’LL START TO SEE THE PROGRESS VERY QUICKLY!
6. Play Brain Games
Have you ever had a problem where all you needed to find the solution is to look at things from a different perspective? Puzzles and brain games are a great to train your brain to find new solutions when you hit a wall in your creative path. They help stimulate the brain and make it easier to find new approaches, which is exactly what you need to keep your creative juices flowing! Next time you’re feeling stuck in your project, give it a shot. They’re also a great way to distract yourself and have a little fun when you feel stuck or burned out.
I’m a HUGE fan of games, I think I have a competitive streak that runs in my family. I like to make everything into a game and then see if I can “win”. So, brain games are really fun for me.
I’VE PUT TOGETHER SOME OF MY FAVORITE EXERCISES INTO A WORKSHEET THAT YOU CAN USE TO STIMULATE YOUR CREATIVITY AND MAKE SOME CONNECTIONS YOU MAKE NOT OTHERWISE MAKE. YOU CAN CHECK IT OUT HERE.
There will always be obstacles along the way, distractions that steal your focus or engagements that take away your time to create. Something will always happen, so the sooner you accept that, the faster you can find a way around it. Remember your passion and give it the time it deserves. If something is blocking the road, get it out of the way! Just keep moving even if the steps you are taking seem tiny. Constant movement is the secret of going anywhere.
Take the challenges with a positive mindset, know that you can beat them and keep moving forward.
All you have to do is keep creating!
PS: What inspires you? How do you get your brain moving when you feel stuck?
Originally published at medium.com