Ideas for your routine to spark creativity
Everyone gets stuck once in awhile. Don't stare at your screen in frustration, try to shake up your neurochemistry and encourage novel connections...
Creativity can strike seemingly at random. Sometimes, we find an overabundance of it. Other times, we can go for days, weeks, even months stuck on a bigger project such as an album, movie, book etc, unable to make progress. But with luck or at least a genuine attempt, you can help give your brain a nudge in the right direction.
I don’t have a secret weapon to spark creativity for you (or myself). But having completed countless work projects and in free time written 10 original albums, 1000s of blog posts, 200K+ tweets, etc over the last 15 years or so, I believe I am reasonably productive both at work and on my passion projects which all involve creativity in some form or another. So today to perhaps help you, I jotted down a list of 10 things that have helped me get “unstuck.”
We’re all different so this isn’t a formula or a tiered list, just some of the things I’ve tried that worked. Of course, some days nothing helps (and that’s okay). We’re human not machines. In those cases, work on process-oriented stuff that needs to be done but doesn’t require creative brainpower. No shame in that. Anyway, hope you find some of these useful (again, in no particular order).
1) Exercise – Get up from your computer, music studio, art easel, whatever your craft and have a jog or a swim…this is a fantastic way to clear your mind. Get away from traffic, go to the beach, the park or some type of green space and connect a bit with natural surroundings. Your personal studio may be a creative space (although some prefer them stark) but undoubtedly some time in natural surroundings, especially stretching your muscles is a wonderful way to clear your mind. In removing excess energy, you will in turn remove excess baggage from your mind. The mind always follows the body. There’s plenty of science that supports this one.
2) Hit up the local coffee shop – Get a double espresso, but don’t just head right back to work. Stick around for a bit and interact with some of the people hanging around. I’m just as guilty as you are at ignoring the world and spending weekends in a row for months at a time locked away in the studio experimenting with sounds, in my home office researching investments, or late days at the (now home) office finishing analysis work I can’t put down. But even if you plan to work for a whole weekend, when you’re going to get your coffee at least put aside 15-20 minutes to interact with other people, then return to your work. The right people are extremely inspirational. Starbucks is fine to grab your coffee and go, but try to find a quirky/local place to get good conversation (and support an SMB!).
3) Try a new genre of music to listen to while working – If you’re way into industrial rock and listen to it 24/7, undoubtedly your going to end up following a bit of a stylistic pattern and formula with your music. But you may be pleasantly surprised by what’s out there. Seek out an artist who is not the obvious choice in a genre you don’t normally listen to. You may pick up on stylistic cues which you never thought of incorporating into your work of any variety (music is infectious to all that we do), and a unique crossover sound may emerge in your mind. You could even fall in love with something you never new you enjoyed. As my artistic mentors taught me, unlikely or novel creative can yield the most inspired results - and that involves leaving your comfort zone This is true with any form of creative work.
4) Seek out a mentor … or an apprentice – If you’re just delving into a new creative area and are hitting roadblocks or barriers, a mentor is the best thing to move you forward. I’m a huge fan of the master/apprentice relationship, and believe it is worthwhile for both sides. If you’re an apprentice, you’re getting the obvious benefit of working with someone who has years of experience. If you’re the master, working with a bright-eyed aspiring artist will prove a breath of fresh air for you, and you will not only be giving something back to your art form but your apprentice may one day come back to truly inspire you. I have worked to assist two aspiring artists and I believe both of them are already far greater than I will ever be. All they needed was a bit of a push with the technical side of things and then their creativity has soared. It is as rewarding of an experience as making art itself.
5) Add something new to your repertoire – If you’re a music producer, try out a new synth. If you’re a visual artist, check out some new adobe plug-ins. If you’re a writer and stuck on a desktop, splurge on that new ultra-portable laptop so you can work anywhere. These are all just fun ways of mixing things up and perhaps stirring up new creative juices. Sometimes you’ve been working with the same tools so long you may have tapped them completely…at least for new ideas. I’m not saying give up your favorite tools, but sometimes adding something small, but new will spark your creativity in a whole new direction altogether.
6) Share your work with someone new – Let someone new experience your work. Just one person – don’t create a new marketing campaign for yourself, actually seek out one of your friends or acquaintances who you have never personally shared your art with and ask them if they would like to see or hear or even taste (if you’re a culinary artist) something new you have created (or perhaps something old). Get their feedback. You may find that they the most unlikely person is moved by your work and turns into a big supporter for you – perhaps even inspiring you to something new. Take an interest in their art or interest as well.
7) If you’re a musician read, if you’re a writer listen to music, if you’re an purely quantitative analyst spend some time on qualitative work – Experience an area completely outside of your specific craft. When I’m not making music, I personally find sociological studies, historic literature, (reading about your craft is acceptable) and philosophy infinitely compelling – but it doesn’t matter really – just read something that moves you. The style you read may subconsciously influence your creativity in music. Alternatively, if you’re a writer or a painter, listen to music. Try something without vocals as to not direct your thoughts in any specific direction, but direct your emotions which in turn will provoke your own, original, unique thoughts.
8) Break your routine – This is an easy one. Take a weekend off from your art, or a week or two off from your day job – but don’t do what you normally would do in your free time. Try going to the local planetarium for a laser-light show, or visit the botanical gardens near you. If you can, get away for a weekend from your house and visit a friend you haven’t seen – somewhere far enough that it’s at least a 2 hour drive or plane-flight. The drive in itself may prove inspirational (I find long car-trips to be a fantastic time for introspection). Whatever your journey, you should come back with a fresh perspective.
9) Go to a live show, art gallery, etc. – Seeing art come alive in action at a concert or taking the time to visit someone’s gallery is not only a fun and wonderful way to only inspire your own creativity, but it also inspire theirs. Artists of all types should support each other, and it is reciprocal for us all to work to encourage each other. These are also the best places to find like-minded individuals and artists and really connect with them. Generally, you’ll come back from any social gathering of artists and have more ideas to work with in-studio than you know what to do with – which is never a problem.
10) Find a new hobby/passion – I’m well aware of the importance of keeping your focus on your specific craft, but the benefits of having another form of art to nurture as well may surprise you. I find writing words and music to be mutually enjoyable and have engaged in both practices for years. I even find the two inspire each other. I do find that many of my peers in audio production are fantastic visual artists as well. I could never draw, but I find that those friends of mine seem to get a wonderful synergy out of their visual works. Many creative souls easily find a niche within more than one form of expression without spreading themselves too thin. Also, interesting results always happen at the intersection.
Let’s hear what works for you, this is of course just a super brief, unscientific list off the top of my head.