This article has been contributed by Matt Shealy.
Any designer or person who has a creative side hits a roadblock every now and then. When you are trying to constantly pursue the next great creative thing, you will stumble. It is what you do to get over that hump, to take your creativity to the next level, that matters most. It is not your fault that your creativity is starting to run low. It may be that you need to recharge your batteries and do so in a unique way to get things rolling again.
We have all gone through situations where the creative ideas were not flowing in the way we want them to. This happens to even the most creative folks on Earth. This is why it is important to have a list of tasks to fall back on, to try and spark that creativity to get it going again. We have put together a list of things that you can try to push creativity forward.
1. Expand Your Horizons
It is very easy to have a creative side that follows a specific theme. Someone who is great at painting visuals of nature may have a lot of creativity to come up with nature scenes, and then map them out on a canvas with ease and perfection. When you start to run out of creative juices in that space, though, what does that painter have to fall back on to get things going again?
You need to expand your creative horizons so that you have new experiences, new things that your brain gets exposure to. What may seem like a complete disconnection with an idea and what you usually do creatively could be the exact thing that gets you over the hump.
As a creative person, you need to take on new hobbies. Instead of painting nature, try to paint something more fictional, like a cartoon character, and see what you come up with. You can even draw creativity by paying attention to things like history, nature and politics. When you open up to new things in the world it is then you can gain creativity from them.
2. Record All Your Ideas on a Notepad
You likely get a series of ideas that run through your head during the day. All these little thoughts could be funny, serious, scary, etc. The trick with these thoughts is that you may think of them and then forget they existed a few minutes later. How do you record all these thoughts which you could then take and turn into great creative ideas? The way you do this is to try and record them as they are happening.
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You want to carry around a notepad with you at all times. If that does not work for you, things such as a voice recorder, notes on your smartphone – anything to record your thoughts – is all you need. You will figure out what will work best for you and your lifestyle the more you try it.
When you record those ideas, you will get that initial creative idea out of your head, and recorded, so that you can then move on and try and explore it further later. You also move the idea out of your head to make space for the next creative thought to flow in.
3. Work Off the Ideas You Record
You want to set time each day to take a look at all the ideas you record. This should be a time that you block out on a daily basis for an hour or more. The idea here is to review everything you record throughout the day.
The review of the ideas needs to be something you take seriously, that you dedicate time to. Blocking out one hour is usually going to be ample to help you accomplish a few key tasks in the process.
The first thing you will be able to do is pick out the ideas that are good ideas. These are the ideas you will want to explore more, to try and blow out in further detail. The good ideas will spark further creativity to let you drive forward growth.
The other thing you may realize is that some of the ideas are not great, they’re bad. These are the ideas you will want to throw away. If you read the creative idea back and think it is junk, chances are it is and you can move on. The fact that you record good and bad ideas is great though, as it helps you pick things out.
4. Find Connections in Your Thoughts
The other big opportunity here with recording your ideas is that you can find connections in your thoughts. You may have a good idea and one that you bucket as bad, but the two of them together actually formulate a fantastic creative theme to work off. The ideas with connections mean that you are trying to put together a whole creative picture in your mind. Take these new connections and see where they lead, building on the initial ideas and merging them together.
Patterns in what you are thinking can lead you down pathways you did not think of initially. These patterns are like following directions in your car without knowing the destination. You are going from one street to the next, with the goal not yet known. The further you get through the pathway, following those directions, the clearer the endpoint or goal becomes.
5. Use Sleep to Your Advantage
When you are struggling from a creative perspective, it can be easy to want to stay up all night and try and get an idea going. You may stay up, drinking coffee, trying to cram creative juices out of your head. The truth is that some of the best ideas may come to you while you are asleep.
When you are sleeping, you never know where your brain is going to take you. Your mind can take over in a deep sleep and lead to dreaming which can allow you to record and build towards that next creative idea. Allowing your body to have this time can actually let you get naturally creative, without trying.
The other big win when it comes to sleeping is that your body gets the rest it needs. If you want to diversify, try new hobbies, do things to help your creativity, you need the energy to do so. Having adequate energy is all about getting your rest from one night to the next. It needs to be a pattern of sleep where your body shuts down nightly, rests, recovers and is ready for the next day ahead to explore new ideas and thoughts.
There’s an old idea in America that the more you work the more successful you will become. This isn’t necessarily true. While hard work is strongly correlated with success, you don’t have to work crazy hours to crush it in your work life. Keeping a strong balance between working and rest shows the most efficiency in performance and health.
In fact, a study was conducted of 2,800 people who worked 40 to 60 hours a week to determine what the optimal workload is for best results. Those that worked 50-59 hours a week made the most money while still leaving enough downtime to recharge their creative juices.
6. Change Up What You Do Daily
It is easy to fall into habits. You may do certain things every single day. This could be something as simple as what you do when you get out of bed in the morning, what you do at lunch before you go to sleep. It could even be the store you go to to buy groceries. These are all habits and things that we do from one day to the next.
We may not even realize we have these habits but this type of repetitive action can lead to boredom and lack of creativity. You want to change up what you are doing on a daily basis. Instead of having coffee in the morning from your coffee pot, go out to buy a cup of coffee. If you usually have tacos on Tuesdays because that is what you do, try a new recipe. Anything that can break the mold or the habit of what you do from one day to the next can help to expose your brain to new things, sparking you to be creative once again.
7. Go On a Creative Retreat
You may hear stories all the time about musicians who spend time together to write songs. They may spend a weekend at a hotel, where they all hang out and write music, one song after another. There is something to hanging out with folks that are as creative as you. It is not something that is exclusive to music either. You can do this as an artist, a writer, dancer, or any other creative profession.
Even the most popular artists will work with other folks who are creative. You can gain a lot by being around creative minds. You may have a creative idea, but only know how to start it. The other creative person in the room may be able to feed off your idea, your energy, and help to take the creative idea to the next logical step. When you have multiple creative folks together, it is this collaboration and energy which benefits all.
8. Study the History of Your Passion
History can teach you a lot about what got you here with your passion. Say you are a musician who has a passion for the guitar. Where did the guitar come from originally and how has it been put to use over the decades? Which musicians made the guitar most famous and why? It is this type of soul searching and history gathering that can lead you to better appreciate the craft you pursue, the passion.
The more that you know about what shape your passion and what made it where it is today, the more you can rely on that to exploit it and push forward your perception of it. When you have a firmer understanding of your passion, you can carry forward where it originates, the tradition of it, as a foundation for where you can bring it next.
9. Never Stop Practicing
It goes without saying, but you can never stop practicing, even when creativity begins to falter. If you are not feeling your creative side, practice anyway – whether it is playing music, painting, acting or writing. The more you practice what you know best, the quicker you will be able to spark your brain to pluck out an idea.
It is the repetition of practice that lets you master the craft so your brain can work less on the execution, and work harder on the creative side of the house which is what leads to the great thoughts.
10. Embrace the Fact That There is No Bad Advice
You need to embrace the fact that there is no bad advice when it comes to challenging lapses in your creativity. You need to have an open mind to the possibility that you may need to try something new, to hear someone out, try a task you have not done before.
You may be quick to ignore someone that tries to give you advice to spark your creativity. You may even be reading this article and think it is complete junk. Instead, try being open to it. When you are open to any and all advice, it is then that you can diversify and expand to find something new to help your creative side.
To stay creative, you need to constantly challenge everything that you do. The list above contains some ideas for how you can stay creative, no matter the circumstances. The truth is that some of these things will work for folks, while some will not. To find your gems, your go-to tasks, you need to try them all.
A creative individual or designer is someone that is not afraid to take a chance, to get outside of their comfort zone. To understand what makes you creative is a path that you will take only when you are ready. When you want to push your creative juices to new limits, that is when you take this list and try and explore the possibilities. Figure out what is going to work from you, where you draw inspiration from, and then work towards taking it a step further every day.
About the author: Matt Shealy is the President of ChamberofCommerce.com. Chamber specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.