How do you, as a creative, stay creatively inspired?
If you are like me, then you have most likely experienced a time in your career where you are feeling tired, uninspired, or are facing a creative block. Maybe you are burnt out from overwork and you are no longer as passionate about what you are creating as you were in the beginning. Perhaps you are feeling paralyzed by comparison, thinking that everyone else has wonderful ideas and that it is holding you back from coming up with something unique. Or it could be you are just plain bored with the same old same old.
Whatever the reason, I think that it is safe to say that most of us as creatives can relate to one or more of these feelings.
These tips are nothing new - and probably nothing that you have not heard before from someone else, but perhaps a little reminder is a good thing. So here are 15 ideas to spark creativity and help you find inspiration in a new way.
You may have read my last post about my favorite new podcast, The Creative Well, and noticed that episode No.2 was called “How to Stay Sharp and Inspired”. I had actually had this post outlined before the episode aired and after listening, I felt that there was enough difference in what Katie shared and this list that it was worth sharing!
She talks more about how to actually put creative inspiration into your life on a daily, weekly, and monthly/seasonal basis as well as about the science of creativity, so definitely listen to what Katie has to share!
This is just is just a quick list of several ways that you can spark creativity when find yourself needing to.
Really, who isn’t inspired by nature? I know that nature, and specifically trees, leaves, and cloudy skies, are a constant source of inspiration. The colors, the movement, the textures, even the sound as they are rustled by the wind stirs something in me that I cannot quite explain. I also love that they are always changing, so the inspiration is always new.
Besides the visual stimulation, being out in the fresh air and getting your body moving a bit is so good. Most of us spend a great deal of our time at a computer and it is important to break that up a little. Even a 5-10 minute walk outside can refresh your outlook and help you to clear your head.
Take a break
While it is good to take a small break during the day, it is also so important to give ourselves time to rest and to not be creating. Whether it is one afternoon a week, one day a month, or a few weeks each year, it is necessary for us to have time to recharge and to step away from what we regularly create to give us room to breathe and to recharge. Of course this will look different for each person and in each season, but I encourage you to plan down time when you can be still and step away from your craft. I know that when I do this, I am usually excited to start up again - even if it is only a short time away.
Create for creations sake
When your livelihood is tied to what you create, you may all too soon find yourself merely going through the motions - or worse, dreading or resenting the thing that used to bring you joy as it becomes work. When we create for our careers, we are most often creating for others, fulfilling their vision on their timeline. Of course we have some say, but ultimately, you are working for your clients.
There are so many reasons why it is vital that you make time to create for creations sake. This is the time that we are able to try a new concept or technique, use a color palette that we have been wanting to use, to just be free and give in to creating - for no reason, other than just to create. This may be as part of a collaboration with other creatives, for your portfolio, or to be kept to yourself, but it is important to let yourself explore without the pressure or direction of a client.
Collaborate with other creatives, in person
There is a saying that creativity breeds creativity and I wholeheartedly believe that. There is a creative energy that can spring to life when we as creatives actually get together, in person, and create together. Often, a new concept or idea can be thought of together that none of you may have come up with on your own. When we each bring our own unique perspective and ideas, but also are working together, great things can come of it.
Look outside your industry
When we are feeling stuck or are experiencing a creative block, it can be easy to look to others in our industry to see what they are doing. This can often result in us playing the comparison game, or coming up with ideas that are not very original. Instead, it can be helpful to look to other industries for inspiration. If I as a stationer am getting my inspiration from a floral bouquet that I loved, a beautiful gown, or a well designed interior space, then I am going to be much more likely to come up with a more original idea.
Visit a museum
Museums are a wealth of inspiration. Looking at the amazing works of painters, how they use the color and layer the brush strokes, or the composition that they chose always makes me want to continue to practice and improve my own work. However, it does not have to be an art museum to be inspiring. Natural history museums often have gemstone and mineral collection that always leave me in awe. This summer we visited the Columbia Maritime Museum and even there I found myself drawn to the old nautical maps and the typography from the old salmon canneries. You may be surprised at what you come away thinking about.
There is something wonderful about getting out and exploring a new place. Not everyone can afford the time or expense of a long fancy trip, but it does not have to be far to be inspiring. Of course a trip abroad to experience other people a new culture in a place full of history and architecture, food and new people would be wonderful, but even a quick day trip can serve the same purpose to get out and explore something new.
For me, this is huge. By observe, I do not mean observe others in your niche of the industry or even the broader industry that you are in. I simply mean to be an observer in life, of everything. This may sound a little a little naive but I truly think that there is so much inspiration in the world that we often miss because we are moving too fast and not remembering to look. It does not even have to be extraordinarily beautiful or noteworthy. The color palette of the sky and field that you are driving by the font in a catalogue, the texture of a weed growing out of a crack in the sidewalk - anything can serve as an inspiration when you keep your eyes open to see it.
Try a different art form
It can be helpful to try an art form different than the one that you currently do. For many artists, our work began as a hobby that we enjoyed and often we no longer do it for pleasure anymore once it becomes our business. I know that I very rarely do calligraphy for fun (although I should and when I make a point to do so I always enjoy it). Have you ever thought about replacing that hobby?
It may be something completely different like a photographer learning to quilt, or it may be related such as a watercolorist trying her hand at acrylics. Getting outside of your comfort zone and attempting something new can be scary - but you may end up finding something that you love and that sparks your creativity in a new way.
Take a class
Similar to learning a different art form, taking a class can be a great way to aid and develop creative inspiration. Even if it is not an artistic subject, when we are engaging our brains in learning and different types of thinking, it can actually help with creativity. Taking a class can help us to hone and utilize those different types of thinking which can in turn help with problem solving and spark creativity.
There is actually a science behind creativity. I am by no means an expert on the subject, but Katie Selvidge, whose podcast I mentioned earlier, is very well-versed in the subject and talks about it in a few episodes.
The class could be an in person class at the local community college or arts center, or there are so many amazign resources for online learning. One of my favorites is Victoria Rothwell’s Design House Prep School - and they will be launching their new semester in just a few weeks!
There are so many books to be read! Reading can help with creativity in many ways. You can read to educate yourself - whether it is related to your field or is a completely different subject which may bring a new dimension to your work. You can read about an inspiring person whose tenacity and what they have overcome inspires you to push forward with something that is difficult or overwhelming. Lately I have been reading poetry which I have found to be quite inspiring with the beautiful way that the poets can create art with words.
Watch a documentary about another subject
Again, learning about anything new is often a good way to stimulate our creativity, whether the subject is related to what you do or not. They can broaden our perspective, inspire us to take action, and provide visual or conceptual inspiration. There is a program on Netflix called Chef’s Table which I find to be incredibly inspiring. There have been a few episodes especially that left me in awe and wanting to apply similar principles to my own work.
Allow yourself to daydream
As a bit of a dreamer myself, this is one that I love. When you allow yourself the pleasure to let go and daydream without limitations, whether you are designing or a client, need ideas for a new collection, or are brainstorming a new business venture, you may find that you come away with more ideas than you can use. When you are free to dream up all of the different possibilities - even if some are not realistic, it can help us to flesh out ideas and to then sort through which may and may not be viable. But the exercise of imagining and planning things out in your head can be quite helpful to some people. I know that it is for me.
You do not have to have a fancy camera or even be a great photographer to use photography to help with creative inspiration. Of course if you love photography and want to explore that medium as a creative outlet, it can be very beneficial in several ways. However, simply taking quick snapshots with your phone camera of things that you find inspiring and using them later for reference or to put a mood board together can be helpful. I often take snapshots of flowers or leaves that I see while out on a walk with my daughter at all different angles so that later, when it is time to create, I have a wealth of images to look back at either to draw or to help shape the direction of a project.
Keep an idea list
If you are like me, they you often find yourself chinking and coming up with ideas, concepts, fragments of ideas in places other than at my desk in my office. When I am out on a walk, waiting at the doctor's office, driving to the coast ( actually, riding - my husband usually drives) my mind is often wandering and I often have I have found it helpful to have a place to jot those things down - whether that is physically in a notebook, or in the memo app on my phone. I can come back to these thoughts later when I am ready to create and they often will help me get started or to remember an idea that I had previously had.
Of course not every one of these will resonate with every person, but I hope that there are a few that may help you to find a new strategy to add to your other methods of staying inspired.
Again, I highly encourage you to listen to The Creative Well podcast - especially episode 2, How to Stay Sharp and Inspired!