Creativity doesn’t always come easy. Of course, some people are born creative thinkers while others need to work a bit harder. But, even the most inventive, artistic people have days where the creative process comes to a screeching halt. The machine stops running, the ideas stop flowing, and everything about the artwork starts feeling stale.
Any graphic designer, for example, will tell you that certain days feel like a chore, even if they love their job. Even painters, sculptors, and illustrators get tired of their own work sometimes.
That’s okay. If the creative ideas aren’t coming, don’t worry. We all need a jolt from time to time. There are a number of different things you can do to start generating new, exciting ideas. We’ve compiled some tips to help you start thinking more creatively.
1. Get Some Exercise
I know, I know. Physical exercise isn’t appealing to a lot of artists. Many of us would eat a tube of oil paint before we ever stepped foot in a gym. But the reality is that exercise is shown to have an effect on artistic thinking. Basically, when you engage in physical activity, your brain starts to function differently. It is flooded with chemicals that are linked to creative problem-solving.
So, do some jumping jacks. Go for a run. If you’re really anti-exercise, stretch out a bit. You’d be amazed how much it helps you generate ideas.
2. Sit Completely Still
On the opposite end of the spectrum, try doing nothing. Like literally nothing. No phone. No computer. No music. Just sit for as long as you can with your eyes closed.
Try not to worry about your artwork or the other things that might be bothering you. But, pay close attention to the thoughts that enter your brain. There’s a chance that one of those thoughts could spark some good artwork. Once you’re incapable of sitting still any longer, open your eyes and jot down some ideas.
3. Do Some Stream-of-Conscious Writing
Note-taking is a great way to gather inspiration. It’s why so many artists carry a sketchbook everywhere they go. It’s nice to have an archive of thoughts that you can return to whenever you need a little spark.
If you’re really looking to boost your creativity, try writing for a half-hour straight. Start by writing down the first word then pops into your head. Then write another. Spend some time stringing words, phrases, and sentences together until you write down something that inspires you. Oftentimes, we need to let go of our filter to get the best ideas out.
4. Keep a Dream Journal
Dreams have been a longtime source of inspiration for artists. The Surrealists, in particular, are known for their dream-inspired artworks. Some of our strangest thoughts occur when we’re sleeping, so don’t let those go.
Put a notebook by your bed. As soon as you wake up, write down everything you can remember. It only takes a few minutes, but it’s sure to provide you with some fresh content.
5. Go Somewhere You’ve Never Been
One of creativity’s greatest enemies is routine. When we do the same thing over and over, it’s easy to start feeling like a robot. That bleeds over into the creative process.
A change in routine can help you to start thinking differently. As Rod Judkins writes in his book The Art of Creative Thinking, “Creativity…is a way of seeing, engaging, and responding to the world around you.”
So, by walking through a new city, driving down a new street or even eating at a restaurant you’ve never been to, you can start to expand your scope of the world.
6. Call an Old Friend
It’s always nice to chat with someone we haven’t talked to in a while. It has a way of enabling us to travel back in time. We start thinking about forgotten memories and remembering how we felt at a certain point in our lives.
Oftentimes, those forgotten memories are artistic goldmines. Plus, your old buddy will appreciate the fact that you thought to call them.
7. Make a “Bad” Artwork
As artists, we hold ourselves to pretty high standards. We spend a lot of time making our work, so we want it to be good.
But, in the pursuit of a great artwork, we often forget what “good” even means to us. We close ourselves off to all kinds of opportunities because we think that certain things are bad. If you commit to making bad work, you might find that certain aspects of the work are actually appealing to you.
8. Give Yourself a Weird Rule
Artists throughout history have created all kinds of rules for themselves in order to generate new ideas. The author George Peres, for example, wrote an entire novel without using the letter “e”. That kind of constraint forces you to come up with creative solutions that, otherwise, you’d never think of.
Your rule can be as outlandish as you want to make it. Draw a self-portrait with your toes instead of your hands. Paint a still life with a blindfold on. Create an entire comic without lifting your pen off of the paper. The stranger the rule, the more exciting the results will be.
9. Look at Your Old Work
Remember that sketchbook from middle school that you haven’t looked at in years? Open it up! There are probably a ton of good ideas in there!
It can be nice to bury our work away for a few years to keep the ideas fresh. But, whenever you’re looking for some inspiration, pull out the oldest works you have. Who knows…those crayon drawings you made when you were five might be nice to revisit.
10. Stop Worrying About the Outcome
Have you ever watched a child draw? It’s magical. They don’t have any anxiety about what they’re making, who’s watching, or what the final product is going to be. It’s just them and whatever they’re drawing.
Unfortunately, we lose that ability as we get older. We start to get self-conscious about our work. We worry about what people are going to think. We get so wrapped up in thinking about what a piece will look like when it’s done that we prevent ourselves from even making the first mark.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do to get your creative thoughts flowing is to think like a child. Set your inhibitions aside for a second, let loose, and see what happens.