1. Step Away from Your Computer
Yes, really. Do it!
2. Go for a Walk
If you only do one thing to get your ideas flowing, go for a walk. Studies show that people have more creative ideas when they walk. After walking for 30 minutes, your creativity is increased by an average of 60% and your creative boost extends long after you have returned to your regular activities. Since you don’t have to devote much attention into the effort of walking your mind is free to wander. This is precisely the kind of mental state that studies link to innovative ideas and sparks of creativity. If you take up walking you’d be sharing a daily creative routine with history’s most famous creative geniuses such as Aristotle, Charles Dickens, Ludwig van Beethoven, Virginia Woolf and Steve Jobs.
3. Do Something Different
Albert Einstein said that “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”. It can be easy and comforting to go into autopilot, but when you do something new, your brain actually creates new pathways. When you look at things from a new perspective, or learn something new, your brain literally remodels itself based on your new experiences. The brain loves being stimulated and it adores novelty. Maybe you can take a different route to work. Or change the music you listen to or sit at a different spot at the table. Just do something to switch things up, and you’ll rewire your brain, enhancing your capacity to be creative.
Take a moment to listen to your own thoughts. Go within. Reflect. Find focus. Unwind. It can be as simple as enjoying a cup of tea in your garden. As artist Pablo Picasso put it, “Without great solitude no serious work is possible.”
Take active part in life around you. Spend time with family and friends. Read. Be curious. Ask questions. Notice the small details. Pay attention to what’s going on in different areas of art like street art, magazines, packaging design, fine art, fashion, dance and film. Be present in your life.
In today’s fast paced society it’s easy to feel like we need to produce something all the time. In fact there’s an ebb and flow to creativity. We need the downtime to recharge. We need quiet time for ideas to hibernate. Creative breakthrough can happen during downtime when we allow our minds to wander and rest. Give yourself a break.
7. Let Your Dreams Inspire You
Many artists have tapped into their unconscious for inspiration. Paul McCartney discovered the tune for the song "Yesterday" in a dream, Christopher Nolan’s wrote “Inception” after a lucid dream, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was inspired by a dream and surrealist painter Salvador Dali often called his paintings "hand-painted dream photographs”. Keep a dream book by your bedside and write down your recollections of dream fragments when you wake up. Let your dreamscapes fuel your inspiration.
8. Homegrown Design
Local is different. What’s everyday mundane for you is exotic for someone else. Especially in the global world we live in today. Try taking a look at your world as if you were a tourist or a child. Rediscover your landscape, the streets where you live. The industries and shops. Are there any ghost stories or myths in your area? Check out local history and museums. What would you be proud to show a visitor? And what would you feel less proud of? Make an illustrated map that can expand as you explore.
9. Restrict Yourself
When you use digital tools the options are endless. This filter? That font? How much more contrast? The same goes for browsing the Internet for inspiration. The sheer overwhelm with beautiful images on Pinterest or Tumblr can lock you into a perpetual research or exploration stage that’s hard to break free from. It’s easy to feel paralyzed by innumerable opportunities. So try the opposite. Give yourself some constraints. Draw with your left hand. Pick one colour and work with it. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Buy a magazine for inspiration. Give yourself a deadline for your personal project. Or use simple tools like paper and pen.
10. Go With The Flaw
What is one of your flaws? Are you impatient? Careless? Are you a perfectionist? Think of ways to make these aspects work for you. Perhaps you can develop a technique or style that makes perfect use of your “flaw”.
11. Go Against The Flow
Start a new project and give it the opposite of what you normally would do. If your work normally is detailed, paint with broad strokes. If your work usually is muted, go for bold colours.
What creative tools did you love as a child? Crayons? Finger paint? Glitter pens? Lego? See what happens when you use them now. Indulge in some play time.
13. Find Your Muse
Where does your inspiration come from? Who do you admire? What contemporary and historical styles inspire you? Colours? Moods? If you had a muse, what would s/he look like? Make a painting or design that depicts your muse. Gather your sources of inspiration into a mood board for easy access. Seduce your muse.
14. Change Your Surroundings
A change of scenery sparks your creative mind. Try sketching in a coffee shop, the library, a park or on a train. It’ll stimulate your mind.
List everything you can think of related to the topic. Even the crazy ideas. When you see all your ideas on paper it’ll be easier to take a step back and analyse them to see what will work best.
16. Have a Cup of Tea or Coffee
Yes, you deserve a break.
Writing is a habit that many artists share. Self-reflection in writing can improve your creative thinking and bring you clarity. A journal can give you a place to think and spend some time in introspection.
Are you a collector? Or do you know someone who is? Maybe a collector of seashells or stones? Video games, dolls, books, movies, teacups, vintage cars and stamps are popular to collect. Explore some collections. Or make one with objects from nature. Leaves or rocks. Arrange the objects in interesting ways and draw or photograph them.
Start a collaborative project with a creative friend. An easy way to collaborate is that you both start your own pieces, hand them off to the other artist who continues working on it. You could leave it open, pass the work back and forth a few times, but you’ll both need to agree on when the work is finished. Your work in combination with another person’s work might spark completely new ideas for both of you.
Travelling lets you see the world from a new perspective and is an effective way to broaden your perspective. You also tend to notice even the smallest details more clearly when you travel, so being in a new environment can heighten your senses. But you don’t have to go far. Perhaps you could explore a different neighbourhood close to you or carve out a little mini retreat for yourself.
Grab a stack of magazines, newspapers, glue and a pair of scissors and make a collage. Since the images and text already are there, you can focus on curating, making shapes, combining and creating something new. If you like you can scan your collage and add some finishing touches digitally. Collaging makes a great break from working on a computer and is an easy way to start working more off the computer.
22. Add Doodling to Your Daily Routine
Did you doodle at school? Research shows that doodling can help you stay focused, grasp new concepts, retain information and even increases your daydreaming. As a kid you draw without any thought. You just enjoy it. But when you go to art school or become an artist chances are that it becomes serious business and that the playful part goes missing. Take up doodling as a daily practice. Brilliant ideas often start as a scribble on a cocktail napkin or envelope.
It expands your mind, boosting creativity and innovation.
Are you a crafter? Perhaps you’re good at wood crafts or knitting? Repairing cars? Embroidery? Cooking? Gardening? What are the scents and tactile sensations of your craft? The patterns and textures hidden within? Is there anything that you can carry over into your artwork? See if you can find a way to fuse your craft with your designs. Or just take a break from your artwork and make time to relax with your craft.
25. Make a Mess
Pour out some paint on a paper, tilt it, watch the paint run. Add some more. Tilt and repeat. Watch the paint run and blend.
Sometimes it seems like ideas come when we’re super busy and don’t have time to follow through on exciting, new creative ideas. Keep a notebook with all your ideas. You can mix and match your ideas for unusual and original combinations. Flick through it later on when you have time - but perhaps no ideas.
It allows your mind to relax and gives your unconscious the chance to surface. When you let your mind wander you can discover new ways to solve problems.
28. Surround Yourself with Beauty
What do your desk and computer desktop look like? Take a few minutes to clean it up, and put up some inspiration. A bunch of flowers perhaps?
Listen to a song or audiobook. Pick a sentence, phrase or scene and illustrate it. Let the soundscape inspire you. What do sounds look like anyway? Can you find a way to draw sounds?
30. Start Without Starting
It can be intimidating and scary to start working on an incredibly exciting, new idea. And very easy to put it off. To give into resistance. Instead, start your new project by “just tinkering”. For example, instead of “paint a painting for my artshow”, prime a canvas. Or make a new folder and collect all the notes you need.
31. Learn Something New
Get out of your comfort zone and learn how to use a new tool or a apply a new style.
32. Photo Safari
Use your mobile phone to snap photos of things that inspire you or that intrigue you. Go on a photo safari in your own life. Pay attention to shadows, light, and textures. Save your inspiration photos in a place where you easily can find them when you need inspiration. When you start capturing the details of your life, you’ll practice your eye and open your attention.
33. Social Creative Time
Host a regular gathering and invite creative friends to chat and share stories.
34. Keep a Sketchbook
You’ll practice sketching and record ideas at once. It’s a great place to experiment. Play with new styles and composition. You never know when a phrase jumps out from a song or a podcast. Glue in tickets, photos or leaves.
35. Cross Pollinate
Pick two completely different ideas or words or trends and combine them. A miracle can come out of it.
36. Dress for Success
Get creative with your clothes. Try a new shade of colour for your nail polish or wear that beautiful blue shirt while you work. Dress like your creative self. Find ways to let your clothes bleed into your work. A fabric texture, a color. Do something fun. Wear a beret. Stick a paintbrush in your hair bun. Let yourself look "like an artist".
37. Show Up
To quote Nick Cave: “Most people wait for the muse to turn up. That's terribly unreliable. I have to sit down and pursue the muse by attempting to work.”
38. Be Bored
Boredom has a creativity boosting power. When you’re bored it signals to your brain that you’re in need of fresh ideas and it pushes you to explore and seek something new. But technology has opened an endless flood of stimuli. Entertainment and distractions are all over the place. When we reach for our cell phones or computers every time we’re bored, we’re actually denying ourselves the space we need to become bored. Tap into your subconscious instead of an app!
39. Redesign Your Day
What works for you? Which of these ideas appeal to you? What are some of your own techniques for breaking creative block? Think about what your ideal day would look like. How would you wake up? When would you do your creative work? What would your breaks look like? How would you fuel your inspiration and nurture your creative voice? What would you do when you got stuck? Describe your ideal day on one page, in any way you like. Doodle, write, draw, collage your day on a piece of paper that you can put up by your desk as a visual reminder. The next time you’re stuck, you’ll easily be able to get unstuck by taking a look at your own map for a perfect creative day.
40. Stop Comparing Your Creativity to Others'
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