It doesn’t matter whether you create for pleasure or for a living, you can get stuck at any time.
It’s important to remember that creativity isn’t a passive thing. You probably already know that waiting for inspiration to strike is a recipe for lost motivation and discouragement. Thankfully, there are several things you can do to keep that desire going!
Creativity isn’t an unpredictable force that only strikes occasionally. It’s more like a muscle that can be trained and strengthened constantly.
Even if you feel like you don’t have a creative bone in your body right now, you can train yourself to boost your creativity. I have a lot of tricks up my sleeves for keeping my creative muscle in top shape! Let’s talk about a few of them here!
You’re probably familiar with these common creativity boosters:
- keep learning and try something new
- take a break and get some distance
- exercise, move, take a walk
- make time and practice
- meditate, relax
- journal, make a list, keep a notebook
- organize your environment and surroundings
All of these are great suggestions and I have addressed many of them individually in past articles. But I actually have a few others to add to the mix. When you’ve stretched the ones above to their limit, check out some of these pro tips to help spark your creativity.
They’re a little strange so go into this with an open mind!
1. REWARD CREATIVITY
Yep, reward your curiosity! One common barrier to exploring our creative passions is the sense that it’s an indulgence or a luxury. Surely there are more important things you should be doing than your crafting?? No, not really! Rather than chastising yourself, reward yourself when you are curious about something and lean into your creative pursuits. Give yourself the opportunity and permission to explore.
While rewarding yourself is important, it is also important to develop intrinsic motivation. Sometimes, the true reward of creativity is the process itself, not the result. But still, research has found that when you reward yourself for showing up to your craft, creativity actually increases.
So, if you’re trying to find inspiration, try promising yourself some type of desirable treat as a reward for showing up and giving it a shot. Just don’t overdo it, or you risk decreasing your motivation.
2. RESTRICTIONS ARE YOUR FRIEND
Create restrictions or boundaries! One way to overcome a creative block is to place some restrictions or limitations on your activity or project. Belief it or not, this can actually lead to more creative solutions.
The next time you are trying to do something creative, try limiting the things you can use to do it. For example, you can limit the color palette for a painting; you can limit your time and see what you can accomplish in 20 minutes or less. You might find yourself coming up with new and innovative ideas that you might not have considered otherwise.
Basically, you build yourself a box – and think INSIDE the box!
Shakespeare’s poetic genius thrived in the highly structured form of the sonnet. Why? Because constraints, even artificial ones, can stimulate creativity. The premise behind it is that “unlimited options” can paralyze our creative brain.
Recently, writer Herbert Lui went looking for weird and wacky creativity boosters. He said: “Think of it like having a blank canvas as opposed to one that already has a few brush strokes. It’s much easier to work around the lines and create something based on those constraints rather than putting a brush to emptiness.” Nuf said! Limitations sometimes helps alleviate the fear of failure…teh fear of the blank canvas!
Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs & Ham when his editor challenged him to write an entire book using less than 50 different words. If you’re stuck on a project, give it a limitation or some restrictions. Whether that means writing with far fewer words or finishing a small painting a day, approaching your creative tasks with new restrictions may just be the most freeing thing you could do.
In Creatively-U Academy, I call this the RIGHT kind of distraction!
In today’s high-tech, connected world, distractions are just a click away. Instead of filling every single moment with apps, games, email, and websites, try letting yourself be bored and let your imagination run free. Belief it or not, there is something to be said for boredom! Embrace it!
In one study, bored participants handled creativity tests better than those who were excited or anxious. Researchers found that boredom gives people time to daydream, which then leads to greater creativity. Boredom encourages creative thinking because it sends a signal that the current situation is lacking. Your brain goes looking for new ideas and inspiration to help overcome that. There’s your answer as to why a five-year-old always manages to find trouble when they’re bored! Put your inner five-year-old to work!
4. USE BLUE (OR GREEN)
Alright, so this is a different take on color theory!
The psychology of color suggests that different colors have differing effects on mood, emotion, and behavior. According to one study, the color blue tends to make people think more creatively. Why?
Evidently blue helps inspire people to think outside the box. Since blue is linked with nature, peace, and tranquility, the color tends to help people feel safe to explore and be creative. You can also try the color green since green is associated with growth.
So, the next time you are trying to find inspiration, try using blue or green and see if that might trigger some new ideas.
5. TURN DOWN THE LIGHTS
So, we all know that getting outside has been shown to boost creativity, but if you’re not really a nature person Herbert Lui (remember restrictions above?) found another idea. Leverage the power of darkness. Nope, you don’t need to renounce electricity completely, you just need to turn out the lights.
If you’re feeling uninspired, try working in a softer environment. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology has shown darkness and dim lighting promote creativity.
Other studies say that you can boost your creativity by simply thinking of how you’d do your project in a darkened room. Note that while this works for generating ideas, when it comes to accomplishing them, it’s best to turn the lights back on! Trust me on this!
6. CREATE A TREASURE CHEST OF ALTERNATIVES
OK, maybe it’s just me. Afterall, a mixed media collage artist needs “stuff.” But this is excellent for creative inspiration! Collect inspiring items (photos, quotations, trinkets, etc.). Every time you open the box, you’ll feel newly excited and remember ideas you had in the past.
Your treasure chest can also contain items that could have an alternate use! I often ask friends and family for “a quart baggie of random crap.” I get amazing items that provide texture, shape, color, and get my mind whirling with all kinds of inspiration on how I can use these things for something else.
John Ingledew’s book, How to Have Great Ideas: A Guide to Creative Thinking, has a collection of over 50 strategies to get creativity flowing. As adults, we’ve long since given up seeing a cardboard box like a fort. But what if all those credit card offers, nuts & bolts, and random sticks could become something other than junk? What if you asked, “What else can I do with this?”
In 1967 J.P. Guilford developed the test that gave participants two minutes to think of as many possible uses for a common object. It’s commonly referred to as the “paper-clip test.”
Here are some fun ones for a paperclip: a zipper replacement, a heart-shaped earring, an ear-piercing device, a phone stand, a lock pick, a ring, a fishhook, a Christmas ornament hanger, a tool to reset the router, an “aggressive toothpick,” a “thing to fix the toilet flapper,” rubber band ammo, and a hairpin.
So, there you have 6 new and strange ways to foster your creative thinking! Let me know in the comments below which ones you’ll try!
Join me LIVE on my Facebook page, Virginia Leigh Studio, at 3:00 pm Central every Wednesday to ask me questions and talk creativity. Well, except for today – still floating in lemon juice!
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