Thursday, October 22, 2015

10 Ways to Boost Creativity

Photo Credit: chrismetcalfTV
 Have you ever watched The NeverEnding Story?  There is one scene in the movie where Atreyu's (the main character) white horse, Artax, gets stuck in this mucky, muddy Swamp of Sadness never to get itself free.  I'm sorry to repaint this image in your minds first thing in this post; it really is a horrifically sad moment (that is still just as traumatic now as it was watching it as a child)!  However, this scene comparably depicts the sensation of being stuck in a creative rut. 

Having a lack of inspiration or ideas, especially for those that depend on their creativity to make a living, feels like you are slowly being sucked into a black hole of nothing, not even daunting, gothic darkness!   It's like your hands, feet, and mind are being held so strongly that they are forced to wither.   
How can you save your creative self from sinking into a hole of unproductive nothingness?  Whether you are writing, drawing, photographing, crafting, building, or cooking, try out my 11 suggestions to save your inner Artax and set it free! 
P.S.  You can also watch The NeverEnding Story; its whimsical imagery and quirky, fantastical plot will definitely spark a creative idea or two.  Just skip the "Swamp of Sadness" scene.
Photo Credit: Simon James
1. Take a Break - Out of all of the following pieces of advice, this method is probably the most effective in refilling your creative juices.  If you are attempting to work on something to no avail, stop for a few moments.  Give yourself a break completely away from your task.  Just as our muscles feel sore and tired after being moved and twisted during exercise, our thinking brains also can become overworked and worn-out.  When your mind simply can't come up with any more ideas, probing and picking at it will not help it heal.  You'll angrily frustrate yourself by trying to pull something out of an empty basket.  Leave whatever it is you are working on and take a few minutes, an hour, perhaps even a day or two of rest.  Do some relaxing activities like yoga that will help clear your mind and rejuvenate your soul.  After a little break, you will feel more refreshed and ready to think creatively once again. 
Photo Credit: Blondinrikard Fröberg
2. People Watch - If you've ever been to a store, a mall, or the city, you've probably realized that people can be rather interesting.  People of Walmart and Awkward Family Photos have both come to that realization long ago.  From the way that they dress to the way that they move and speak, people other than yourself usually have something intriguing about them because they are different from you.  If you are around yourself way too much, you miss out on fascinating and quirky conversations, bizarre and fashionable outfits, remarkable and mysterious talents, and captivating and quizzical habits, all that can inspire a painting or story character.  Go sit on a park bench or in coffee shop and observe the people that pass by.  They just might hand you a new idea.
Photo Credit: Steve Wilson
3. Go for a Walk - Recent studies, such as that in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, have discovered that people who exercise frequently may have more active thinking processes necessary for creativity.  Exercising reduces stress, makes you happier, keeps your memory intact, and gets your blood flowing, all actions that help clear your mind.  When your mind is clear, you can focus on whatever it is that you are working on and you can critically and analytically approach new ideas or tasks.  If you find yourself creatively stuck, jiggle your body around and shake off that restricting slump.  Going for a walk also sparks your creativity because you leave the environment that you've been spending time in, opening yourself up to new sights, smells, and sounds that just may spark an idea.  One thing - don't go for a walk glued to your phone.  Look up, around, and underneath; open up your senses to something new.     
Photo Credit: AnneMarit (Marit) Jarvinen
4. Become a Character - Wouldn't it be awesome to be an actress in your favorite movie or a character in that enticing book you just can't put down?  Well, why don't you make it happen?  I actually used to do this technique frequently when I had trouble sleeping because it relaxed my rambling mind and allowed me to drift off.  I imagined myself as a new character in books, TV shows, and movies, literally creating subplots and stories that my character took part it.  I didn't have to force my creativity because I could feed off of stories that were already produced or written.  Basically, I worked off of someone else's original ideas to develop my own.  If you are going to sleep or just wanting to close your eyes and take a breather, move your mind away from whatever it is you are working on and try imagining yourself in a different world.  The scenery, the backdrops, the main characters - they are already made for you; you can just purely have fun thinking about what you would say or how you would interact with the handsome lead character.  This technique can help you because not only does it automatically take your mind off of your current project, but it also allows you to come up with fresh ideas in a more relaxed, carefree setting.  Who knows? That new subplot may even direct you to write the script for a new movie or perhaps the scenery may inspire a DIY craft. 
5. Start Pinning and 'Gramming - Pinterest and Instagram are my two favorite sources for inspiration since you can come across thousands of ideas and images just by typing a single word.  On both of these social media platforms, you can search for actual DIY instructions or can even find inspirational photographs, both of which can help you further your own ideas.  We are incredibly lucky nowadays because we have access to not only the ideas of a few published people within our own country, but we can witness the creativity of millions around the world.   If you have a bunch of acorns laying around that you want to craft with or are looking for ideas on how to highlight your portrait's features, observing what others do and how they do it can introduce you to a plethora of methods that you never even thought of.  New ideas may even stem from someone else's creative processes.  Just a note: while copying is a form of flattery, if you use some else's ideas, be sure to give them credit.  That credit will help spread the talent around even further.  Someone may even spread your talent around, and I'm sure you'd want the credit after all of that brain and manpower!
Photo Credit: Lidyanne Aquino
6. Learn Something -Trying to build a cabinet but can't seem to get the doors to hang straight?  Study some physics and learn how hinges work.  Lacking depth to the location setting in your story?  Go out and learn the historical facts about the time period you are writing about.  When your creativity seems to be completely drained, it may just be that you are missing some valuable information pertinent to whatever project it is that you are working on.  This issue is easily fixable just by picking up a book, reading a magazine, watching a documentary, talking to a professional, or typing in a Google search.  For instance, if you are trying to craft a new recipe for a dessert loaf but can't seem to get the bread to rise, you can read about the interactions of different baking ingredients or study other similar recipes to see how others have perfected their desserts.  Learning new facts, ideas, and concepts will always benefit your current abilities by improving your methods and providing you with solid foundational knowledge needed to start a project in the first place.       
Photo Credit: Dennis Brekke
7. Play - For many people, it seems that the peak of their imagination fades away with their youth.  Children can visualize themselves living in castles, draw game boards with a piece of chalk, and build cities out of Legos.  Not only do children use their imagination to create, many of them also ask questions and explore.  These are the type of actions that breed creativity, so tap into your inner child and play.  While you can use your own children or nieces and nephews as an excuse to jump on a trampoline or to paint your driveway with chalk illustrations, you shouldn't be ashamed to let loose and have a little fun.  Go out with your significant other and play laser tag.  Buy a case of Play-Doh and mold a masterpiece.  Grab a stuffed animal and play fetch with your dog.  There are so many different ways for you to play that you can find something that you won't feel too old to do.  During play, you'll ask questions, you'll create, you'll think, and you'll do! Although each day you do get older, you don't have to let go of every part of your childhood.  Hold on to that inner explorer and curious mind, and go out to play. 

Photo Credit: David Mulder

8. Have a Cooking Show  - Not only is this exercise good for your creativity, but this exercise will make tedious tasks a little more enjoyable.  While you are doing your daily chores, imagine yourself a TV host of a cooking show.  Believe yourself to be an entertainer for the acrobatic vacuuming show or a Cinderella-esque girl dusting and cleaning during a theatrical play.  Basically, just pretend.  This technique is a step up on the creative level from simply becoming a character; you are in charge of creating the storyline and imagining the surroundings.  By pretending, you exercise multiple aspects of creativity, such as  originality, humor, risk taking, thinking, openness, expression, freedom, and energy.  You don't have to walk around in a tiara or hold a microphone while you scrub the bathtub (if you wish to, by all means, go ahead), but you can secretly develop the story in your mind.  If you can imagine, your creativity is back to being active. 
Photo Credit: Peter Megyeri
9. Experiment - If you find yourself stuck in the middle of a creative endeavor, a little experimentation may help you find the technique or idea that you need.  Put your project aside, and pick of different tools or materials to experiment with.  Don't know what Mod Podge looks like when combined with toothpaste?  Try it out.  What happens when you cover half of the camera lens with a leaf?  Let's see.  When you experiment, you analyze outcomes and think outside-the-box to come up with alternatives, both elements which are part of creativity and that lead to even more creative thinking.  In the middle of an experiment, you may find a result that inspires a new piece or you may unlock a new method for approaching your project.  Many of the greatest inventions and artistic pieces resulted from experimentation or even mishaps, so frizz up your hair like Einstein and discover something new. 
Photo Credit: Denise Krebs
10. Read a Children's Picture Book - Although older than the typical user, I vastly adore picture books.  From the descriptive imagery to the witty word play, children's picture books are the holy grails of creativity, as immense talent and creativity were carefully impounded into every word within them.  The author of a picture book had to use many of these suggested techniques just to write the story, so the book, itself, is like all of these steps meshed into one.   You'll walk through new worlds, and learn about new people and places.  You'll see the setting through another's eyes and your mind will play around with all the fun imagery.  Just by reading a picture book, you'll start mentally experimenting with the "what if" and "I wonder" questions, and the book will even test them out with you.  Picture books will expand your creative vocabulary, and you'll be ready to imagine and create once again.

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