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6 Ways to Spark Creativity

Struggling with a creative project? Check out these six methods for sparking creativity.

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Posted 9 Mar 2016

Creativity is as fleeting as wind. One minute, it’s there. The next, it’s not.

Why is that?

The thing most people forget about creativity is that it takes practice and diligence. Too often, we chalk creativity up to chance, or “the moment,” or even inherent talent. But the truth is, while some people might have a few more creative bones in their body, cultivating your creativity requires good habits. It means making the time to study your craft, having the discipline to go long stretches without getting distracted, and most of all, doing it every day.

For creative people, this is the hardest part: the daily habit. It’s a whole lot easier to sit around and say, “I will work when creativity strikes.” But be careful, because this can quickly become a bad habit of neglecting the hard work that needs to be done.

So, how do you spark that creative fire on a daily basis?

1. Prioritize “Input” Activities

Whenever you find yourself saying, “I haven’t been feeling very creative lately,” the first question you need to ask yourself is, “who am I studying?”

Creatives vastly underestimate the power of input. These are activities that force you to stretch those creative muscles. For example: An author needs to spend as much time, if not more time reading than writing—even though, they would argue, that “writing” is their primary craft. The reason is because writing is an “output,” whereas reading is an “input.”

The same goes for designers. Too often, designers fall into the trap of staring at a screen all day, day after day, only to arrive at the bottom of their creative “well” feeling utterly and completely drained. Why? Because they spend 8+ hours a day designing for other people, but 0 hours per day studying the designs of others, and making time for “input.”

If you’re ever feeling drained, you need to make more time for input.

2. Turn Off All Distractions And Let Your Mind Wander

As a society, we have lost touch with the wild imagination that only occurs in silence.

When you’re staring at your Facebook feed on your phone, it’s hard to be imaginative. Or when you’re constantly refreshing your e-mail. Or browsing your favorite blogs. It’s not that these things are ‘wrong’, they are just distractions.

Instead, turn off everything. Sit in silence. Look around the room. Allow yourself to feel bored, even. Let your mind wander. Think about whatever you want to think about. Five, ten minutes later, you’ll catch an idea, and without even meaning to you’ll begin to entertain it.

This is how imagination works. It needs space to move. To flow.

Give yourself that space.

3. Listen To Classical Music

Music in general can be a fantastic trigger for creativity, however sometimes it can also be a distraction. Especially if the music is modern, or extremely lyrical, it ends up requiring too much attention to be a good supplement to your process.

Classical music, however, is powerful. Meditative, you could say. It is background noise in all the best ways, giving you another sound that can help guide you into focus, without being too distracting that it will take you out of your own flow.

When all else fails, find something inspiring to get the ball rolling, and then if it gets too distracting, just turn it off.

4. Brainstorm With A Friend

A whiteboard and two markers can go a long way, especially if you are brainstorming with someone you feel extremely comfortable with.

The best part about brainstorming with a friend is you have an audience. Even one person is considered an audience, and by saying your ideas out loud you are forced to look at them differently. Having to explain it to someone else is a true test of validity.

The other benefit is that they can often see things you can’t. As you are explaining, they are thinking, and vice versa. You can then fill in each other’s gaps and move twice as fast.

5. Write Down 10 Ideas

blank Open notebook

If anything, this should be a daily habit. Write down 10 ideas of things you’d like to create or make in your lifetime. They could be anything. Maybe you came up with an idea on the train this morning for a t-shirt design. Maybe you thought of a new kind of sponge for washing dishes. Maybe you’d like to paint a series of canvases, one for each season. Write down things that make your brain twist, and if possible, do this every day.

What you’ll find is that by practicing the habit of “coming up with ideas,” that muscle will strengthen over time. Your ability to generate new ideas will increase dramatically, because you are practicing that skill on a regular basis.

6. Find Inspiration

It’s very difficult to stare at a blank canvas and come up with something fantastic. It’s much better to first get a lay of the land, and see what has been done in this space before you arrived.

Especially when it comes to design, you want to look at what everyone else is doing so that you are aware of what others have done that has worked (or not worked). Looking at your “competition” can save you a lot of time, and give you a sense of what’s working and what’s not.

Start a Pinterest board with things you find that catch your eye or spark ideas. Or create a folder on your Desktop with images and screenshots you save as you browse the Internet. These “inspiration triggers” can be extremely helpful with getting the ball rolling.

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