Looking for some ways to boost your creativity? Creativity evades us when we need it most and strikes at inopportune moments. Writers, illustrators, musicians, and other inspiration-based creative types spend most of their time chasing ideas. Sometimes, the ideas don’t come at all. There are simple techniques artists can use to help our inspiration flow. The approaches I am going to discuss apply mainly to writers, but illustrators and musicians are free to use them as well.
When I had my best streak in writing, I had just moved to college. Though I had roommates, my second semester I had my own room, so it was easy to lock myself in and write for hours. I was given a lap desk (a flat, plastic surface with a plush underside) that sat comfortably next to me on my bed as I wrote on my tiny computer. My lap desk had a coaster for a drink and I always listened to my iPod while working. When I write now, post-college, I always try to mimic the situation I had before. I lock myself in my room, curl up in bed with my lap desk, and listen to music. It reminds me of college and feeling free for the first time, and when I think of everything I wrote during that period of my life, I feel proud. Simply knowing that I created something I can be proud of while using this setup is enough encouragement to work on a fresh project. So here are some great ways to boost your creativity.
1. Create a Comfortable Situation That Worked for You before
If you haven’t found one yet, try different things! Maybe you work better with background noise, maybe you must work in bed, or on a couch in front of a TV, or in a coffee shop. Everyone’s creativity can be tapped by the right circumstances – you just have to find them. That's one of the best ways to boost your creativity.
2. Eliminate Distractions
Distractions are different for everybody. Like I mentioned, some people work better with background noise and music, while others need complete silence. But most artists can agree that their phones can be a huge distraction. When I work, I prefer to keep my phone well out of reach so I’m not tempted to grab it and start browsing apps during a creative lull. If I do need to use my phone to use a resource like a thesaurus, I make sure I place it back out of my reach when I’m done. If you have roommates, other people can be a huge distraction, too. Before you start to create, let other people in your living space know that you would prefer to be left alone for an hour or so. Most people will honor this, especially if you politely explain your reasoning. The main idea is to recognize what distracts you and figure out the best steps to keep the distractions at bay.
3. The Best Way to Learn is by Example
As a writer, I try to read as many books as I can. Read stories that best match the genre you want to write. I enjoy writing gritty fantasy stories; my bookshelf is stacked with fantasy dramas involving war, assassinations, magical anomalies, and the like. Tapping into these examples is a great way to reach your creative muse because it is being told that this can be done. The same can be said for most other types of creativity: if you are a rock musician, listen to rock music. If you enjoy creating abstract art, look at the work of other abstract artists. And sometimes, partaking in a completely different genre can have the intended effects, too. If you read a mystery book when you are a science fiction writer, you'll recognize the elements of the mystery genre, take what you don’t like about them, and use this to amplify what you enjoy about your chosen genre.
4. Create Even when You Have No Idea Where Your Hand is Taking You
Writers are told to use freewriting as a warm-up tool, where they write for a set period without stopping. This is a great method for loosening up those creative wires in your brain and getting you in a creative mood. You might even be surprised by what you accidentally create – maybe that world-building issue will work itself out, or that mystery will become apparent, or a plot thread will resolve itself nicely. The point of freewriting is to write without thinking, so you create straight from your heart.
5. Exercise is Another Fantastic Way to Kickstart Your Creativity
If you find yourself staring at a blank word document for too long, and your workspace is feeling a bit stuffy, a walk outside for a breath of fresh air works wonders. It has even been scientifically proven that exercise aids the creative process, so be sure to take a small notebook with you to record any ideas you come up with!
6. In the Wake of a Creative Block, You Can Try Attempting a Theme Challenge to Get the Inspiration Flowing Again
Theme challenges are one-word tasks I first discovered on DeviantArt. Each theme is numbered one to one hundred, though you certainly don’t have to complete all of them. For each theme, you can write a scene, draw a picture, or create a musical piece based on whatever the prompt provides. The first prompt for my theme challenge was “chores,” so I wrote a little scene where my character’s best friend helped him complete chores he was unfairly assigned. Completing tiny challenges like these are a surefire way to kickstart your creativity.
Creativity is a fickle thing. It appears under different circumstances for every person. It is up to the artist to figure out what works best, whether it’s locking yourself in a room, reading as much as you can, or going for a walk outside. With a little practice, creative types can use these methods to draw inspiration from unlikely sources.