One of my favorite classes I’ve ever taught was a college seminar called Exploring the Creative Process. In the class, we explored the psychology and practice of creativity as well as how creativity matters in everything from business to community problem solving. I had eighteen students in the seminar, and every week was a thrill (hopefully for them as much as it was for me). One of the common discussions points was how being creative isn’t just what one is. Creativity can be cultivated (and, conversely, it can also go stagnant). And, so, it was only natural to try to capture some of the behaviors that helped to cultivate creativity. If we can write a prescription for our wellness, we can certainly write a prescription for nurturing our creativity. Here, a round-up of creativity boosters I’ve used along the way…
Take a daily (silent– no music, books, phone conversations!) walk as often as possible (20 minutes is just fine). This gives your mind a chance to focus both consciously and subconsciously on ideas that you have been forming. Let them flow and see where they take you.
Treat yourself to an “artist date” once a week. This is a block of time (a good minimum is an hour) that you spend by yourself—treating yourself to something enriching. Read The Artist’s Way for more on this tool.
Keep a Creator’s/ Writer’s/ Artist’s notebook. Get a size that is comfortable for you to carry around with you and carry it wherever you go, jotting down whatever strikes you– quotes you here, things you see, words that source up for you- that will help with your inspiration later. You can also make it a scrapbook of inspiration by taping in beautiful, challenging, inspiring images, words, etc.
Give yourself a quota for your art form of choice: writing, painting, playing— whatever your genre is. Then meet your daily, weekly, monthly quota.
Keep a journal.
Embrace challenges. Sign up for classes that will stretch you, go to speakers that will force you to think differently, listen to different music, read different things, etc.
Set a goal for the year (I want to write 1/2 a novel, complete six paintings, write 8 songs,etc) and then start with small steps. What do you want to do? What is the smallest step you can towards that goal? Do that. Then tackle the next smallest step until you build your vision.
Create an inspiration board. Get a sheet of paper, foam board, or poster board and cover it with anything that inspires you. Place it somewhere where it regularly catches your eye.
Check out or buy The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp and write your creative autobiography (see pages 45-46 in the hardcover edition for guidance).
Set an aggressive quota. This tool focuses on you creating a large volume of art. The objective is to move you past the point where you feel blocked or uninspired and into an experience where you recognize that ideas can continue to come (I call this False Fatigue). The more that you paint, draw, write music, write, etc, the more that your skill of expression grows. Quantity, thus, can sometimes be a precursor to quality. Write 60 poems or produce 60 pieces of art that are at least 8 inches by 10 inches in size.
Sprout something. Sometimes the best way to instigate your own creativity is to be inspired by someone else’s. This tool is rooted in that concept. Visit an art exhibit. At the exhibit, select one piece of visual art that strikes you. Create your own piece of visual art inspired by a technique, an idea, or an image that you found in the work you select.
What are your strategies for boosting your creative process? What do you do for inspiration? What do you recommend for developing creativity?