Recently, we asked the readers what their tips for staying creative were. Sometimes creativity flows from the heavens, but other times, as we all know, it’s like drawing water from a stone. The following are the best tips you gave us.
1. Surround yourself with creative people. Hang out with writers, musicians, poets and artists. Often, just being in a creative environment will inspire you and refresh your creative mind.
2. Start somewhere. If you create a load of crap for a few pages, whether it’s creative writing in Word or sheet music, the brain loosens up and it’s easier to break through the barrier and come up with ideas.
3. Expose yourself. Not after too much vodka. Expose yourself to new art – books, music, paintings – all the time. If you’re a rocker, listen to funk. If you’re a crime writer, read fantasy. If you’re a productivity writer, read something about slacking off.
4. Develop a “morning ritual” that puts you in the zone – whether it’s stream-of-consciousness such as in tip 2, or a series of non-spectacular everyday actions in sequence that tell your brain it’s time to get in the zone. Perhaps you drink a coffee while watching the news before going for a morning walk – if you repeat the same actions before doing creative work for long enough, it eventually creates an association that tells the mind to get in a particular zone.
5. Use GTD techniques – free up your mind from the hassles of life by doing an info-dump so your head is clear enough to create instead of worry.
6. Never stop learning.
7. Imitate the real world – find beauty (or the ugly, depending on what inspires you) and try to extract the essence of it into your work. This may lead you to what you need to create, or it may just warm up the muse.
8. Drink too much coffee sometimes (one of my favorite submissions).
9. Do something new. Play chess. Read a book if you watch television and watch television if you read. Go outside. Sing in the shower.
10. Don’t be too precious about your work. Being inspired by ‘the muse’ is important, but if the doctor and the garbage man can do their jobs every day, then those in a creative line of work can too. Change your attitude towards your work.
11. Based on the theory that everything that can be created has been and creation is simply a process of combining existing ideas, consume information by the bucket load. The more you know, the more you can create from that knowledge.
12. Meet new people from different walks of life. Gain insight into their perspectives on life. Strike up a conversation on the bus.
13. Shut out the world. Instead of sucking in new information, sit quietly, go to sleep, or meditate. Stop thinking and clear your mind so that the clutter doesn’t get in the way of your thoughts.
14. Carry a camera with you and look for interesting things in your every day scenery. Hadn’t noticed that crack in the path before? Then it’ll do. Set a quota and force yourself to make it. Don’t go to new places to do this – force yourself to find new perspectives on old knowledge.
15. Creativity is a muscle. Exercise it daily – if you only need to create once a week, your muscles may have atrophied if you don’t do it just because you don’t have to.
16. Carry a notebook everywhere. Or a PDA.
17. Write down a list of ideas and draw random arrows between them. For instance, if you’re a blogger, write down everything in your Categories list and draw lines to connect unusual ideas. If you had the categories “Relationships” and “Management” and randomly connected them you’d have an interesting article idea to work with.
18. If you’re not on a tight deadline, walk away and do something completely unrelated. Don’t let yourself spend that time stressing about what you need to do.
19. Create a framework. As many writers have said, the blank page can be the biggest show-stopper. Instead of trying to rely on pure inspiration, set your topic or theme and start creating within confines. Think within the box you create for yourself.
20. Remove obstacles to creativity. That friend who calls to complain about their life can wait until you can afford to get stressed about their problems.
21. Don’t judge your ideas until you have plenty to judge. Don’t be embarrassed by yourself – just write them all down! Even if you start with “pink polka-dotted lizard.”
22. Keep a journal. It can get your mind working, and in a month, or a year, when you’ve gained some distance from what you’ve written it can give you new ideas.
23. Stop telling yourself you’re not creative. If you tell yourself not to come up with ideas, then you probably won’t – no matter how hard you try.
24. Don’t be a workaholic – take breaks. Your mind needs a chance to wind down so it doesn’t overheat and crash.
25. Experiment randomly. What does a flanger sound like on a vocal track? Like Lenny Kravitz, of course.
26. Treat creativity like an enemy in a strategy game; if one thing isn’t working, don’t keep trying until you give up. Try a new strategy. Run through the whole list, not just the first tip.
27. Choose a topic and write about it as wonderfully or badly as you possibly can. Then edit it as ruthlessly as a newspaper editor who has thousands of words to edit in the next hour and doesn’t care what gets lost in the process. At the end you might have something decent to use as a starting point.
28. Trash what you’re working on. Start again.
29. Exercise every day, before you sit down to be creative. If you exercise afterwards you’ll get the creative burst – just too late.
30. Spend time with your children. Or someone else’s.