Refresh your creativity

Anyone can find themselves staring at a blank page – or computer screen – not knowing what to do next. Here are 5 tactics to get yourself out of this creative dead-end.

  1. Relax. Creative ideas mostly occur when you’re doing nothing important: when your stress levels are lowest. So stop pushing and go for a walk, or a massage, or a long bath. Doing nothing may seem counter-intuitive, especially if you have a deadline, but it’s actually the most effective way to come up with new ideas.
  2. Learn. Creativity is all about connecting seemingly-unrelated ideas into something new, so take a course on something random, something that appears to have nothing at all to do with your subject matter. Read a book, or study one of your heroes in-depth. If your creative challenge is complex, read everything you can about it, and take notes until your brain hurts.
  3. Improvise (with a deadline). Set a timer. If you’re a writer, just write, stream of consciousness. Fill a page with your random thoughts. If you’re a painter, just take your paints and fill the canvas. If you’re a song-writer, write a song within the timeframe you have. There’s absolutely no pressure that this will be the ground-breaking work you want to create. It’s throw-away. But by removing the pressure, you will surprise yourself. Inspiration will strike. Just don’t force it. Once the timer rings, set it up again. Focus on quantity of ideas, not quality.
  4. Teach. Take some of your previous work and document it. What were the decisions you made, and why? What were your influences? How could someone learn from what you did? Doing this will re-ignite your flame and get you being creative again. Teaching in front of an audience is the best of all. Find a way to give a talk to people just starting out. It will re-inspire you, and their questions will set your creative mind ablaze. They may even criticise you. This is ideal: you’re forced to reflect on your own past work and any lazy assumptions you may have had.
  5. Steal. Imagine that you are Picasso, or Mozart, or Shakespeare. Who do you admire the most in your field? If you actually were these people, what would you do next? Do it.
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