Ever have one of those days when, no matter how hard you try, the ideas just won’t come? Yeah, me too. I find this happens to me more in the summer, when the pace of life slows and the back yard patio calls longingly to “come, sit, relax a while.” However, just because the warm summer breezes are tempting you away, doesn’t mean you should stop creating. Your community waits for no one. If you simply dry up and blow away in the summer, you’ll have a lot of work to do when things ramp back up in September to recoup what you may have lost.
Have you ever noticed that there are some people who seem to have ideas continuously, all year round? That no matter what, they are always putting out something new and inspired? Want to be more like them? Here are a few ideas to keep those creative ideas flowing even during the dog days of summer.
Consume to Create.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about becoming a better writer, with a section called “Read to Write”. The point of this is, if you want to be a better writer, you need to take cues from other writers. Notice their style and approach, and strive to emulate the good things. Well, the same holds true for creativity. If you hope to have any sort of output, you need input. This could be in the form of reading, but it could also be any number of things. Maybe listening to music can work for you, either while you’re working or separately – I’ve often come home from a really great live music performance and sat right down at the computer to start writing. The point is, you need to find things that inspire you, and surround yourself with them. Give yourself sufficient and consistent levels of inputs, and you’ll soon find you’ll have plenty of output.
Keep a List.
The best way to always have something to create is to keep a running list of ideas. You don’t need any fancy tools for this – just a notebook and pen will suffice. I use the Notes App on my iPhone, because it syncs across all my devices. Then, whenever I get inspired, wherever I am, I can jot down an idea for later. Once a week or so, I’ll sort through my list of ideas and schedule some things in to write about. Then, when I sit down to write, I don’t have to stress about it. The ideas are already there, because I’ve put the work in earlier, when inspiration hit.
Change it Up.
Some people think they need the exact right circumstances to create. The perfect type of music (or no music), the perfect type of $30 notebook, the perfect app on their computer – it must be just right or creation cannot happen. Maybe it’s true that having a level of comfort with your surroundings can help you to be inspired, but don’t be afraid to try something different. If you’re a keyboard person, try taking pen to paper for a change. If you normally work at night, try setting your alarm for 5am and get up and create and see how that changes things. If you usually need silence, challenge yourself by going to a noisy coffee shop to work on an idea. You never know what kinds of new things might surface just because you’ve challenged your body and mind to a new set of circumstances.
Talk to Someone.
While there are times when our team does spend considerable amounts of time together working on projects, I work alone quite a bit too. I find that, if I’m spending too much time alone, that my creativity takes a hit. We need human interaction and outside stimulation, it’s just part of who we are. And I mean more than chit chatting on Twitter – actually going out and seeing people in their “protein forms”, as Mitch would say, is critical to sparking creativity. So, when I find that I’m in a downswing of creativity, I make a point of getting out to see people – having coffee with a friend, and spending time with my family are both great ways to spark ideas. In fact, I rarely come out of a conversation with my friends or family where I don’t have a blog post or a song or a project idea in my head.
The worst thing you can do in a creative dry spell is sit and stare at a blank screen, or even worse than that, keep hitting refresh on Facebook all day. Leave your house or office. Go meet up with someone who inspires you, and see what happens.
Most of my best ideas come to me within the first 10 minutes of waking up. It makes sense, because it’s the time of day when my brain is most clear, before thoughts and to do lists start to creep in. Nobody ever created anything worthwhile by sitting down and saying “I’m going to make something now, ok, inspiration, hit me!”. The most creative ideas come when you least expect them, and often when you’re thinking about something totally different.
The creative process cannot be forced. If you sit and try to come up with an idea, you probably won’t be able to come up with anything good. But if you take your mind off the creative process itself, it tends to open up easily. Keep your mind and options open. Allow yourself time to consume, dabble, and be patient with the process. Your creative brain works best when it’s not taxed with the task of being creative.
Most of all, be patient with yourself and with the creative process. Like I said, you can’t force a great idea – it just sort of happens. Try a few of these things out, and let me know if it helps those creative juices start to flow!