As an artist, you’ve probably had a period of creative block or lack of inspiration. Here are some tips and tricks to help you get your creative juices flowing.
Every now and then we get a little stuck on an assignment or feel like the work we do doesn’t fulfill us. Especially with everything that’s been going on lately with Covid-19 and quarantine, it’s challenging to stay inspired as an artist and do creative work well. Still, there are ways to find beauty and inspiration and get back on track with good and creative work. Here are some tips on how to find creative inspiration and shake off the feeling of inability and lack of inspiration.
This might sound bland or obvious, but listening to music helps us in many ways. Past studies have shown that music helps improve cognition, learning, and focus. Listening to music also helps with regaining and improving memory. But it seems it has a big impact on creative thinking too.
No matter the creative industry you work in, you have the cognitive capacity to come up with original ideas, i.e. “divergent thinking.” On the other hand, convergent thinking is the ability to select the most successful one out of a series of ideas.
A study by Simone M. Ritter and Sam Ferguson for the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research found that listening to upbeat and happy music helps increase performance on overall divergent thinking and enhances the cognitive flexibility people need to come up with innovative and creative solutions. Or as it’s explained better by the authors, it helps “the ability to switch between different concepts and perspectives, rather than seeing the problem from a rigid point of view”.
So naturally, a songwriter has to listen to a lot of music to be able to come up with their own style and taste, but music helps us all create, no matter the job description.
If you work in the creative industry, you are well aware of the fact that no matter what your experience and expertise are, there’s never a point where you can say that’s enough reading and learning. Ideas change, the collective knowledge shapes to them accordingly, and creative professionals have to adapt themselves and push the boundaries of their industries, innovate, and create.
Vermeer found inspiration for his life’s work in a corner of a room, and he didn’t have the privilege of having an endless library two clicks away. We, on the other hand, are privileged to have the world on our palms. Eons of collective creation and history can be found online in less than a second. So, the source of materials for reading, watching, and listening to your daily dose of inspiration is there.
A graphic designer will spend hours, nay, days on Behance, Dribble, and Pinterest. A writer will read books, online magazines, blogs, and community news for the industry they’re writing for, google new concepts and listen to podcasts and webinars for latest trends and news.
And it’s important to add that not every information you consume has to be closely related to your field of work. Inspiration comes in many forms and from different places. A beautifully cinematic film can inspire you to paint, a poetry book can help you create an illustration, painting and photography can be a great design inspiration for an art director.
Creative minds often think alike, but you can find new ideas and inspiration from peers that have a refreshing point of view too. Participating in community events, learning from peers online, and asking for an objective opinion from them can really help you as a creative professional.
From Facebook groups and bloggers that write about design and creativity, to websites like Abduzeedo or Creative Bloq and specialized podcasts, there are many, many ways to find a source of inspiration from within the industry.
Apart from asking for their opinion or turning for advice, you can also cooperate with peers or taking part in a friendly competition. Design challenges are great for that. Remember the Rebound option on Dribbble? Many graphic designers use it for enhancing their creativity.
The fact that we live in times where everything is easy to find also has its own negativities. We’re overexposed to information every day: 90% of the data on the internet has been created since 2016. Our world is oversaturated with opinions and information, and our minds are overexposed. Learning and practicing media literacy and critical thinking is absolutely helpful, but you know what else is? Staying away from the media for a while.
Here are the top three pros of taking a break (or quitting) from social media:
It can negatively affect your subjective well-being and life satisfaction. Some studies also show that social media is linked to depressive symptoms. Seeing how everyone else is doing and measuring your success by comparing yourself to peers affects overall happiness. And creative people tend to reflect their feelings in their work. Sure, negative emotions also make a great source of inspiration, but productivity suffers.
It lowers your self-esteem. Seeing other people’s career progress and accomplishments makes you feel less successful. It also negatively affects our self-image and makes us feel lonely cause we compare private relationships and body images too.
It makes you sleepy and tired. Instead of sleeping right away, we stare at a blue-light emitting screen, scrolling through social media. It makes us restless and feeds insomnia. And on top of that, bad news and other people’s lives are the last things you see before sleeping, so it affects dreaming too.
Sure, there are cons too, but try to at least take a 1-2 hour break every day to see how it goes. Or maybe even extend it to a month-long hiatus.
Yes, you read that correctly—being bored can be good for you. According to Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK, boredom is an essential part of the creative process and we should let it take over every now and then.
Mann explains that boredom is “a search for neural stimulation that isn’t satisfied”.
So, if we can’t find that neural stimulation, our mind will be forced to create it when bored. According to a study, boredom enables creativity and problem-solving by allowing the mind to wander and daydream.
But there is also a right and wrong way to be bored. Meditation or yoga doesn’t quite do the trick, because your body is still doing another function. You should completely unplug and so a mundane, everyday task, something that requires little or no concentration, or nothing at all.
Mann suggests walking a familiar route, swimming laps, or even just sitting with your eyes closed. No music, no reading, just your mind roaming free and helping you daydream.
And no phones, of course.
The presence of a scrapbook will help you compile your ideas, whether it is a thought you can later elaborate on, or doodle something that will grow into a great creation. From design work to journaling, the presence of an empty piece of paper will unleash your thoughts and greatly improve your creative life.
It is a radical method, but exposure therapy can help you as an artist. If you’re too shy and scared of judgment, do improv. If you’re too clumsy, train martial arts or take dance lessons. If you’re an introvert, find a safe group of people with similar interests.
Getting out of your comfort zone can immensely help you overcome fear and give you a new perspective and space for creativity. Artists often stay in one field because they think it’s something they do perfectly. But perfection is a myth and the earlier you accept that the easier it is. There’s an anecdote that Elvis Presley auditioned for a successful musician while he was young and still driving a truck. The musician allegedly told him to stick to driving a truck, cause he’ll never be a singer. What if he took that advice and ever pushed himself to become the inventor of rock and roll and one of the most important songwriters in history?
Is there a greater source of inspiration than nature? Whatever humanity manages to create or construct, the great outdoors will hold beauty and motivation you wouldn’t be able to find someplace else.
Exposure to nature also helps with problem-solving, attention deficiency, and boosts our imagination. We do come from nature after all, so its nurturing and inspiring capabilities shouldn’t be ignored.
It’s normal to feel stuck or uninspired sometimes. But creativity is a non-stop process, and naturally, your mind needs to rest and refocus sometimes. Hopefully, these simple pieces of advice can help you find inspiration and focus your creativity into something that will help you grow and feel appreciated. But don’t try too hard. You can’t force yourself to create. Work on yourself, explore, do some risky experiments, research new ideas and fields, and of course—never stop being an imaginative kid deep down.