Pep Talk: How To Stay Creative

I thought once I quit my corporate 9-5 job that my fear of Mondays would vanish. I imagined all sorts of things that would happen when I would finally be working for myself. I’d be able to wake up early to work on what I wanted, have time to do yoga, make a bomb breakfast, and journal or meditate. All while money just kept climbing into my bank account.

If you’re going to tell me that I was under some grand illusions, I’ve already beaten you to it. Yep, it did not take me very long to realize that finding new clients, honing my craft, and learning the most basic of website design would take over my fairy-tale idea of what my normal day would look like. And, no, I’m not complaining. I love being in control of these things, and I really enjoy learning and solving problems. But I also love traveling, and I haven’t been doing that as much as I’d thought I would be.

The reason I love traveling isn’t because of the dope Instagram photos I come home with. In fact, I’m pretty bad at remembering to take selfies, and I usually come home with pictures of landscapes and architectural details more than anything else. The reason I love traveling is because I get to eat new food, walk down new streets, and see how other people do things. Travel brings me the exact opposite of a boring routine: the killer of creativity, the sucker of fun, and the bringer of frustration.

In short, I guess you could say that a lack of travel plus a lot of work equals me feeling pretty meh.

So, when you’re feeling a little drained or uninspired, how do you keep going? Keep reading for some of my tried-and-true tips to be creative and stay trucking.

Gamify Your Projects

This one is simple enough. Instead of slogging through hours of work or writing lengthy blog posts on a dry topic with only the end in sight, you can add a little bit of fun to your project. Think about a twist you can put on what you’re doing to help distract you. For example, find an unrelated word to your work (consider digging into the Word of the Day from the OED or another dictionary) and find a way to use it in your writing. If it’s ridiculous at the end, pull it out. But finding a way to use the word naturally is half the fun.

If you’re more into the visual arts, you can see how many of the same shape you can squeeze into a piece, or even try using an element or shape you would never choose for yourself. Make it work, honey.

Mine Your Past Notes

If you’ve been dabbling in an art form for a while, you probably have a notebook or a file of sketches. Notes and scribbles can come in handy when you’re feeling like the well is all dried up. Fun fact: John Lennon worked off of notes and recordings he made earlier in life in The Beatles’ Maharishi days, expanding on them and creating new songs from that earlier inspiration years later.

Sometimes an abandoned project or a quick idea can turn into something truly inspired.

Stop Editing

So many of us are getting better at this, but it’s still worth mentioning for anyone who lets their inner editor take control when they’re working. Separate your creation time from your editing time, and don’t let your editor butt in when you’re creating. Even if something seems really mundane, dumb, or reductive, it can lead to something really cool if you push it far enough. Give yourself the freedom to write the cheesiest dialogue or create the biggest movie poster ripoff. Whether it stays as an exercise or is able to be manipulated into something better, it doesn’t matter. You need to let that full creativity loose sometimes. Hold the judgment.

Try A New Art Form

Everyone in the internet world will tell you that you need to niche down, create your unique and recognizable style, find your voice. And while that can lead to great results, it can also lead to uninspired or repetitive work. Why would you write the same novel over and over again (looking at you, Nabokov)? And why would you just create the same art piece again? If you’ve found yourself stuck, it could be that you’re too familiar with your process.

One of the most freeing thing you can do is try something completely new. Try pottery, or drawing, or even making collages out of old magazines. I knew a girl in college who took art classes solely because she said it helped her do better in her other classes. Makes perfect sense to me.

Find Inspiration in New Places

Read new books, walk down new streets, and get out of your comfort zone. Being creative requires work and attention. Think about feeding your creativity just like you would feed your body. You can’t survive on Honey Nut Cheerios alone (even though I tried when I was in middle school). You need a wide range of vitamins and minerals to keep a complex system like your body going. Your brain is even more demanding. Keep it healthy and fed with new thoughts and experiences.