Photo by macropoulos
Being a writer, or in any creative profession, means you’re heavily reliant on a creative “something” to get you going, and give you the impetus you need to get working. Once the creative juices get flowing, you’re sailing through your work; when that creativity isn’t there, it can be hard to get started.
Trouble is, we can’t always afford to be at the mercy of these creative whims. We often have work to do that we can’t put off until a moment we’re feeling more creative.
My solution to this dilemma has been to create a system that takes advantage of my creative moments to make my uncreative ones less problematic. In my experience, I’m feeling uncreative far more often than I’m feeling creative. Creativity comes in furious spurts, and I’m slowly learning how to take advantage of those in order to make feigning creativity easier, using tools like these:
Keep a List
This is probably the most basic way to make sure you can create when you’re not feeling creative. The key here is to have a list, always with you, of ideas. Whenever you think of something you’d like to do, make, or write, put it on the list. I find my creative moments come at unpredictable times- when I’m running, taking a shower, or doing just about anything that takes me away from my computer, and I need a way to record those ideas when they hit.
Having a list always on hand is critical to harnessing those creative moments to make it easier to work later on. I use Evernote, others use Moleskines– you can use anything you want, as long as it’s quick and easy to add and view your list.
Don’t Finish What You Start
This one’s particularly useful for writing- when you’re feeling creative, don’t write a full article, blog post, or whatever it is you need to do. Instead, write only beginnings. I find in an hour, I can start a huge number of different blog posts, and write just the first few words or first sentence for all of them.
When you’re writing these, don’t just stop with a period, or a nice, neat end. End in mid-sentence. Pick a number of words to write, and then stop wherever you are. When you come back to that piece, you’ll remember how your sentence was going to end. Once you’ve written the few words you were already going to write, the rest will begin to flow.
Find New Directions
Mind mapping is one of my favorite ways to leverage my most creative moments. Start with one particular word or idea, and then spin it in as many different ways as possible. I find that one thought can branch a hundred different ideas, and even lead me in a totally different direction.
Whenever you’re feeling creative, try making a mind map. Pick a topic, as broad or specific as you want, and see how many ideas you can come up with. Anything that pops into your head, write it down- it might serve you well later. If you’re looking for a great Web-based Mindmapping tool, try MindMeister.
Even if I’m not always feeling creative, odds are someone I know is bound to be. Try leveraging those around you, steal their ideas, and you’ll have a great starting point without any work on your part. Twitter, Facebook, and email are all great for this- crowdsourcing creativity can be incredibly useful.
For example, in writing this post, I asked for help from my Twitter friends. Immediately, I got back a response pointing me to a video about creative inspiration that got my juices flowing again. Talking to other people can provide great ideas, and talking with other creative people can get your brain functioning creatively again.
Do you ever notice that your most creative moments come during mindless, monotonous tasks? When you’re doing something like driving, taking a shower, folding laundry- that’s when great ideas tend to come out. If you’re not feeling creative at a given moment, don’t fret- just go do something else. We’ve all got mindless tasks on our plate, and the best time to do them is when your muse is failing you.
Sometimes, doing a task that requires zero brainpower will free your brain to wander, and that’s when the creative juices come back. Just make sure you’ve got a way to record them!
The time when creativity is key is starting- I find, once I get going, it’s always easy to continue. Finding an idea, writing the first sentence, or drawing the first line is always the most difficult part.
By leveraging the creative moments, both our own and others’, to make the uncreative less problematic, we’re in a position to always be creating, even when we’re not creative.
What do you do when the creative juices aren’t flowing?