Okay so there are tons of ways to get the creative vibes working, but these are some that work well for yours truly.
Go to a cool place with old stuff.
Man I love to look at old stuff. Old packaging, old books, old textiles, old artwork – old stuff is fun. There have been a few antique stores that I have visited that really do a great job of not being overwhelming, but having little vignettes that really spark ideas, from color palettes, to patterns, to utility. I have also found that poking around in my father-in-law's machine shop can get my creative (pun warning) gears turning.
This insightful Mark Twain quote is why I love looking at old things. Even if I can’t make it out to a cool shop, browsing through an old book, watching an old film, listening to an old song can all bring about new turns in my “mental kaleidoscope.” A designer whom I admire goes "badgehunting" in old shops and never disappoints with his finds. There's a treasure trove out there!
Listen to a piece of music. Really listen.
Music and art are creative siblings. My husband, who plays guitar and composes his own electronic music, often notes the overlaps in the creative process we share. He wants me to take up an instrument in order to foster a new creative outlet as well, but that is another post. I once had a co-worker/designer/friend who made his own music video based on a Radiohead song he really loved. How cool and inspiring!
Music conjures thought and emotion – why not channel that into exploring a new creative exercise? Draw what you see when you listen to a classical piece. Paint a canvas or choose color schemes after a jazz piece. Start first by just listening to the piece. Actively listen and maybe take a few notes. Afterward, write a poem, draw something or pull out your Prismacolors and go to town. Music is a great platform for opening creative doors and removing creative block. Personally I prefer to listen to jazz while I am working through a creative challenge, or even just brainstorming a list – the energy and freedom of improvisation transmits good vibes.
TAKE A SHOWER OR BATH AND RECORD YOUR IDEAS.
For some reason I get a ton of ideas while I’m sudsing. The key is to capture your ideas soon after you towel off (and probably after you dress to prevent someone from walking in on you standing in the buck furiously jotting down your ideas). For me the routine procedures of bathing free up my mental space to be able to think without distraction. Let me mention that my whole day is pretty much a distraction – from kids to phone calls I find very little uninterrupted mental time. This could probably work just as well while walking alone or sipping a coffee in the quiet space you like best. In my experience, however, when I focus too much on generating ideas, they get scared and hide in the recesses of my brain. Showering is a way for me to have zero pressure to easily generate a brainstorm.
Do a creative activity outside of the norm.
This approach is kind of like writing with the opposite hand to your dominant one. It’s can challenge you a bit, but it can also just be a way of freeing you from what I find to be common for professional creatives – the pressure of selling your work, all of the time.
Your primary motivation in this exercise is to enjoy yourself. If you’ve never messed with charcoal, pick some up and make a portrait of your pet, take up sewing and make a pencil case for your kid. Just do something that is not work, that is fun and that allows you to be creative without worries. Some artists and designers have “side projects” for this, but I still find that that brings with it pressure for me personally because it still makes me think about putting it out into the world. This exercise is primarily about just being free to make. Even if the end result is weird or very far from perfect – the point is absolute creative freedom. If you make a masterpiece in the process, party on, Garth.
We’re all unique and the things that get us stoked to create are wide and varied. Hopefully you have insights to share about how you get inspired in the comments below.