When creativity pays your bills, you can’t wait around for inspiration to strike! Check out our pro tips to move past your creative blocks and get inspired anytime.
1. Trust your process
Great work rarely arrives in the mind complete and ready to deliver. Whether you know it or not, you have a creative process. If you have a job in the creative world—designer, writer, musician, etc.—it would serve you well to write out this process. Think back on past projects. What did you do first? What came after that? No matter how intimidating the project seems, we start at the beginning and trust our process will result in an awesomely creative result.
Chances are you start with some kind of research. Some industries call this “discovery” or “market analysis,” but a great first step for any project is looking at what’s already been done.
Brainstorming usually comes next. When we’re designing a logo, Josh draws dozens of little thumbnail-sized sketches as he plays with different ideas. They’re not detailed, fully-executed drawings, but it’s how he gets lots of ideas out very quickly. If I’m naming a company, I start dumping hundreds of words on a page. Then I experiment with different ways they could fit together.
2. Read & experiment
While research is specific to the project at hand, this trick can be more general. We have go-to blogs that stir us up with their own creative content. We keep trade magazines around and skim them to immerse ourselves in the creative world. A good article on photography can help lift writing blocks in my mind even though the topic isn’t directly related.
Experiment with your medium in an unrelated way. Find a YouTube video about a new Adobe feature or painting technique or glass blowing torch. Play! Play with your tools, instrument, voice, storytelling.
Or go create something else. If you’re a graphic designer, go play guitar for a while. If you’re a musician, find some crayons and draw. Creativity begats creativity, so feel free to move outside your prescribed box to get the juices flowing.
3. Change it up
This one is tried and true, and on every how to get inspired list ever written. For a good reason. It works. Granted, not everyone can take off on a hike in the middle of a workday. But you can stand up and stretch or have a 60-second dance party. You can play different music or try working on the floor.
We work from home, so we mix things up with non-work activities. Josh likes to do yard work, often between the research and brainstorming phases, to give his brain time to mold all that inspiration into something new. We’ve also learned that certain types of thinking happen best outside of our home/office. Parks, coffee shops, and libraries serve in these moments.
4. Refuse to be negative
Negativity is the enemy of creativity. Do not allow your brain to assault you with fearful thoughts about deadlines or consequences of failing. Likewise, don’t let yourself whine about your lack of time, equipment, or support. The whole I’m an artist and no one understands me bit will not help you.
Low motivation, weak inspiration days are to be expected. Just because you don’t feel creative at the moment doesn’t mean you aren’t a fabulously creative person. You haven’t “lost your gift.” Bleh.
Choose music that lifts you up. Text a friend who will be encouraging not enabling. Tell yourself you are creative and capable, out loud if possible. When the trainwreck thoughts show up, and they will, dismiss them. You have permission to tell your mind to be nice and helpful.
5. Plan for lack of creativity
Since it’s totally normal to have off days, you should plan for them. Our favorite trick: collect good work. We have files full of beautiful graphic design work—menus, mailers, magazines, anything we thought was really well done. We also use Pinterest to collect logos, websites, and other work we love. When we need a spark of inspiration, we flip through the files and scan the pin boards. I also keep lists of potential blog topics for those days when I’m not feeling it.
We have several white boards in our office. At one point, one held a list of things to do when we didn’t feel like working. Clean out files, organize desktop bookmarks, update our web portfolio. The tasks weren’t creative per se, but they kept us productive so we didn’t end up wallowing in a wasted day.
6. Start, even if it’s terrible
Blank pages are intimidating, but sometimes you have to suck it up and do the work. Even if it’s bad. Even if you don’t want to.
Don’t edit yourself, just begin. Draw one idea then another. Write a word, then a sentence, then a page. Start in the middle of the story/project/composition if that flows better. It’s much easier to revise something than create from nothing, so give yourself something to work with. It’s possible your bad idea will be wonderfully creative. Probably not.
Don’t let yourself believe you have to receive a lightning strike of inspiration before you can get to work. You’re more talented than that.
More creativity questions answered:
How do I get my creativity back? How do I become creative?
Believe you never lost it. Believe creativity is something you have always possessed. Creativity does not flit around from person to person. You are creative. You have a brilliant imagination. It’s one of cool things about being human. Start by getting your thoughts in line on the issue.
How do I jumpstart creativity?
Start with the problem to be solved, then plug in a variety of answers to give yourself options to consider and revise. In design, you could ask, “How could I tackle this with color? With texture? With lines? With organic shapes?” In writing, you might think, “Let me open this scene with the setting. Next, the character. Next, the conflict, Next, dialogue.” Try something. Then make it better.
How can I improve creativity in my writing?
Start with “What if?” Almost every work of creative writing has an awesome underlying what if. What if a mermaid fell in love with a human? What children cars could morph into talking fighting machines? What if the greatest power on earth was contained in a ring?
What do I do to motivate myself?
There are hundreds of answers to this one, but most involve your thinking: Challenge yourself, set a goal, plan a reward, think of what really matters. Fight the brain battle to get yourself on the right track.
What are your best tips and tricks to be creative on demand? Share with us in the comments.