Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.
– Gene Fowler, screenwriter
|Anyone who writes or designs has had those times – and we all have – when our fertile creative fields have shriveled up into deserts. You look anywhere you can for inspiration, but there’s dry dust in every direction. Nothingness. Nada. Zip. Bupkis. And as your anxiety builds, your confidence withers and you couldn’t extract a good idea from your brain with both hands on a pair of Vice Grips.||
Everyone has experienced these periods of creative desolation, but it’s different for anyone who creates for a living. For those of us in employed in the creative media industry, we don’t have the luxury of waiting to be ‘in the zone’ to generate ideas – our livelihoods depend on being creative on demand. Even when we don’t feel like it.
So how do you summon up the powers of creativity on command?
The ancient Greeks personified the creative powers as The Muses – nine goddesses, all daughters of Zeus – who presided over and inspired literature and the arts. And while creatives in classical Greece could summon The Muses for inspiration, creative blockbusting today is really as basic as neutralizing the busy-ness of the brain to allow creative energy to flow from its source.
Here at Mills James, we each have our own carefully crafted creative recipes for creative juices, but there are some common ingredients we all share:
|Being stuck is often a matter of not seeing the problem clearly enough, and the best antidote for that is distance. Just getting away from a problem helps frame a better view of it. So instead of flailing away, escape. Get away from your computer and do something completely unrelated that doesn’t take your complete concentration.||
Maybe a relaxing drive. Going for a walk. Taking a long shower. Sitting along the riverbank. Something that distracts and calms your consciousness while letting your subconscious get a better grip on the creative situation. Sometimes the best work comes from having enough time to foster a eureka moment while doing something totally mundane.
|In situations when creating just seems too hard, another trick is to work on other, easier tasks – preferably ones that aren’t related. Fill out a timesheet. Organize a drawer. Wash the car. Taking on a bunch of small tasks you can do quickly and well will put you in a more positive mindset of accomplishing things.||
Then when you come back to that seemingly insurmountable creative problem, it’s just another thing to check off the list. Sometimes you just need to just get out of your own way to realize that your best idea was is in there all along.
|Find a multi-sensory environment that’s densely packed with ideas. The library. Museum. Art gallery. Theater. Antique store. The where doesn’t matter as much as the what – which is to see or feel something that inspires. Not necessarily something novel or new, but something that sparks a thought, ignites an original idea, and propels us back to our keyboard, mouse or tablet infused with a fresh realm of possibilities.||
Inevitably, something in these experiences will promote a bout of createarrhea – when the ideas come so rapidly that they can’t even make it to the wastebasket in time.