25 Ways to Ignite Creativity

*This article is part of a series called ‘Stoke the Fire’, which explores the creative process and attempts to understand how and why we are driven to create. I would love to hear your opinions on creativity and ideas for future posts.*

25 Ways to Ignite Creativity

Extravaganza – Prediction = True by Pilottage, via Flickr Creative Commons

So the inspiration is there (and if it’s not take a gander at my ‘101 Ways to Spark Inspiration’…hopefully there will be something there to get you started), the soul is willing but the brain is stalling. We’ve all been there!

The blank page is too unforgiving, the canvas too taute. The silence is deafening. The pause yawns with expectation and pressure. Oh, the Pressure!

In response to the Pressure (and also as a way to put off my own creative endeavors today…I promise to get started after this!) I’ve come up with 25 ways I use to by-pass the over-thinking and get down to the creating, as well as a list of resources I fall back on when stuck. I would freakin’ love to hear how you do it too…

1. Trick yourself. ‘I’m not making Art. I’m just doodling/humming/messing around/having a laugh…’

2. Bribe yourself. Creating + 30 minutes = that chocolate bar that’s calling to me from the kitchen!

3. I highly recommend SARK‘s notion of MicroMOVEments. Super small steps towards doing what it is that you are putting off, that gently steer you towards action. She has very kindly created a worksheet for it that you can download for free on her site.

4. Close your eyes. Drop your shoulders. Steady your breath. See what you want to create in your minds eye – the perfect performance, the stroke of the brush, the turn of the phrase, the thrust of the form. See it in its entirety, in its complete glory. Now see that it already exists! It exists in your mind’s eye, your job is just to actualize it, follow the blue-print you’ve just conjured. The hard part is over. Now you’re just following directions.

5. Laugh as you make it. Don’t take it all so seriously…

6. Sneak up on it! Literally, even, if you have to.

7. Do it backwards. Write the lyrics before the melody or paint the foreground before the background or do whatever you want. See what happens.

8. Share it with someone. For some reason the thought of sharing original ideas in the creative world is seen as a bad thing sometimes. Pick someone you trust and allow yourself to take some advice or collaborate or even just talk it out with this person. This is not a sign of weakness. This is you understanding that creating is a community process, rarely done in true isolation.

9. Take the Sandwich approach. Identify a cheerleader. Call them up. Tell them that you are procrastinating and that you are kinda afraid to start but after you hang up your are going to work for 30 minutes flat-out, no matter the result, and then you are going to call them right back! Get a pep talk to energize your being and know that you will have someone waiting for you on the other side, eager to hear what you did and how you are.

10. Write down your creative intent. Put it under your pillow. Let the fairies do it while you’re asleep.

Butterfly by Jinterwas, via Flickr Creative Commons

11. Channel Meryl Streep in ‘The Devil Wear’s Prada’. Nothing stands in your way. Everything you do is inspired because YOU are the gatekeeper of taste! (Just don’t be mean to your employees…not cool!)

12. Know that your artwork loves you unconditionally, like a child. You brought it into this world, you gave it life. It really doesn’t care if it’s a masterpiece or not.

13. EX-pression is the opposite of DE-pression. It is for the good of your own health that you make this piece of art…as important as exercise and your 5-a-day.

14. You are not the star of ‘The Truman Show’. No one will ever see what you create if you don’t show it to them. So who cares if it turns out to be shit?! Make it anyway and see what happens. You can always recycle it…

15. Make Art like children do – with no plan, broad strokes, speed, inaccuracies but simplicity of vision, colourful abandon and crystal clear honesty. Glue & sprinkle. Smear & rip. Jump & wiggle. Yodel & whisper.

16. Do like Georgia O’Keeffe. Zoom in, but make it really BIG! If you can’t bring yourself to make the entire thing, pick one minute detail of it but do it on a massive, grandiose scale. How do you feel about your project now?

Oriental Poppies by Georgia O’Keeffe

17. Have you tried the Morning Pages yet?! They are like an extra large, double shot latte for your Creative Being (but without the jitters and the come-down!). I first learned about them from Julia Cameron and basically you just write three, long-hand, stream-of-consciousness pages when you first wake up. You can’t do them wrong. You don’t think about them or ‘craft’ them. You don’t read back over them and you definitely don’t ever let anyone else read them. They are a place for you to whine, bitch, moan, grieve, yearn, gossip, giggle, observe, plot, extrapolate, whatever…just keep writing! I can’t tell you how amazingly focussing, cleansing and reviving they are. I can’t even say WHY they are so effective but that they get the gunk out, bypass the Ego and let you get down to business afterwards I suppose. You can read more about them here on Julia Cameron’s site…

18. Retreat to your safe place to create. Mine is my bed. I can happily write under the covers. I have been known to take my guitar to bed. I haven’t tried paints yet but I have woken up with crayons in my hair…and it was marvellous!

19. Do it outside! Pack a picnic, pick a spot and feel expansive. Also great because, so long as you’re not littering, it’s perfectly fine to make a mess.

20. Do something different. Are you a painter? Then try to sing it. Writers should attempt to sew it. Musicians might draw it. Dancers should feel free to sit still. Take your idea and express it in a way you are not familiar with just to see what happens. Does it turn your idea on it’s head or reaffirm what you already knew? Does the challenge of expressing yourself in an unfamiliar medium make you eager to get back to your native ‘language’?

21. Pimp your workspace. Taken to the extreme this can become a diversionary tactic so please be careful but sometimes a wee Spring clean of the ol’ workspace is very energizing. You find some materials you didn’t realise you had or that scrap of paper with the incredible idea on it that you had forgotten about. Nothing like physically clearing out to give you a good mental clear out as well! And if it’s all boring and work-like may I suggest some fairy lights, fresh flowers, candles, photos. Prettify the place you want to make beautiful art in. Make it a work of art itself.

22. Do you have a Creative Routine? Create a habit of lighting a candle to signify the start of your creative time. Or unplug the phone. Or make it a habit that as soon as you get in from work/shopping/walking that you will go straight to work. Make this the trigger that lets your mind know that you are now in Creative Mode, Do Not Disturb! This also doubles as a handy signal to people you live with and love to stay the freakin’ hell away from you while the candle is lit/CD is playing/sock is on the door knob! Routine can create boundaries and boundaries help protect what you hold precious.

The Golden Dream by AlicePopkorn, via Flickr Creative Commons

23. KNOW THIS! You are just a hollow reed through which inspiration has moved. You are not the original creator, merely the interpretor for the inspiration that is released into the ether by the Muse/Ultimate Inspiration/Great Creator/Universe/God/whatever you can believe in that removes the ego from creating…that unknowable, unending energy that fuels our hearts and minds and souls. I don’t care if you believe in religion or not, God or not. I don’t care if this all sounds a touch too hippy-ish for you. Believe this! This one idea will lift the burden of achieving and striving from your creative life. Your job suddenly becomes simple – to give solidity to an idea presented to you.

24. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway! Feel it in the pit of your stomach. Feel it try to f*&k you up! Now just move. Use it as a huge energy springboard. This isn’t here to fuel my not doing work, it’s going to FUEL MY WORK. Have a little out of body moment even and just look at yourself working in the face of fear…Fabulous!

25. If you really can’t do it, walk away. Maybe it’s not worth tearing it out of you. Maybe it’s not ready to be born yet. Let it bake a while longer. Go and have a nap. As Danielle LaPorte says…

Move the energy before you make a move for the results.
Want to write a killer chapter? Take a bath.
Want the check to arrive? Give some money away.
Want the love to come? Dance it out in your living room.

Want to slam down your to do list? Take the day off.

It’s not always a doing.
It’s a new seeing.

(read the whole article here…)

~ Why do you think getting start can be so hard sometimes?

~ What do you do to get the ball rolling when faced with the ‘blank page’?

**For even more ways to get the ole Creative ball rolling check out this list of resources, books, links, films, interviews and blogs that me & my band of Creative Cohorts find useful…’More on Igniting Creativity’.  Hope you find it helpful!**

p.s. this is my 100th post on Lighting Little Fires…Yeay! Thank YOU for all the support, encouragement, for reading and inspiring what I write. I owe you a jammy doughnut…

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10 responses to “25 Ways to Ignite Creativity

  1. Just awesome! I read this today and created something new tonight! Result!!

  2. Love this post! One of my favorites, for sure! I love the “hollow reed” concept, and I think that’s why I love creating so much! 100th post!!!! What a way to do it, Parisa! I am actually about to have my 100th too- I’m at 96! Can’t wait to see the 200th and beyond!

    • Yeay Erin! Can’t wait for your 100th celebrationary post :) I love the ‘hollow reed’ concept too…it really takes the pressure off so you can just get on with it! Thanks so much for reading…

  3. Nice post.

    There’s a few tricks which work for me. One I worked out very recently, which was that you have to make sure that it’s something that fires you up.

    For me, first of all the thing is to try and make it fun. Say I want to write a song, then I have to ask myself what the coolest, funkiest type of song I’d like to hear is. That gets me thinking about what kind of wild stuff I’d really like to do instead of something boring.

    Use good bait, as Bob Dylan says. Put yourself into situations that demand a response.

    The other term for 22 is ‘sharpening your pencils’. Works for some.

    I think number 25 is really important too. A writer I met said ‘If it defeats you, walk away’.

    Ultimately, there are as many different ways as you can think of. Whichever one works for you is the one that works.

    • SUCH a good point, if it’s not fun then you really have to ask yourself why you’re doing it? and is it worth it?!

      I think I’m going to put the ‘Put yourself in situations that demand a response’ and the Bob Dylan quote on a post-it by my work place!

      Thanks for commenting Gideon…

  4. YOU are amazing! I am popping over to my classmate post and add this link! And sending it to a couple friends who are having a particularly difficult time right now finding their creative way.

    Just printed this out and it will join the others on my bedside table .

    Thank you for this most beautiful post.

    • Pam, thank you so so much for sharing this article with your friends…what a beautiful compliment that is! I really hope it helps them through their difficult creative period. We’ve all been there and we know how hard it can be!

  5. Pingback: More on Igniting Your Creativity! | LightingLittleFires

  6. Hi Parisa!

    One approach that really helps me is not trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s often easier to ask myself what delights me in other people’s art–my ego is uninvolved. Then I can invite more of that quality into my own work. There are so many inspiring artists in this world! Like you.

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