Yesterday I wrote about the spectrum of creativity, how creative abundance arrives to us in seasons so that sometimes we are overflowing with ideas and other times our wells are dry. Regardless of what season you find yourself in right now, I think it is crucial that we always remain on the look for ways to tap into our creativity. Here are 10 ways to harness your creative spirit, whether you are in the blooming summer of the creative mind or the dead of winter:
1) Take a walk. Keep your pace slow, if possible, and allow yourself to notice every small detail around you. In what direction are the flowers pointing, and how is the light hitting them? What makes that dog across the street unique? Do you pass anyone speaking in a language other than English? Allow your mind to wander as you walk, and see what surfaces.
2) Go for a drive. In California, where I live, we have the luxury of being surrounded by such varying geographical features it is easy to be at the beach in 20 minutes or the mountains in 30. While not every place is as geographically diverse, the landscape – city or country, residential or rural – always promises new sites and perspectives, if you’re willing to look. Has a silo recently been painted? Someone’s Christmas decorations finally taken down? What do you notice, and how does what you notice inform the way you see the world?
3) Listen to music from your past. Recently, my husband and I (on a trip in which our young was absent) put in a CD of songs from high school and had a blast belting out the lyrics. Okay, maybe that’s not being creative exactly, but listening to those songs unearthed so many memories for me: standing in the high school parking lot after school talking about the afternoon football game, lunches with girlfriends at the deli in the local grocery store (because our town didn’t actually have a fast food restaurant), long-ago crushes and moments that made my heart speed toward space. All from one little song by L.I.T.
4) Take pictures. Not a photographer? So what? You never know what unique angle you might capture if you allow your camera to tag along with you wherever you go. What sorts of stories or poetry could you make up with the preserved images of a little boy playing with a red ball in the park? An old man sitting on the curb? A park bench that advertises for divorce lawyers?
5) Schedule a coffee date with a friend just to chat, and see what topics come up. If you feel absolutely useless when it comes to generating new ideas, get out of your own head for a while and allow someone else to do the talking, or at least to take the reins of a conversation. Recently I was talking to two women about deals at craft stores – a sort of hum-drum topic for me, until one woman mentioned a stash of assemble-yourself toy corvettes she had snatched up at 80 percent off and was looking for ways to get them into the hands of children who might use them. Genuine conversations are made of stuff you can’t make up.
6) Visit an art museum. Take a notebook or sketchpad with you. Take your time going from room to room, and see what speaks to you and even what doesn’t. When something moves you, ask yourself why. When something turns you off, ask yourself why. Art museums promise the potential of whole new discoveries.
7) Keep a notebook/sketchbook with you at all times, so you can scribble any idea that pops into your head at any given moment. Inevitably, the best ideas seem to strike during those moments when we are completely unable to follow and develop them. Having some sort of tablet to capture those gems when they show their first flash is one solid way to keep them preserved in that raw form until you have time to come back to them. (Note: I have started using my iPhone for this, too, whipping out the “Notepad” feature whenever inspiration bites.)
8) Allow your mind to wander. If you find yourself thinking about a particular project you’re working on or want to work on, allow that act of thinking to take its own shape. I have composed whole paragraphs of essays in my head while in the shower or out for a walk. If the idea is solid enough, I can come back to my computer or notebook and watch my hands fly through the words that have already been created. Man, is it empowering.
9) Read a lot. Writers, and history itself, have proven over and over that reading stimulates the brain in a way that nothing else quite can. By opening yourself up to the words and ideas of others, you open yourself up to new ways of seeing the world. You give yourself a chance at experiencing an energized perspective, and that’s always fun. See my post about Reading Resolutions here.
10) Do something new. Push yourself out of your comfort zone to see the world in new ways. Last fall, a friend of mine invited me to go kayaking along the beach. I could pass, explain to her my lack of fondness for the ocean or my complete weakness when it comes to water that is any way, shape or form cold. Or, I could say, “Count me in,” and see what adventure awaits. Even if I get wet, at least I’ll have a story to tell.