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Though there are those of us who may be more naturally drawn to creative activities, it doesn’t mean that creativity always comes easily. Many artists fall into the trap of thinking that their predisposition to create means that when they occasionally get stuck in a rut, this is a personal failure. This ignores the reality that we are human, rather than some churning artistic machine!
The truth is that our creativity, like so much else in our lives, has to be nurtured. We need to learn what to feed it, how to treat it, and when to let it just rest for a while. It doesn’t come from some magical well. This knowledge doesn’t always help when our fountain runs a little dry — as it inevitably will. However, it does mean that we can develop and employ strategies that allow us to shift gears and help our skills to grow in new, perhaps innovative directions.
What are some tactics that can help improve your frame of mind and artistic sensibilities?
Shake Things Up a Little
As artists, we can fall victim to habit. This is understandable. When we find a method or process that consistently produces successful results, and avoids the discomfort of the unknown, we tend to stick to it. However, this isn’t necessarily conducive to discovering new facets of our work or themes to explore. In short, spending your life in a box restricts your growth.
Every now and again you need to shake up your creative routine. Approach what you do from a new perspective or execute your process in a different order of operations. This can often help you to see new ideas that you may have missed in the auto-pilot of your everyday actions. Use new tools — this doesn’t mean that you have to discard your personal processes, but it forces you to operate and explore outside of your comfort zone.
Changing up your routine isn’t just about work either. Consider adjustments that affect all 5 senses. Bring in new sounds, flavors, smells. Even something as seemingly innocuous as your morning cup of coffee can be a helpful route into the new.
Rather than your reliable, strong black instant variety, try using fresh beans, or use a French press. Why does this make a difference? Well, firstly this enhances the flavors and smells you experience, which helps to stimulate your senses. Also, you’ll find you have to put some time into this activity rather than just pouring water and jumping directly into your work. You’re forced to stay still for a moment, which allows your mind to wander toward different possibilities.
Consider Your Surroundings
Never underestimate how important our living and working spaces are to our creativity. We’d like to think that our creativity chops are so strong that we would be able to create wherever we are and whatever the circumstances. This might be true. But whether we’re working from a grand loft studio or a cupboard under the stairs, being in the same place day after day can start to feel oppressive, dull, uninspired.
A little interior redesign can go a long way. You don’t have to go quite so far as to repaint your walls — though a new color can spark new emotions, which has a knock-on effect for new ideas. Simple adjustments can imbue a purely operational space with the good vibes you need to get moving and growing.
Switching out your light bulbs for a softer glow or a different hue can affect your mood, and setting up lamps can highlight different areas to change your perspective on your work. Adding some plants into the mix will improve the air quality of your studio, and bring some new vibrant colors into your previously stark environment.
It can be a little difficult with our current pandemic, but look into how you can take your work into the outside world. While some of us prefer to create in private, many artists are finding value in taking their work to the streets. It’s not always comfortable to have the public milling around as you create, but the atmosphere, along with the potential for instant positive reactions, can be inspiring.
Exercise Self Care
Can we all agree that we’re sick of the myth of the tortured artist? While high emotion can make for interesting art, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to suffer in order to be creative. In fact, it’s contributory to burnout and breakdown. Instead, we can better enhance our creativity by keeping ourselves healthy — physically, emotionally, and mentally.
We don’t always like to think of it as such, but the spaces in which we create art are workplaces. As such we are subject to the stress, fatigue, and burnout that you might also find at the office. In order to keep artistically engaged, we need to take moments throughout our day for small acts of self-care.
Keep hydrated, take regular breaks to stretch, and step away from the production aspects of creation. Prepare healthy snacks at the beginning of the day so that you’re not resorting to fast, prepackaged junk that can affect your energy and mindset.
Perhaps the most important action here is being kind to yourself. Unless you’re a raging narcissist, you’re probably one of the millions among us who regularly suffer from imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and setting high personal expectations.
These thoughts don’t help you to be more creative, they just serve to hold you back. You have to be kind to yourself. Don’t punish yourself for taking a couple of hours away to watch some TV or a movie — these can even help. The more positively you can view yourself, your abilities, and your unique point of view, the more engaged you’ll be in pushing your skills further.
Boost Your Creative Juices
We can’t expect to grow creatively if we just set ourselves on autopilot and keep trying the same things in the same way, every day. A little self-loathing sprinkled in along the way doesn’t help much either. We must make efforts that alter our perspective and approach. This, alongside a healthier lifestyle, can help boost and bolster our artistic development.
Indiana Lee is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, social justice, environmental protection, and more. In her off time you can find her in the mountains with her two dogs. You can follow her work on Contently, or reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @indianalee3