It happens to the best of us. We have something creative to do-paint a picture, write a story, come up with a clever theme for a child’s birthday party, or come up with a really great excuse for being late-and we blank. We can’t think of anything. Our creativity fails us and we’re left looking like bland fools who couldn’t imagine ourselves out of paper bags.
There are, however, ways to fix this. The following five are my favorite ways to jump start creativity and get the imaginative juices flowing:
Today we underestimate the power of play. If you’re on the hunt for a creative idea (or just really, really bored), pick up some toys. Get some action figures, plastic barn animals, a Rubik’s Cube, or whatever you happen to have at hand. I have a huge collection of little figures and eye-catching objects lining the shelves above my desk, and I select playthings from these.
Many people overlook the value of playtime, and yet it is a powerful tool when it comes to boosting creativity. When we play, we look at things differently. Playtime is not a time for worries or problems, and it frees our mind from constraints such as what to make for dinner or what to get for so-and-so’s birthday next week. When the mind is focused on playing, the imagination is free to wander-and when the imagination is free to wander, those sought-after creative ideas are likely to form.
So pick up a toy and play with it-you never know what you’ll come up with!
Meditation is dubbed “one of those weird new-agey things” by many people, but in reality, many people of all cultures use it quite effectively. Meditation is a way of focusing the mind and clearing away wayward, distracting thoughts so that the true issue at hand can be addressed. Whether you use it in your religion or not, you can use it when searching for ideas to great effect.
Sit in a quiet spot, away from distractions. Have somebody watch the kids. Unplug the phone. Turn off the TV. Shut the door and dim the lights. Light a candle if you’d like. Alternatively, alternatively, you can park yourself outside. Find a spot that’s comfortable to you and sit, eyes closed, with your legs crossed.
Clear your mind. Some methods I’ve used are counting backwards from ten, breathing to a count of three, focusing on one clear image and holding it there, and listening to classical music. Find a method that works for you and shoo all stray thoughts from the corners of your mind. Focus on being comfortable and unburdened. Even if no ideas float across your mind (if they do, seize them!), you’re now relaxed and probably in a much better mood than you were earlier.
3. Pay Attention
Some of the best pieces of inspiration come from off-the-wall sources in our daily lives. Pay attention to your surroundings and see what you can find. Perhaps there’s an interesting guy walking down the street that you could turn into a character in a story. Perhaps there’s a really pretty flower outside your office window that you could paint. Maybe you could plan your kid’s birthday party around a travel theme, based on the pictures you saw in National Geographic. Who knows?
Pay attention to your surroundings and note what you see-you may be able to use it as a seed idea for a project later on.
4. Ask Questions
Say you almost get run down by a guy sprinting down the street. Instead of getting mad, take a second and ask yourself why he’s running. Is he late to something? What’s he late for? Is it a meeting, or is his first child being born at the hospital two streets over? Is he running to something, or from something?
Find a random person, place, or thing around you and think about it. Ask yourself questions. Who is it? What happened there? What is it used for? Think about the people and events that it has influenced, or the people and events that have influenced it. Ponder. Ask really weird questions until you get something that sparks your imagination.
5. Pamper Yourself
Another of my favorite ways to pump up my imagination is to take two things: a shower and a nap. I take long, hot showers and let every worry and stray thought swirl down the drain with the water, and then I take a nice nap to re-energize myself.
I often find that if I fall asleep feeling pampered, my mind cooperates with me and spits out a new idea. If I fall asleep with a creative question on my mind (for example, how in the world are my main characters going to get out of the mess I’ve put them in during chapter twelve?), I will most likely wake up with the answer.
So try it! Take a shower, a nap, or a road trip. Hit the spa, or do a home spa. Go for a run. Do something for yourself that relaxes you or pumps you up. Make yourself happy and the ideas will follow.
There are plenty of ways to come up with ideas, for whatever project you need help with. These are simply five of my favorites. Use them alone or in combination, or feel free to come up with your own. After all, our minds are all different, and my ways may not work for you. But remember, no matter how you choose to get the ideas flowing forth-don’t stress! Stress and strife hinder ideas, and they’re not fun things to deal with, anyway. Take some time and play, meditate, take notes, ask questions, and pamper yourself. See what you come up with.