Yesterday, I received a link to this list via email, entitled "33 ways to stay creative." The sender of the list suggested that it was one that should be made a part of every person's life, and for some of the items, I agree (for example, "do more of what makes you happy" should not only be a to-do item, it should be a mantra; ditto for "carry a notebook everywhere"). But there were a couple on the list that I really didn't understand (I mean, "watch foreign films"? Isn't that a bit narrow? Also, I have no idea what "be otherworldly" means).
One positive result that arose in reviewing that list, however, was that it got me thinking about the things I like to do in order to keep myself on track when my creativity flags. So today I thought I'd share my top 5 ways to stay creative, for posterity's sake. Feel free to amend or add your own in the comments -- I'd love to hear your ideas.
1. Look at it differently. When you've been doing your art the same way for a long time, in a way that's tried and true (like, say, I dunno, hypothetically, photographing flowers), I find it sometimes works if I approach my work as if I'd never, ever done it before: how would I do this if I had no idea what I was doing? What would I shoot if I wasn't sure which side of the flower was up? This also works for any kind of writing or creative endeavour: try attempting your art with the eyes of someone completely new to the process, and see what results.
2. Use a different tool. Do you do most of your work on the computer? Try your tasks using paper and a pencil or pen. Are you a digital photographer? Try shooting with your camera phone, or film. Are you a painter? Try water colours instead of acyrlics, or even sculpting. Different mediums will teach you different things about your work, whether you're an accountant or an artist. Sometimes the act of slowing down by using a different medium will give you the breakthrough you've been looking for.
3. Take a shower. Dude, I don't know why this works, but I bet at least 10-15% of the good ideas I've ever had in my life occurred to me while I was taking a hot, steamy shower. I don't question the process, I just go with it.
4. Do crappy work. There are many times when I realize that I'm a bad creator, but an excellent editor. Sometimes it just takes getting something down on paper, taking a break, and then coming back and fixing it. In fact, this is my strategy almost for my entire life.
5. Call a friend. Sometimes, when I'm wrestling with a creative problem, it just helps to hear myself explain the issue out loud. Walk down the hall or pick up the phone and get in touch with an honest friend whose work your admire, and ask them to be a sounding board. There are several people in my life (Jenny, Laura, Maile, Asha, Trish, I'm looking at you) who have been instrumental in helping me work through creative blocks.