More Wattage please.
December 27, 2009 8:36 PM   Subscribe

I have cycles of creativity. The more stress or responsibility in my life the harder it is to achieve those creative places in my mind. I am looking for unusual, insightful and helpful ways to rekindle my creativity, in spite of any real or self made diversity I'm experiencing. Please don't hold back with your suggestions, I have personal projects and goals that require this passion and creativity, help!
posted by gypseefire to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Take a break or a vacation. Doesn't matter how short or long it is. A day trip to blahblahville will work just fine. This almost always makes me feel more creative and kind of rejuvenated.
posted by OrangeSoda at 8:57 PM on December 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Learn to meditate.
posted by fshgrl at 9:13 PM on December 27, 2009

try lucid dreaming, or at least keeping a dream journal!
posted by The otter lady at 9:16 PM on December 27, 2009

Best answer: A few years ago, my life was centered around creativity. Then I changed my job, living arrangement, town, interests, etc. About six months after all this craziness, somebody asked me what I was doing each day, to cultivate creativity. I was at a loss...didn't even realize that this was one of the fundamental things that was missing. And it was missing because it was no longer automatically folded into my daily life. So I started looking for new ways to be creative, with limited time and resources. Some ideas:
  • Arrange objects on a shelf or coffee table. Redo every few days.
  • Reorganize the contents of a drawer. Think Tetris.
  • Reorder items in your closet, music library, book collection. By height, color, category, whatever suits your fancy.
  • Make a necklace, scarf, candle, or something else equally crafty.
  • Twitter. Think of it as little bursts of creative thought and funny observation.
  • Doodle. Especially while on the phone.
  • Plan a theme party.
  • Repurpose your outfits. Find new ways to accessorize, do your hair, whatever.
  • Bake something weird using whatever you have in your kitchen. My latest kick is putting strange spices on things. A dash of cinnamon on fried eggs is actually kind of delicious. Cilantro and chocolate is good too.
  • Make up jokes, puns, quotes, fortune cookies, business names, taglines, etc.
  • Write letters. Mailing them optional.
  • Make CD's, playlists, etc.
  • Wrap gifts...use materials that can be recycled from stuff you have.
  • Hang art. Frame postcards.
  • Garden. Landscape. Plant things. Tend to them.
  • Add some things to this list. Just about anything can be turned into a creative endeavor.

posted by iamkimiam at 9:20 PM on December 27, 2009 [15 favorites]

Do something that helps you unwind. It could be a vacation, or it could be something that helps you relax. I like to cook and when i have a submission that requires work all night(i am an architecture student) i just cook the dinner. Find something that helps you beat your stress.
posted by niyati182 at 9:21 PM on December 27, 2009

You don't mention what kind of creative things you want to do, but I think my suggestion will work for just about anything. From my personal experience you should start a blog that only contains stuff that you create. I started one around a year and a half ago as an excuse to do more creative stuff. It worked alarmingly well for me-- I went from a creative low point to probably the most creative period in my life. The blog-obligation was just enough of a tickle to get me thinking more about creating stuff. I suddenly had a reason to do it, even if it was to only post it on a blog that my family and friends read.

And then one day you get a kind comment from a perfect stranger and you really start thinking about creating new stuff, just so you have more posts that can elicit unsolicited compliments from strangers. Because that is awesome.

It's also nice because writing about what you create gets you thinking more about the process of creation, how it works for you, what triggers it, etc. And that will make you more successfully creative as well.
posted by Ookseer at 9:21 PM on December 27, 2009 [6 favorites]

Perhaps not unusual, but just before the internets, I used to put on my headphones and listen to music.

Another thing would be to go and look at those who inspire you at the library. For me, it's abstract artists and obscure artists like Joan Mitchell.

Nothing to spur inner creativity is on the internet. Jump and jam and complain all you want. It's not here. It's in you and you'd better shut off the computer and let it out or it will make you nervous.

To answer you question: shut off the TV and internet. Put on some music or walk in nature. Go do your creative stuff. Repeat until you get the results you want.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:26 PM on December 27, 2009 [4 favorites]

I've personally found that it helps to take a less stressful job with less responsibility. Then your mind is freed up to think about your own stuff. It's just a question of whether the opportunity cost is worth it.
posted by bingo at 9:29 PM on December 27, 2009

Take the contents of your junk drawer (almost everyone has one) and see how many different things (where "thing" is whatever you want it to be) you can make out of what's inside.
posted by MsMolly at 9:44 PM on December 27, 2009

This is the kind of thing that Tarot decks are really useful for. Being able to draw cards and build scenes out of the images, or project your ideas onto them, can jostle loose new perspectives.
posted by hermitosis at 9:59 PM on December 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

For a long time I felt I had your problem. Then I learned that in a sense, there's no such thing. There is only a day that you work and a day that you don't work.

Don't confuse the two equally important aspects of creativity. Creativity when you are producing great work and creativity when you are producing bad work. Both are equally important. Just sit in front of your computer or easel, or whip out your musical instrument and just start doing. Don't stop if its bad, keep doing it until it is close to done. Some of this you will discard, some you will keep. Just be creative every day.

Don't wait for the feeling of wanting to enjoy creativity and get creative. Do before the feeling comes, do in spite of having the feeling of wanting to create. You get better when you keep practicing your art daily, whether or not any individual work has any merit.

I practice daily. Sometimes I get good stuff. Sometimes I don't. The good stuff gets kept, the bad stuff tossed. I keep getting better goods and less bad bads.

In other words, an artist's true function is self-editing.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:02 PM on December 27, 2009 [7 favorites]

Don't play it safe when you're creating. Visit the borders of crazy and stupid from time to time, do the opposite of the usual and see where you end up -- sometimes what you think won't work actually will, and even if it does fail you still gain data points as to what not to do.

Hang out with other creative people, especially those in fields very different from your own. Watching how other people approach their work helps me a lot.

I hum/sing to myself a lot -- not really proper songs but more stream of consciousness, anything that comes to mind. Kind of like doodling but with your voice. It's effortless, no-expectation creating you can do anywhere, and almost anytime. It keeps me happy, anyway.
posted by emeiji at 11:28 PM on December 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Artist's Way has been recommended repeatedly on similiar questions.
posted by mrmarley at 2:58 AM on December 28, 2009

It may be that you have multiple problems, which is why the suggestions are mixed.

Stress is the enemy of creativity. So you have to deal with that. I agree with the suggestions on meditation but anything that helps with stress is good.

A lot of creative people have commented that it helps to be in a playful state of mind. Once again, stress is a problem. Some of the suggestions by iamkimiam may help you get into the right frame of mind.

If you have a creativity block, then mrmarley is bang on with the suggestion of The Artist's Way.

I have read de Bono and found it useful to understand the mechanisms behind creativity. But I found the most practical book to be Conceptual Blockbusting by Adams. He teaches (or used to) creativity at Stanford. It is a thin book but packed with good practical suggestions. There are specific modes of thinking in creative ways so it helps to understand if you have been relying on one mode. Some problems require math, some require using images, and so on. He has a lot of practical ideas. Some of these lead into specific techniques. Adams lists a number of things that you can do. You can find others from Roger Van Oech's "Whack on the Side of the Head" or better, his Creative Whackpack.
posted by PickeringPete at 3:39 AM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Excellent suggestions here! Nthing Artist's Way and the Tarot to shake up your brain and get the juices flowing.

But most of all, it sounds like you're making some kind of mental distinctions about what's "creative" and what's not. Stop that. Try not to have limited definitions or expectations about what creativity is. Try to live your life creatively, rather than inserting creativity into your life like another item on the "to do" list. Re-read Ironmouth's comment, it's spot-on. Good luck and have fun!
posted by Paris Elk at 4:13 AM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Being creative over a long period of time with some consistency of quantity and quality is work. People who are effectively creative on a sustained basis thus treat it as one of their responsibilities not as a hobby or a recreational activity.

You can't make stress the enemy of your creative projects because, as work and not play, they are naturally going to be as much a source of stress themselves as anything else.

If you want to succeed at them, you need to treat your "personal projects" as things that are just as mandatory and important to you as work. If your personal projects aren't remunerative or likely to become so, you are just going to have accept that your work week starts at 5 a.m. or continues to 9 p.m. or includes Saturdays, or whatever you have to do work your second job into your schedule.
posted by MattD at 7:27 AM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had a similar slump a long time ago. My way out was to set aside one time during the day and write two pages, front and back, in a spiral notebook that I purchased for that purpose. What I wrote about didn't matter. It could be the day's events, an idea for a story, or just ranting about having nothing to write about, but I wrote two pages every day at the same time (I chose my lunch hour). The purpose was to get back into the flow of writing again. By the time I finished the spiral notebook (80 pages, college ruled), my muse returned.
posted by patheral at 7:44 AM on December 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I really love Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit. She has some really concrete tips and methods - both smaller and larger - that I can try no matter my current level of energy. and it's just really encouraging. She makes the large problems and blocks that I build up for myself seem small and easy to get around.
posted by munichmaiden at 9:04 AM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Things that get me thinking are generally things that occupy me physically but are not a lot of work for my brain. So, going for a walk is good, as are mindless tasks like ironing, or maybe knitting. Having the TV or the radio on occupies the brain too much, but music can be good.

It's vital to have some way of taking notes of whatever ideas you come up with!

I think that setting aside time for structured exercises in (your discipline) helps; while you're doing them you're not being creative, but they give building blocks that are useful when you get to the creative part.

Finally, I'm sure I once saw some "creativity cards": they had questions on, intended to provoke thought, and the idea was just to pick one at random and use it as a starting point. A cursory google hasn't turned anything up that looks useful; maybe somebody else can do better.
posted by emilyw at 9:32 AM on December 28, 2009

I picked up The Artist's Way on the strenuous recommendation in some other AskMe thread, happy to see that it was like a dollar on Amazon. I regret spending that dollar. I found it to be new-agey bullshit for wannabe expressionists, so I drilled holes in the corner, stiffened it with zip-ties, and now I do calf raises on it. So I guess it worked.

If you feel that creativity is missing from your life, then being creative must be an integral aprt of who you are. So create. It's what you do. Do it. You don't need "tricks" to make you be creative. Just do it.
posted by cmoj at 10:29 AM on December 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

The Artist's Way is a great book if you are a spiritual person or religious. Otherwise it's hard to get past that to the good advise. I liked the book, and think a lot of it is cool, but was pretty sure I couldn't stand to hang out with the author.

My suggestion, is to do something mind numbingly boring. This forces your brain into creative places. I actually thought about auditing algebra classes in college, since I knew I've be able to write great poems there. I used to have a job watching a door for hours (don't ask). I wasn't allowed to read, sit, listen to music, or do much of anything other than watch that door. It was like a sensory depravation tank. Four hours of this and I'd have lines in my head that I couldn't wait to get home to get down.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:49 PM on December 29, 2009

Learn how to navigate the Linux/UNIX operating systems. Run the gamut from RedHat (Fedora, CentOS) to Gentoo to Archlinux. The simple act of doing this will expand your mind.
posted by print at 1:00 AM on January 1, 2010

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