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All creatives struggle at times. Writers can stare at a flashing cursor on a blank white screen for hours on end. Designers can fill an entire sketch pad with ideas that go nowhere for them. If any of your creative friends try and tell you that this never happens to them, they are lying.
Creativity stagnation happens to the very best in our profession. The key is to be able to identify when you are getting into a rut and not spend too much time wallowing in this muck. Even better yet would be to develop some routines that take a more proactive approach and help keep your creative juices flowing at a steady rate all the time.
Here are some hacks from 10 professionals who have cracked the code to maintaining sustained creativity.
Author of the New York Times bestseller Wild, Cheryl regularly uses writing prompts to get the creative juices flowing and to improve the writing muscle. Utilize this technique anytime you are feeling stuck or to proactively strengthen your creative thinking. Go with the flow and write two entire pages in longhand without stopping to edit or critique your content.
Here are a few prompts she recommends to students that can help get you moving forward again if you are feeling stagnated:
A serial entrepreneur and successful author, James has never been shy about talking about his failures and missteps. Along the way, he has made it a point to incorporate play into his everyday life.
He is a highly-rated chess player and loves backgammon as well, but he is famous for holding meetings over ping pong sessions or archery practice. These are some of his favorite activities, but he is always looking to try something new to challenge himself. Approaching each day with a playful attitude has led to many creative breakthroughs and important relationships for James.Takeaway: Liven things up with some kind of play everyday!
Dan is the creative genius behind the TV show "Community." He is fairly well-known for his Plot Embryos, a tool for constructing effective storytelling in any situation. (You can read more about his algorithm for constructing a satisfying story here.) He professes to have little structure in his creative process besides this one technique.
In this 1-minute video, he talks about embracing his inner laziness and only working on projects and ideas that he loves and believes in. Moving yourself in a direction where you are working on creative projects that interest and inspire you will greatly reduce the potential to run into brick walls during the creative process.
Many of you are already familiar with Neil’s “Make Good Art” speech. This speech itself should be enough to break anyone out of a creative funk. Follow the link for the best 20 minutes of your day if you have time.
As a writer of graphic novels, comics, short fiction and novels mostly in the fantasy category, tapping into his creative imagination is key. He gets many of his ideas by allowing his mind to wander where it pleases. We all do this, but writers and artists pay attention while it is happening and use these flashes of inspiration to create our next piece of work. He takes the next step by asking “What if…” and other open ended questions.Takeaway: Daydreaming and letting your mind wander is a vital part of the process.
Aaron needs no introduction among designers and has been referred to as the Yukon Cornelius of the design world. His agency Draplin Design Co. works with clients like Nike, Burton, Patagonia, and the Obama Administration. He has an amazing body of work, including his wildly successful Field Notes line of products.
Aaron spins yarns, is gregarious and downright happy to get to create design work each day. He does not even subscribe to the idea that getting over a creative block is hard, he just puts it in the proper perspective. The more you make it a battle, the harder it will be to overcome any difficulties. Take a deep breath and embrace the process.Takeaway: You get to create art for a living every day. Have fun with it!
Leo’s blog is read by over 2 million people. He credits solitude for all the best work he has done. He uses his alone time to unwind and reflect. By taking the time to separate himself from the hustle and bustle, he is able to stay in touch with his own inner voice and allows the stream of creativity to continuously flow.
His entire philosophy revolves around finding simplicity and mindfulness in all that he does. One of his favorite quotes captures the essence of this perfectly:
Takeaway: Your best work is done in solitude.
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the earth revolves.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Chase is an award-winning photographer who co-founded CreativeLive back in 2010. He feels the first step to becoming a successful creative is to believe and know that you are creative and living a creative life.
Chase encourages people to seek out and meet new creative people each week for ongoing inspiration. This does not mean that things are going to come easy once you adopt this mindset, but you do have to wake up everyday and see the world through the lens of a creative. When he feels like he is getting into a rut, he will break some routines to disrupt the flow of things.Takeaway: Shake up routines to stimulate fresh perspectives.
An author, designer, and a leading authority on scrapbooking, Ali also juggles the responsibilities of being a wife and mother. To keep a fresh perspective, she embraces her time away from her creative endeavors and is fully present when spending time with friends and family. She often receives new inspiration once she returns to her work and finds it easier to focus on what she is creating.Takeaway: Have some balance in your life and be able to set creative work aside.
Felicia is a multi-talented creative across many disciplines who is best known as the creator, writer, and star of "The Guild."
There are two key strategies she uses to maximize her creative potential each day: The first is to do her creative work right out of the gate. This prioritizes creative work as the most important purpose of the day. She combines this approach with the allocation of non-creative tasks to a scheduled list that she attacks with a vengeance. Knowing she already has an effective writing session complete makes it easier to move on to others tasks without feeling guilty.
Jamie is a tenacious writer. In 2015, he voluntarily ended a writing streak of 500 words a day minimum after 825 consecutive days. Prior to that, he had several shorter streaks that were around 150 to 350 days.
Primarily a fiction writer, he found that during this time of his career, it was extremely valuable for him to have a daily practice that took place no matter what was going on in his life. Over time, he found he was able to write just about anywhere or anytime with almost zero warm-up.Takeaway: Professionals have to flex their muscle daily.
Hopefully some of these ideas will come in handy the next time you start to feel a creative rut coming on. Everyone is wired a bit differently. Come up with your own twist on some of these suggestions to get your creative process flowing again.
Do you have any tips or tricks of your own to share? Hop into the comments section and share your best technique for getting and keeping yourself moving forward again.