Photo courtesy of Leo Reynolds/Flickr.
There’s something magical about writing today’s date. An entirely new year, bringing with it a new set of hopes and expectations, can be the springboard to greater creative involvement. While sustainable habit change doesn’t always happen automatically with the change in calendar, it can be a great time to try something new.
Here are a few suggestions for sparking greater activity in the new year. Some are drawn from past personal experience and the findings I’ve shared on this blog, some are drawn from the enthusiasms of others, and some just sound fun and something I would like to try this year. Enjoy!
1. Take a class — If you’ve always wanted to draw, play the recorder, or act in a play, one way to get past being intimidated by a new art form is to get instruction from a teacher. It’s also a way to get over a “stuck spot” in your artistic development (especially if you are largely self-taught).
2. Try Zentangle — My oldest sister alerted me to this art form a couple of years ago. It appealed to her, as a project manager who moonlights as an opera singer, because of its focus on using structured patterns to create beautiful images. Since there is a big emphasis in Zentangle on relaxation and being able to shift perspective and focus, it may be a non-threatening way to introduce yourself to the world of making visual art. (I’m pondering trying Zentangles myself, as I love the idea of drawing but not stretched my skills in that area yet. If I do, I’ll report on what I find.)
3. Switch disciplines – If you’re a writer, try singing or playing a musical instrument, or learning how to sketch. If you work primarily in visual media, try expressing similar ideas in text or sound. In addition to providing a new creative challenge, switching disciplines may also provide the part of the brain that handles your main creative discipline with enough of a rest that you may receive new creative insights when you’re working on the “side” discipline.
4. Help someone else – Another way to recharge our creative batteries is to hook them up to someone else’s project. It can take our ego out of the equation, or it can harness the power of collaboration and augment our contributions with those of people with other skill sets. If you’d like to sink your teeth into some of humanity’s most pressing social issues, you can join a team on the OpenIDEO platform and submit projects that address challenges that include healthy aging, improving community wellness, and preventing acts of mass violence. If your creative contributions run in a more hands-on direction, you can participate in the Quirky crowdsourcing site, which profiles scores of inventions in various stages of development.
5. Get help from someone else – If you’re developing your own creative project, one way to attract an audience and test its viability before you do a big launch is to post it to a crowdfunding site, such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. The nature of such campaigns requires you to attract an audience of invested supporters, who are committing to your success on a level beyond a simple consumer exchange (although it’s nice to provide good bling for your donors).
6. Read something inspiring — My library card is the primary way I “test drive” good books on creativity. (I’m also lucky enough to get books to review for this blog from time to time, which I greatly appreciate.) A couple of books I’m looking forward to exploring in the new year:
- Pam Slim’s Body of Work (more on this soon!)
- Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley
- On Looking: Eleven Walks With Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz
7. Watch something inspiring – Beyond the latest crop of TED Talks, which present experts sharing ideas from areas as diverse as medicine, design, psychology and urban planning, there are also great, thought-provoking presentations from the Ignite presentation series. The live storytelling festival The Moth has a YouTube channel filled with some of its most compelling performances. And if that’s not enough, 99U has curated a list of 10 awesome videos on idea execution and the creative process.
I love these two brief videos, based on audio from talks by the late philosopher Alan Watts:
8. Listen to something inspiring – Think you don’t have time to refill your creative cup because of housework or a long commute? Think again! Podcasts and radio shows can be thought-provoking, fascinating and stimulating. One of my favorites is Roman Mars’ 99 Percent Invisible, which focuses on design and the man-made environment – but which addresses these topics in innovative, mind-expanding ways. I also enjoy NPR’s TED Radio Hour podcast, which remixes the audio from TED talks with recent interviews with the speakers, and Nate DiMeo’s Memory Palace, which brings the human touch to random moments in American history.
9. Go for a walk – Or a run. Or ride your bicycle. Or dance to club music. Moving your body in a focused yet repetitive way gets all sorts of positive chemicals flowing inside of you, and can also provide the stage onto which great ideas can step into your consciousness.
10. Spend time with a child – Young children don’t question whether they can draw, tell stories, or sing – they do all of those things, and many more, for the pure joy of it. They test ideas and develop new ones on the fly. You can get in touch with your own child-nature by interacting with your own children, or by hanging out with those of your relatives or friends.
11. Take time to dream and daydream – Don’t plan out every minute of your life. If you’re like me, someone who loves to create structures and sculpt her schedule, this can be tough, but some of our finest moments of creation can come from having down time where we just think about what could be and how much we’d enjoy that alternative version of the future.
12. Feed your creative momentum – You can avoid creative blocks by practicing a few simple habits. Creative momentum is maintained by decluttering your life to make space for creativity, developing positive habits and rituals, attending to practice regimens that work for you and fine-tuning your technique, and finding worthy projects that inspire you.
13. Improve your creative focus – For some people, staying tuned-in to their creative activity comes naturally. Most of us have to work at it, especially in a world filled with alluring distractions. I’ve developed some audio meditations for unplugging from electronic devices, doing one thing at a time (aka single-tasking), and how to creatively improvise with focus when following a prepared script just isn’t working. Perhaps they’ll help you hone in on your desired creative tasks, too.
14. Begin – A few years ago, I named this action as one of six master creative habits, and it’s one of the most important, because without it, no creation is possible. I quoted the Creative Something blog, which exhorts readers to “just do it,” and explains why.
“Have a creative idea for something? Make it a reality right now. Don’t wait. The more you get into the habit of jumping on your creative thoughts, the more you will discover how great your ideas really are. Too often people put off their creative ideas, only to find out that someone else has gone ahead and done it and that it was a great idea. I’ve said it before and I can’t emphasize it enough: don’t worry about the risks right off the bat, jump into your ideas. Your creativity is strongest when it first hits, so take advantage of that fact.”
Your creative dreams for 2014 will only become reality if you let them into the world. Risk, reach and discover, and may your year be filled with innovation and delight!
Photo courtesy of Daniel Moyle/Flickr.