By Jaeger Senn-Flinn
So I’ll admit, that title was just clickbait promising the moon, but you probably already knew that. We as humans are always searching for that lightening in a bottle. But just like get rich quick schemes and fad diets, there are no magic beans for the creative process. If you think there’s a magical formula to instantly make all of your work start oozing with “creativity”, it’s time to give up on that pipe dream now. The thing about the creative process is that it’s different for everyone ─ just like how some people are visual learners, while others are auditory; what you need to kick start your trek down the creative rabbit hole is likely entirely different than what I do. When it comes down to it, creativity in its base form is being able to look at something differently. So, stop trying to cram a square peg through a round hole and start experimenting to figure out what helps get you in the mindset to see things in a different light. While the creative process may vary for each person, here are a few tips I use to pull myself out of a creative rut.
Iterate Like Nobody’s Business
You may think of “creative people” as these individuals who pull magnificent ideas from the sky without much effort or difficulty, but a) they’ve likely just refined their own creative process, so they already have some notion of which ideas work and which don’t and b) you never see the trash can filled to the brim with ideas they crumpled up and threw away. Part of determining your ideal creative process is coming to terms with the fact that you’re going to have bad ideas and hate 95% of what you come up with. We often come up with a few bad ideas and think, “That’s it, I’m not creative and I’ll never make this work!” It’s so easy to give up at this point, but if you were to continue iterating new ideas, you’d eventually stumble across that golden nugget! It’s often these so called “bad ideas” that aren’t working that inspire the one you’re looking for. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve Frankensteined together ideas I was going to discard that ended up fitting together perfectly; or times I realized that one of the discards was actually a good idea that merely needed a little tweak to make it work. The trick is to not give up when you feel discouraged ─ only by having those bad ideas will you know the good one when you see it.
Just Give Up (For Now)
As important as it is to keep iterating and no matter how bad we want that holy grail of an idea, sometimes you get truly stuck and you’re not budging. At this point, just give up; that’s not to say you raise the white flag of surrender. It is more of a retreat and regroup – sometimes you need a break from whatever you’re working on. Get up, go for a walk, get a drink of water, lie on the ground if you feel so inclined ─ get away from your desk or wherever you’re working for a few moments. Heck, I’ve done it a couple times just writing this! Taking time to clear your head helps you start anew and see things in a different light. Think about it: if you were trying to move a boulder but couldn’t get it to budge, you don’t keep pushing it the same way expecting it to move; you walk around to get a new perspective and find another way ─ like using that piece of wood you didn’t notice wedged under the boulder. It’s the same thing with your mind. Don’t keep pushing that problem you’re stuck on hoping it’ll budge through sheer will. A change of scenery helps you come back to whatever you’re working on with a new perspective.
When in Doubt, Google It
Where do you go now when you want answers to questions? Unless you’ve been living under that proverbial boulder I previously mentioned, you more than likely head straight to Google in search of the answer to your nagging question. We use the dazzling wonder of Google for every question under the sun, so why not use it when you’re stuck solving that creative problem? At a loss for color palette? It’s just a few keystrokes away. Unsure of how to build a layout for the info you’re portraying? I bet someone has the answer for you! Now, I’m not saying you should go out and copy someone else’s work exactly, but most of us are simply looking to design something better, not to be the first to create an entirely new design movement or technique. Use the internet as a plethora of inspiration, so you do not have to think up everything from scratch. Find an example of something you love and make it your own!
Just like everything else you want in life, it takes work to be creative. There is no lightening in a bottle, one size fits all, or specific set of rules to magically be creative. Even those who may have a natural predisposition for how to look at something differently become great because they work at it. Michelangelo, once said “if people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.” The idea may seem daunting but it also means that anyone who has the motivation to be creative can do it. So, keep coming up with new ideas, give up for a little while if you need to, and if all else fails, Google it! Happy creating!
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