Working in a creative industry, one comes to realize that true inspiration is not something one can force. Creativity is best when it’s driven by such inspiration, but sometimes as creative professionals, the bolt of inspiration doesn’t always strike us right away. It’s usually at this point where we sit, we stare at our monitors, we become overcritical of everything we try and we begin to lose hope. The deadline is looming, the client is checking in with the project manager who is checking in with us, and that’s when the panic sets in: How can we coax that brilliant idea out of our heads before we have to resort to something we’re not proud of—and ultimately is not what the client wants or needs?
The following ideas are ones that I have found to be helpful when a reboot of my creative processors is much-needed:
Try using something other than the computer. That’s right — get the pencil and paper out. Dust off your paint brushes. Try a style of design or writing you aren’t used to. Build something with your hands and tools. Scan some objects in. Just try something to break up your standard routine. Oftentimes a new technique or tool is all one needs to get a creative boost and create something completely unique.
Look at other creative work for inspiration. First, we are not advocating plagiarism at all. Sometimes grabbing a copy of Communication Arts, or hitting LogoPond, or even watching a movie or reading a well-written blog or book can help revive your inspiration. Chances are, these other creative folks were in the same spot at some point, and they managed to overcome it and create something really cool. Let their inspiration be yours.
Ask for help. Yes, I know, the creative person often is a proud person — too proud to ask for help. I can’t tell you how many times one of my design team has been stuck on a project when they come to me seeking guidance. Sometimes a simple suggestion or twist on one of their “failed” ideas can set them off in the right direction. Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, so don’t write off the ideas of others to get you moving in the right direction.
Look at your creative clock. Creative people often do their best work in bursts. Sometimes it can seem that when we are in relapse mode, we have lost our mojo. We feel dejected, frustrated, defeated and lost when we are in this phase of our creativity. The simple fact is, sometimes ideas just need time to breathe and grow. I’ve always believed that most of my creative work is done in my head, way before I begin mocking anything up. It can be hard for clients to understand this, but it honestly can take form as ideas that are mentally refined for days before being put onto a screen. This is why I avoid rush projects at all costs, as not only is it a disservice to the creative process, but it is also a disservice to the client. Generally speaking, great creative work is not born on the spot. Even though the actual production may come in a late-night burst of inspiration, the actual planning of that burst can often take place for hours, days, weeks or months before the hands hit the keyboard. When we can all understand and learn to accept this, the downtime will become much more tolerable — and understandable — to all parties involved.
Do something completely silly. That’s right, abandon all of your serious artistic aspirations for a few hours. After all, when was the last time you really did something fun and care-free with your tools and skills? My own personal anecdote of this involves being at home with my kids on a rainy afternoon. They were bouncing off the walls and I had endured a particularly frustrating day at the office. We all needed to blow off some steam. So this is what we did: We made a movie. That’s right, our very own feature film, clocking in at just under four minutes. It took us about three hours to shoot and edit it and it ended up being a great time for all involved. I returned to the office the next day with a renewed outlook and level of happiness, and can’t stress enough how much this recharged my level of inspiration.
Take a break. You’re not doing any good staring at your monitor, checking your stock ticker and IMing the grocery list to your significant other. Take a walk, see a movie, do something other than being creative. Sometimes we just need to get away from the distraction of our stress.
Those are just a few recommended techniques for recharging our creative inspiration. What are some of yours? Leave us a comment and share them!