Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Writer's Block and Lack of Inspiration: Ideas to Generate Creativity

Need Inspiration?
How ofter do you find yourself ready to start a project, but totally out of ideas? I like to paint and write poetry at times, but it seems that I do more staring at a blank surface than accomplishing anything creative. If you are like me and feel like you could be more productive with some good ideas, read on for a few suggestions on how to break out of a rut. Whether you draw, sew, write, or take photos, everyone needs a little help to innovate your projects.

1) Pay attention to your dreams.
Do you ever have weird and wild dreams full of fantasy creatures and otherworldly tales? When you are sleeping, your brain conjures up an alternative universe that you could never imagine while awake. Take advantage of your dreams by keeping a notepad by your bed or telling a partner about any particularly vivid dreams.

2) Exercise regularly.
Physical activity is a great time to meditate and let your mind wander, especially if you are trying to focus on something other that the physical work your body is doing. It doesn't have to be strenuous, anything that raises your heart rate and clears your mind. What is good for the body is good for the soul. I like to focus on a design concept I am considering and then take a long walk. I let myself picture different versions of the piece I want to make, or perhaps an original way to word a poem or prose. The bonus of doing outdoor exercise while contemplating your art is that nature itself can be an inspiration. Ahhhh, the scent of dirt after a fresh rain or frost coating pine trees!

Clay Pot From Cleavaland
Home and Garden Show
3) Play the "What If?" game.
What if I were designing a gown for Princess Diana in the 80's? What if I needed to make a clay pot for an ancient emperor? What if ghosts exist and where would they live? What do crop circles really mean? What if Lincoln was never shot? What if the dinosaurs never became extinct? What if cars could fly? What if we knew exactly what our pets are thinking? What if the the Mona Lisa had a frown?

They key word to this mental game, is "play"- don't forget it is supposed to be fun. Even in fine arts and literature, not everything is serious and stuffy. Let your mind imagine the unusual. This is a particularly fun game to play while exercising, or while in the car. You can do it alone or with someone else, but be careful not to forget your new ideas!

5) Listen to a Child.
Children are wonderfully imaginative and love to engage in fantasy play. They see the world in a totally different light that adults, and that can be extremely refreshing. Asking a child about his or her art project or summary of a  storybook will give you insights about situations and objects that an adult could never see. If you don't know any childeren to interact with, try reading youth literature or watching kids' TV. What message is conveyed in the poem or song? Do you think this is an important lesson for young people? How can you apply that message to your art or craft?

For example, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, everyone knows his story- the lesson is that someone who is different might have something extra special that makes them wonderful. So, how do you apply this to your art, design, or writing? Let's say you make leather crafts, could you design a dog collar that might be appropriate for Rudolph's personality? How about jewelry? Add an unexpected touch of red to one of your common designs. Like photography? Try to identify something like a misshapen tree or person wearing something unusal and try to make it appear beautiful. Are you a poet? Imagine the woods where reindeer live and try to capture the sights and sounds from the view point of an animal. Maybe you could even knit a scaft that you think Rudolph would wear.

The key is to take the theme of childrens' conversations and media and apply them to your own art or craft. Again, a great mental workout while you are exercising or cleaning the house.

6) Try to modernize a classic.
Think of a character from classic literature and rewrite thier story in a different time period, or remake a historical object into your modern version. For instance, write a poem about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn if they were growing up today, paint a portrait of a robot in traditional cowboy garb, decorate your pottery with skyscrapers and factories instead of a standard design, paint Van Gogh's "Starry Night" with a space shuttle or acid rain in the sky.

 7) Open a book.
No, not just any book, or your favorite, but something dramatically different than your current tastes. Maybe you enjoy sci-fi thrillers, but rarely explore other genres. The solution to stimulate creative thinking is to go outside your routine. Flip through a steamy bodice ripper and pick a page at random. Next, read the page and choose what you think would be an interesting title for your piece from the writing. Then, craft your work from there.

For instance, let's say I was making a soap, and couldn't decide on the scent, color, or shape. In my moment of indecision, I flip open the sultry (and probably cheesy) romance novel and identify the phrase, "lustful kiss". Normally, I would never use that wording, because it is completely out of the norm for me; however, that is what will make my creation different than my typical soaps. So, now I know the inspiring phrase for my soap, "lustful kiss", and brainstorm how to translate that to a soap. I would probably come up with something red and fiery with a spicy cinnamon note mixed with a traditionally romantic aroma, such as rose.

This experiment for generating ideas also works great with dictionaries and textbooks. Be sure whatever you pick is outside the norm for you. Cookbooks and recipe magainzes also make for strangely fabulous themes and titles. I would love to see what someone would paint from the title, "Smoked Sausage Soup"!

8) Call a friend.
The key is to step outside your normal routine and away from autobiographical inspirations to source original ideas. Ask a friend to think of a famous person, common object, historical event, geograhic place, or activity that he or she really enjoys and take that as your theme. Hypothetically, you ask your friend to name an interesting historical event, and he says, "The War of 1812". Of course, that is not something you think about on a daily basis. Do some quick research on the war and time period and identify something that speaks to you, and implement it in your project. This could be anything from designing a military inspired brooch to writing an epic poem about a gunship battle.

9) Pump up the volume!
Play some music that is not your normal selection, or pick your favorite song and close your eyes while you really, really listen. Think about how the words and beat make your feel and what types of scenery or objects would appear in your version of a music video. If you are a woodworker, what would you build to suit the setting? Would it be modern and polished or rustic and rough hewn? If you are a writer, could you come up with a plot based on the song? Even something like sewing childrens' clothing could get a creativity infusion with some new music- put on some big band and design something retro inspired.

10) Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery...but...
Don't be a copycat! Instead, look for art, writing, and crafts that appeal to you and borrow some of the design elements, colors, or themes. Love Southwestern architecture? Borrow the colors and patterns for your next quilt. Find a great necklace, but you don't want to steal the design? Use certain elements, like the colors, shapes, or materials, and incorporate it into your piece. So, instead of trying to duplicate that jasper pendant, try to use that stone in one of your rings. Sometimes, simply browsing other artist's work in the same category lights a spark for your ideas.

Thanks for reading today's entry from Clare Corcoran of the Etsy shop Mylana.

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