We all have times when we don’t feel creative. Times when writer’s block overtakes us. It can steal your confidence, especially if your job relies on you to be creative. So what do you do? Today I write about 10 things to do when you’re not feeling creative.
I used to think that creativity had to be make believe. That it was only used for making up stories. I also thought that if you were creative, you couldn’t be good at math and science. I’ve since learned that isn’t true.
I use creativity all the time to punch up real stories and jokes based on real life situation. I rely on creativity as a comedian and a writer. I also rely on it for coming up with business ideas and products.
I grew up being great at math and science while at the same time stifling my creativity. But creativity is used in math and science to solve problems, especially at the higher level. I have friends that are math and science professors. They rely heavily on creativity to find solutions to unsolved problems.
My creativity is my greatest resource. So when I feel like it’s lacking or I’ve lost it, I get worried. Let’s get into some of the ways I find creativity when it seems non existent.
Stand up. Not comedy, but the act of physically standing up. When I was in high school I read an article about how standing up makes you better able to think and solve problems. I probably read it in a Seventeen magazine. But I still believe it to this day. And even though I hate standing because sitting is so comfy, I use this a lot. If i’m practicing a comedy set or speech and I’m sitting down, it just feels like I’m reading it. If I’m standing up and walking around, words and ideas come to me better. I’m better able to see where I want my thoughts to go. They flow better standing up.
Take a walk. I always feel more creative when I’m taking a walk at the dog park. Being out in the fresh air surrounded by nature seems to make my synapses fire better. Getting some Vitamin D perks me up. And watching dogs play just makes me happy.
I have a friend that takes a walk and talks into a recorder to come up with joke ideas. So many people talk on their phones when they’re walking around anyways, so it won’t even look crazy.
Change of scenery. If the outdoors aren’t ideal, head to a mall and walk around. People watching is always good for stirring up creativity. Diablo Cody wrote Juno at a Starbuck’s inside a Target store. My husband have had great writing sessions in the mall food court and a brewery taproom. The change of scenery and seeing things you don’t experience on a regular basis are good for shaking things up in your mind.
Look out the window. My first real job out of college was working at the Prudential call center. Still one of my favorite jobs because it provided so much opportunity for growth.
At one point, I was put on a design team with six other call center employees. Our job was to determine the career path and pay scale for the call center associates. Whaaaat?! Yeah, it was a big deal. We had a lot of power and responsibility. It was an amazing experience. And we became life long friends from it.
We had consultants that would work with us. One of the things they told us is that when you’re stumped for ideas, look out the window. It gives your mind something new to focus on rather than staring at your computer and desk which you do all the time. They got big bucks to tell us this, so clearly it works.
Along these same lines, look around the room. Many times when we see the same things day in and day out, we don’t notice those things. They just become our norm. So take time to focus on each little thing.
If I glance around my office right now, some of the things I see are:
- a flask I decorated with Washi tape
- my passport case
- an apple paper weight that I got from a student when I worked at a school aged recreation program in college
- and recipes.
These are just a few things I see but they prompt a lot of thoughts. The recipes remind me of cooking with my mom. I loved doing that as a kid and even into adulthood. She’d tell stories of me sitting on the counter sucking on the lemon rinds and how my mouth would pucker.
As adults, we took a holiday cookie baking class. It was at a local high school cafeteria kitchen. All we had to do was show up. All the ingredients were ready for us and we moved from station to station and made ten different kinds of Christmas cookies. It was one of my favorite times cooking with my mom.
The paper weight is from the most challenging student I ever worked with. In addition to ADHD, she had behavioral issues and acted out a lot. But she was fiercely smart and loving. Of all the gifts I got from students, that is my favorite so I’ve kept it all these years.
If I think back to that job I remember all the fun I had going on field trips with the kids. I also think of all the difficult times in that job. Kids whose parents were getting divorced, a kindergartener whose dad was dying of cancer. and a child who showed up with signs of physical abuse on him. All very strong emotions come to mind when I think of this job. Each one of the items can trigger these kinds of memories and give me things to write about.
Grab a book and pick a sentence. If I glance up from my laptop I have a bunch of books. Some are about graphic design. Others are about writing. One is called Weddings, Funerals, and Rites of Passage because I’m an online ordained minister.
I grab one of those books, for example Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, and open it to a random page and put my finger on a random sentence on that page. The sentence I got was on page 145, “I looked out over Studio 8H for the millionth time and laughed at my crazy life.” This could be a starting sentence for me to begin writing from. Sure, I have no connection or knowledge of Studio 8H. But I do have a crazy life. We all do. It may seem normal to us but I’m sure at least one other person considers it crazy. Crazy in a good way or crazy in a bad way, it doesn’t matter.
So think about things that make your life crazy. For me, being a comedian is crazy. It’s crazy to think about going up in front of strangers and making them laugh. I’m married to a cop, which is also crazy because you hear the most insane things. I’ve been on several ride alongs with my husband. And when a suspect is in the backseat and my husband has stepped out of the car to consult other officers, some of those suspects have confessed stuff to me. I’ve had to say, “Stop talking. Wait until you get a lawyer.” because I don’t want to know what they’ve done. But for whatever reason, people feel comfortable telling me very private, personal stuff. And that is crazy to me.
What is that?! Ask a friend to put some items in a box for you. Then reach in, feel them, and describe what it is your holding. The process of using your sense of touch rather than sight helps gets the brain firing differently. You can keep the box full of stuff and use it whenever you’re lacking some creativity.
Arts and crafts. They aren’t just for kids. Or at least they shouldn’t be. Adult coloring is a popular things right now. And while I have a joke about how coloring will keep a kid quiet for hours, but will make an adult woman cry and have all the feels, I do think that coloring is great for getting the creativity flowing. I like it because you can do it while you’re doing something else, like watching tv or talking with friends. Or you can focus solely on the coloring. Doing something creative will obviously make you feel creative.
Play a game. How often do you take time to play a game? If you have kids, maybe. If not it may have been a while since you’ve played a game. You’re never too old to play.
Don’t use the excuse that you don’t own any games because you can always find a game app on your phone to play. Or on your computer. Some of my favorites to play with someone are chess (I’m still very new at it), Sequence, Scattergories, Operation, and Cards Against Humanity. On my phone I play Doodle Jump, Farkle, Cribbage, and Solitaire whenever I need a creative boost.
List of prompts. I first learned about this at a Meetup writing group I attended. The organizer would read a word or sentences, then we’d write whatever that prompt brought to mind. The length of time that we wrote for varied. For some prompts we’d write for three minutes. For others we’d write for 10 minutes. Set a timer and start writing.
You can have a friend create a list of prompts for you or you can do it yourself. You could also use an app. I use one called Prompts. It allows you to write in it and it gives you a prompt to get you started, if you choose to use this feature. For instance, I just opened up the app and it gave me, “Years later I would learn…”
Another app I use is called Suggestifier. When you tap the screen, it will give you a one word prompt. It’s meant to help give you improv suggestions.
We do something similar at the weekly comedy workshop I run. We have a wheel with 22 numbers. If a comic has finished working on their jokes and still has part of their five minute stage time left, they can spin a wheel and get a topic. When I have trouble coming up with 22 topics each week, I use Suggestifier to trigger some for me.
Feeling uncreative can shake your confidence. But it doesn’t have to. These are just some of the ways to find creativity when it escapes you. What’s your favorite way to stir up creativity?