Thinking Creatively

(As a creative person who is currently living on her bicycle, I thought it would be valuable to write something about my creative process. In this post I haven’t limited my experience to my present life but have also included examples from my past life, as a 9-5er living in rented accommodation in a grey and bustling UK city.)

When you have that pristine white page before you and ‘the fear’ takes over – what will I draw or write? What if I immediately make a mistake? What if i make a hideous error when I’ve almost finished? Or OMG I’ve lost my creativity! I can’t think of anything I can do… I’ve been exposed. I’m not an artist! These are a few of the things I think about when I push down the crease on a new sketch book or stare blankly at a fresh page… for so long that my eyes start to lose focus and I see black splodges wobbling around before me.

I’m sure this kind of thing has happened to many people even those not creatively active on a daily or weekly basis. If you have a speech to write, thinking of a recipe or a presentation to do for a job interview. We all have the choice whether we make something bog standard or whether we push the boat out a little to make something really special, something that will make us stand out, something we can really be proud of. This is where the creative process comes in. However, this is also where the aforementioned ‘fear’ can set in. Here are a few tips and ideas I use:

1. Firstly, you need to limber up, shake it out, get some energy flowing because you need a brain which is wide awake. Then you need to make a brainstorm – write down all your ideas, empty your mind onto the page, what you’d like to do, quotes, things that inspire you, pictures. If you get stuck, take a break, give your mind time, talk to a friend – they might have some of their own thoughts and although you might not like their ideas it could consequently spark an idea in you. Most successful creativity comes from a long process which may start very generally or vaguely but which branches off and flourishes into something really engaging.

2. Start with what you’re good at, unless you have the time and/or money to invest in a new skill. Once I went to a wedding where the best man was a Philosophy teacher and his speech was actually a ‘lesson’ on the groom’s life which included philosophical questions on the grooms choice of clothes/haircuts over the years, he really got the wedding guests actively involved in his lesson with some hands up style questions. It was the funniest and most brilliant best man’s speech I have ever heard and the guy really played to his strengths and showcased his passion for teaching (this would also be such a cool way to get head hunted!).

3. Don’t worry about the technicalities (at least not initially) – just get something down on paper because you can always neaten up and fix things at a later date. It’s easier to do something from the heart – think of a time of great feeling or a place or person that means a lot to you or even just the first word that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be there, starting you up to allow the good stuff to flow. My friend Johnny is not an artist in the traditional sense of the word and he thinks he is terrible at drawing yet he draws all the time. And when he does his drawings they really give you a sense of naive honesty and caring. There is just something so special about them. So you don’t have to be the best of the best to do something creative because if you do it from the heart then your personality will shine through.

4. Relax. Put on a piece of music that inspires you, get comfortable. If its sunny take your sketchbook for a dander or if it’s snowy get under a big warm fluffy blanket with a cuppa. Being comfortable let’s you be comfortable with your creativity. Clear all mundane thoughts from your mind. If you have something really distracting you then sort this out first. If nothing is working for you try something fun – play with your food, draw around your hand and then turn it into something new or make an Exquiste Corpse with a friend.

5. Something that really inspires me is travel but I understand that not everyone wants to travel or is able to (in my past life I was in a lot of debt and so on a really tight budget) so I find that even travelling to local places really makes a big difference. I used to take time to explore my local environment and was often surprised by just how beautiful it was, to really look at every forgotten corner, to discover the small things – a stone, a shell, moss, plants and insects hiding in the grass, seeds, a wall, and then to see shapes and patterns bursting to the surface. I think it could be easy to say that I will only be inspired by new landscapes and new cultures but there is something very special about taking the time to appreciate where you live, to honour where you are now and to make the most of that. For me, there is no greater inspiration than nature and (hopefully) my art reflects that.

6. Get involved. Another way to hone creativity is to sign up for things. I used to contribute to local publications and encourage collaborative projects. By putting your name down to do a piece of writing or drawing for something (unfortunately this is mostly for free) you are pushing yourself to actually complete a piece of work and you will have a deadline. I find that if I have to THINK of ideas then I MAKE the time and ACTIVELY take part. For me, this is really effective when it comes to pushing my creative mental boundaries as sometimes the subject matter might be something entirely new or different from my usual interests. And an added bonus – you might just end up making new friends too!

7. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Variety is the spice of life… so they say. My first love is illustration but actually I try so many new things that I now have the ability to do most of them to pretty good standard. You might think that this costs a lot of money but no you can pick up lots of new creative abilities pretty cheap or free. The trick is that you need to think creatively in order to try new things on a budget, for example, you can crochet by making tshirt yarn from an old tshirt or practice print making by carving vegetables, make jewellery from feathers you find or scraps of driftwood, etc, etc.

8. Practice. The more you do something the easier it gets and you don’t have to be amazingly good at something for it to mean something. But remember, you have to make things happen for yourself. Being creative doesn’t always mean that your creative ability is ‘on tap’. Whether it’s a personal project or a thoughtful piece for a friend, taking the time to think creatively will change you and (potentially) others for the better.

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