Feed your creativity. A guide for anyone
Creativity is a fickle mistress. There for you in the middle of the night. Whispering sweet temptations, teasing you with wild thoughts. She flirts with you as you drive on empty roads. Ideas, dreams, what ifs.
But call on her when she’s needed? She might come. Bounding towards you so readily you have to stop and catch your breath. But other times? Not so much. And if you give her a deadline she’s guaranteed to miss it.
Creativity is a tease. A flirt. Coquettish in the extreme. She’s responsible for your greatest moments and biggest breakthroughs. But she’ll send you insane with despair when suddenly, without warning, she stops returning your calls.
I’m writing this as I sit in a café. It’s almost a parody of the freelance writer. Flat white? Notebook? White noise of the coffee grinder? All present and correct. And so is she. Creativity has chosen to bestow me with her company today. It means I’m working at speed – with dreadful handwriting and writer’s cramp. It’s how I know she’s here.
Another way of looking at creativity
I’m going to stop with the sensual, womanly metaphors now. Because in truth, as much as it might be fun to think of creativity as a seductive and wayward lover, creativity is more like a bottle of water. You can’t drink from it infinitely without topping it up. When you get busy, you miss those opportunities to refill and before you know it, you’re sipping at an empty bottle.
It’s little wonder that as time goes on, the creative spark that sets you apart dulls. Your work becomes vanilla. Beige. Limp.
Refuel your creativity
Refill that bottle of creativity – or if you will, tempt back your wayward lover. Take action.
1. Stop. Give yourself a break. Exhaustion stops your brain working and leaves you good for one thing only; a good night’s sleep or even better – a holiday. Listen to your body and give yourself the night off.
2. Take inspiration. Head off and soak up someone else’s creativity. Visit a gallery. Read a book. Go to a gig. Now honestly, Instagram or Pinterest don’t count. You need to physically experience something for it to truly affect you. You need your synapses to fuse together in excitement. That ain’t gonna happen on your Insta feed.
3. Work at scale. Creativity needs space. Big rooms. Large tables. Enormous pieces of paper. Visit a gallery and have your mind blown by the scale of some of the pieces of work there. Sure, there are some gorgeous miniatures too, but creativity works best without constraint – give it some space.
4. Get outside. Maybe this is why so many freelancers have dogs. Fresh air, nature, trees – it doesn’t matter what it is, but the sense of otherness you can get from being anywhere other than your desk or studio might be just what you need to tempt back creativity.
5. Exit distractions. If there’s something nearby that needs my attention, I just can’t get creative. Kids, the washing machine bleeping that its finished its cycle. Oh yeah – my phone… Put me in the corner of a room with people I don’t know and I can produce my finest work…
6.What’s your poison? OK. I know this is contentious, but the relaxing properties of a G&T or glass of red wine can’t be underestimated. Hemmingway famously said that one should “write drunk, edit sober”. I’m not suggesting you habitually get legless at 1.30pm on a Wednesday, but an evening of creative reflection can certainly be improved with a glass of the good stuff.
7. Phone a friend. Sometimes it’s a case of chatting things through. Friends, family, other freelancers. Even the barista at your café, different people have different perspectives, so chat away and replenish your creativity.
But above all, there’s one thing that NEVER helps. Beating yourself up about it. Self-flagellation – the metaphorical or actual – won’t help. Switch off your phone. Close your laptop. Step away from your desk.
And she’ll come. She’ll come running – you’ve just got to give her time.