Cultivating Creativity


If only creativity came as easily as breathing! We would all be award winning authors, famous musicians, and accomplished artists! But being creative, thinking creatively, and coming up with new ideas just isn’t that easy, and I’m not all too sure that it’s something a person is born with. I think creativity needs to be nurtured, encouraged, and sometimes drawn out of us.

This year I am working toward creating some unique pieces of art. In order to do that, I’m going to need to dig deep. That’s where the really great ideas lie. I read something once about brainstorming. You can’t just stop jotting down ideas when you think you’ve found a good one. They say the first third of the ideas you write down are surface ideas. These are ideas from things you’ve seen before, things, art, writings, ideas that already exist. These ideas are not new to you. The second third are getting closer. You may have some good ideas in there, but many of them still stem from things you’ve seen before. The third third is where the gold lies. These are ideas that come deep from within you. Ideas that are results of connecting various pieces and memories to create a new idea. I also read that the wilder the idea, the better. It’s easier to play down an idea than it is to vamp up a mediocre one.

We need to guard our creativity, because there are creativity zappers on the loose! These creativity zappers seeks to destroy your imagination and make you a copycat. Creativity zappers that I try to avoid or severely limit my time with are:

-T.V. and Movies: These just dumb me down. I’m sure they implant their own ideas into my head too, but, for me, they really just suck away my time and keep me from coming up with ideas, because I get drawn in.

-Magazines: I’ve not yet found a magazine that really inspires me to create, with maybe the exception of The Smithsonian. I just love that one. It makes me feel smarter for reading it, but most magazines, especially fashion magazines, just tell me what’s trending and what would please the masses. Here’s where I need to ask myself – Am I a people pleaser or an artist? Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong in creating something to cater to a particular customer, but I want to stay away from making things just to please and sell.

-The Style Rut: This one is one I’ve fought with, the idea that everything I create has to fit into this neat little classification. I have to only be a crochet/knit artist and only make hats. Or I have to only do realist paintings. Or I have to only write poetry that rhymes. Get rid of the only’s. Art is supposed to be what is done outside the box, so don’t create with the box in mind. In fact, throw away the dang box! Your pieces will all fit together nicely because they are all done by you, from your own imagination.

-Critical People: Do not listen to them!!! I think these are probably the WORST for me! When you are working on something new, especially, don’t listen to critical remarks of any kind, positive or negative. This is supposed to be your work, not influenced one way or the other by someone else’s thoughts and ideas. Critical people can quickly kill an idea. I’ve had too many projects that I have completely given up on because someone else didn’t like it or thought I should do it a different way. Constructive criticism after you’re finished may be helpful, but for those who just like to criticize, I need to avoid them like the plague!

The critical people then lead to…

-Critical Me: I am my own enemy. When I listen to the criticisms of others, I too often absorb them, and they become my own criticisms. Not every idea or work has to be perfect. Life is imperfect, therefore art can be imperfectly perfect. In drawing class, we were told now and then to not erase. Leave your mistakes and just draw over them, or even incorporate them, because there are no mistakes. I need to stop worrying about getting it “just right” and just let it be, let the piece evolve on its own.

Now, I’m working on a list of things that I’m going to try to do in order to cultivate creativity in myself. I may not do them all every day, but I plan to do at least one a day.

-Listen to music I don’t normally listen to, or turn it off altogether.
I am a music person. I love it. I love to sing, piddle with my guitar and keyboard, listen to it, dance to it, clean to it, but I definitely get in a rut with it. I’m going to also try to listen to more wordless music, just let my mind wander on the notes of the music alone. Today I’m listening to traditional folk on my Pandora, instead of my usual Snow Patrol or Of Monsters and Men stations.

-Change the scenery.
Sit on the floor to draw or knit. Take my work outside, or to the park or lake, even if it’s freezing out. Go for a walk, or take a drive through the country. Take my sketchbook into the bathtub with me and light some candles. Sit on the kitchen counter and brainstorm. Lay on the floor. I need to just change it up a bit. Try something different.

-Keep a sketchbook with me always!
I’ve tried this one before, but then have given it up. I need to keep one with me, so all my ideas and quotes and things are in one place, rather than on a piece of paper here, napkin in the car, scrawled on my white board, etc. Write down song lyrics, sketch, write down random thoughts and ideas… They don’t have to be cohesive, just whatever comes to mind or inspires me. This, however, is no place for writing or drawing exact replicas of what I see or hear. This is for original ideas and inspiration, not imitation.

-Visit a gallery once a month.
This one is tougher than it should be, but once a month sounds reasonable. This is just to get myself out there and immerse myself in art. I find that the more I surround myself with other artists and art, the more I create.

-Go to a high school or college music concert or dance performance now and then.
Again, seeing others using their talents inspires me.

-Write with pen and paper, or pencil and paper, crayon and paper!
The goal here is to feel the writing utensil scratching the surface, being able to smell the ink or the crayon and feeling it on the paper. There’s something completely unique and freeing about writing. Typing is not the same thing. Maybe I’ll write letters to mail to friends, write poetry, brainstorm…

-Brainstorm often.
Make time, even schedule time, to just sit down and write ideas. I read once that if you turn your paper so that it’s set up like a landscape that this actually frees up your thinking and you come up with more interesting ideas and words. It takes you out of the normal confines. I need to be thinking of ideas often, letting them simmer over a few days, snowball, evolve, and grow.

-Schedule time to come up with ideas.
I can’t always just wait for an idea. I have to go after them. Make it like a date. Set a time, a place, and bring any essentials needed. Don’t break the date. It’s that important.

-Write poetry and stories.
This is something that comes in spurts for me. I’ll have a couple of months when I’ll write like a madwoman and then go months or years without. I need to make time to write. I think I may start picking 5-10 random words or objects and challenging myself to make something out of them.

-Sleepy time… or not.
I get some of my best ideas right before bed, or I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea. The sucky thing is, if I just go to sleep with the intention of doing it tomorrow, I almost always lose the inspiration the next day. I think when these ideas hit me at night, I need to get up and go with it. I’ve written some of my favorite poems in the dark. Two o’clock in the morning is when I churned out most of my paintings, pottery, and other things in college. I also think I should allow myself to take naps during the day to help spark my thoughts a bit, because it gives me some time to relax and possibly free up my thoughts for some creativity.

These are just some of the ways I’m going to try to encourage creativity in myself this year. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you spark your creativity and where you find your inspiration and ideas!

 

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