Recharge Your Creative Batteries

I've noticed that when I immerse myself in creative projects for several days in a row, ideas come so fast that I have a hard time writing them all down much less executing them. But if I go a few days without anything creative happening, it's a lot harder to get ideas to come to me. If I'm having a dry spell, I have to go through some extra effort to get the creativity back. If you find yourself in a similar state, here are some techniques that are helpful to me.

1. Talk radio helps me concentrate when I'm doing something boring and repetitive, but if I'm working on ideas then I have to turn on instrumental music. Techno and classical are the most effective for me.

2. Being well-rested, well-fed, well-hydrated and in an environment with a comfortable temperature keeps me from being distracted by physical complaints.

3. If I start thinking about a project then do something that's kind of automatic such as chores, showering or driving, good ideas will often come to me because I'm not trying too hard. It's amazing how the subconscious will continue to work on a problem even after the conscious mind has taken a break. For example, in 2010 I attended a Route 66 festival where a vendor told me he had need of information on future exhibit opportunities. While driving home I made plans for a new web site –

4. Physical exercise is excellent for getting the brain to work at peak level.

5. If there is no creative client work to do at the moment, I'll often give myself an assignment. There is almost  always self-promotional work that needs to be done and if I can't think of any I can always make up a project just for fun or something designed to practice a new technique.

6. Modern technology provides a lot of good ways to record ideas or inspirations quickly – for example I can take voice notes on my smartphone or use Pinterest to quickly make links to interesting things I see online. I also make heavy use of a low-tech way of recording inspirational images. I keep several three-ring binders for different areas in which I do creative work, for example, Jewelry, Rubber Stamps, Paper Crafts and Ceramics. I also have one called Design Inspiration for graphic design samples that I like and sample color schemes. I fill these binders with blank sheets of paper that I've put holes in with a three-hole punch and add some folder inserts. When I'm finished with magazines, catalogs or paper samples, I cut out things I like and tape them in to make a scrapbook. I can make impromptu sketches or notes on parts of the paper that are not covered with images. Sometimes I even include fabric swatches and ceramic glaze test tiles. When I was in college a design teacher had us do a similar exercise to help us develop our own style and taste. I've continued to do this ever since because if I'm stuck for an idea and I start looking through my idea book, I will inevitably come up with something. The finished product usually does not resemble the catalyst image or images in any way.

7. A variation on the scrapbook idea is to create an idea bulletin board in your creative space, or put shadow boxes on the wall with interesting collections in them.

8. I get the best ideas when my workspace is not too cluttered. If I have time, a good cleaning and organizing session is often the first step.

9. When I was in college, I studied glassblowing. We were provided with clear glass plus a small selection of colors such as white, purple, green and blue that were relatively cheap to mix up. If we wanted to use other colors we could choose to buy our own glass rods of color. Most of us, including me could not afford to do that, but one student in particular had a large collection. He was pretty enamored of them. One of the other students joked that he probably took them to bed with him at night. I do understand about getting excited about your art supplies. Once when a friend visited my studio he said "I think you have everything that Michael's sells in here." I don't have THAT much but I do love art and craft supplies and I do have a lot! If nothing else will work, looking at my art supplies will usually get me excited to start a new project. Color is a particular trigger – sometimes I can feel my heart rate go up by looking at a bunch of colored pencils, or my box of embroidery thread or some jars of beads…

Creativity is a mysterious process isn't it? It's difficult to force on demand, but if you create the right conditions it will flourish! Favorable conditions for you might not be the same as for me. Pay attention to what sparks your creative sessions and you can make your own list of creative catalysts to get you through those dry spells.

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