Today, I decided to do something different. Instead of creating a strangely whimsical collage of a giant deer in downtown Chicago or taking photos of shadows on my neighborhood streets, I thought I’d make a list of some of the top ways that I find ideas and inspiration for the things I create.
Since I make something every single day, you might think that ideas just come naturally to me, and many times they do. Other times, however, I have to find inspiration. The following list shares many of the strategies I use to find it. I hope it’s useful!
10 Tips for Finding Your Creativity
1. Search for inspiration. Don’t wait for it to come to you.
I think this is the most important thing of all that you can do. Whether you’re a writer, musician, or a visual artist, it’s important to seek out new ideas. I like to call this process “feeding your brain.” In my imagination, when you feed your brain information, it uses it as fuel to help you create ideas of your own. In reality, I think there is something to this concept, but I’d guess that exploring new ideas externally strengthens pathways in your brain that you can use for creating your own concepts.
In any case, for me, feeding my brain usually means finding new and intriguing artwork online or, very rarely, in museums or galleries (I wish it was more often). One of my favorite sources for this is Pinterest (of course) because it offers a curated way for me to explore all of the amazing images online. Two other favorite sources are Booooooom and Doodlers Anonymous.
2. Talk to people
Another important part of finding your creativity is talking to others about your ideas. I kind of think talking to friends about your creative work is like pulling out the weeds in a garden. You might have a million ideas in your head, but finding a person you can talk to about them really brings the strongest ideas to the surface and helps them grow. I think I’ve really been learning this lesson lately because I’ve spent a lot of time talking to my friend Mike (he’s an artist) about my ideas and it’s really helped. Our discussions have gotten my brain moving on the things I’m interesting in and have also provided me with brand new ideas and concepts to explore. (Thanks, Mike!)
3. Get out of your comfort zone
Honestly, I don’t know what happens to my brain when I throw myself into new situations, but it’s definitely something special. Last month, I did some traveling and had the opportunity to spend nine days in Barcelona. While I was there, I spent a lot of time exploring the city and meeting new people, and since I was by myself most of the time, I also spent a lot of that time feeling sort of uncomfortable. For some reason, that inspired my creativity like nothing I’ve experienced in recent memory. It was like my brain was on fire.
Now, not everyone can jet off to Barcelona just to get their creativity flowing, but I think there are plenty of ways to put yourself out there—go to a concert by yourself, join a club or conversation group, or simply do something you’ve always wanted to do, but have been too scared to try.
4. Keep your eyes and ears open
This one is probably pretty self-explanatory, but I think a key to finding inspiration is recognizing that there is beauty everywhere. It may be in a conversation you overhear on the train or the words written in the graffiti on a fence near your house. Either way, it’s out there.
For me, a perfect example comes, again, from my time in Barcelona. While I was there, I had lunch in a little cafe that had some really amazing and colorful murals on the walls. For whatever reason, those murals really moved me—not sure why—and they became the inspiration for one of my favorite Making Made doodles so far, my Mysterious Woman.
The moral of the story is that ideas are everywhere and if you look for them, you’ll find them.
5. Learn something new
This is another thing, I think, that simply gets the brain moving. When I’m learning something new (for example, Spanish, new art techniques, or guitar) it really energizes me and I think it helps me think more quickly and creatively in all areas of my life, well beyond the area I’m actually learning about.
Related to this, I read recently that learning a new language actually increases the size of your brain, which is pretty neat. I’m not sure that all types of learning make your brain bigger, but I’m sure that learning makes your brain stronger.
6. Make something. Then make it again and again
This may sound counter-intuitive, but I think one key to creativity is to explore the process of making the same thing multiple times. Perhaps you might paint the same picture of a house or write a story about the same funny neighbor five or ten times. Each time, you’ll probably find that, while the painting or story is fundamentally the same, there are small details or techniques that have changed. It is this part of the process that is good for the brain, I think. Perhaps allowing your brain to process through the same concept multiple times makes it more flexible or creates a sort of building block in your creative process. Or perhaps it’s just the practice that helps. Either way, repetition and practice are really helpful.
7. Criticize and analyze
Another great way to come up with ideas is to look at other people’s work, or your own, and think about what you like about it and what you don’t like about it. What would you add? Or subtract? Sometimes your conclusions might bring you so far afield from the initial work, that the process might give you an idea for something entirely new of your own. If not, you were still feeding your brain!
8. Find your inner weird
This is something I myself could work on since most of my stuff isn’t that weird (unless you count this spotted walrus), but a great way to come up with new ideas is to think of the weirdest things possible and then just make them. It’s kind of an exercise in idea generation and while the results might be a little scary, it’s definitely a good thing to try.
9. Make what you like
For me, one of the things that most inspires me is being able to make cute things. Or tasty things. Or beautiful things. Basically, I just love the idea of making stuff that I like and that I can look at and say, “Wow, I made that!” It sounds cheesy, but I think that the satisfaction I find out of this really pushes me to find new and interesting ideas. I’m always looking for something that I can be proud of in the future.
10. Just make stuff
Last but not least, one of the best ways to stimulate your creativity is to just make things. The very processes of drawing, writing, and creating train your brain to be creative and to look at the world in a creative way.
And don’t be scared. One day, you might not have a single creative thought in your brain, but that’s okay. The next day, you’ll probably find brilliance!
Finally, if you want even more tips on getting creative, I recommend the following posts: