Do you ever find yourself staring at an email, trying to get your fingers to type what's fumbling around in your mind, unable to articulate the concept? For most people, being creative on-demand is challenging, but it's a learnable skill. I have compiled a few of the tricks that some of the most imaginative individuals utilize to do everything from designing corporate brands to solve complex statistical problems.
Find Your Muse
What inspires you? I have years of decades of design/photography magazines surrounded by hundreds of books that are the starting point on any creative project. If my project were to design a business card, I wouldn't start by opening Adobe Illustrator and looking at a blank screen. I would look for inspiration in everything from the typography in magazines, websites, and by looking at lots of actual business cards. In no way am I advocating that you copy or plagiarise someone else's work, instead look at the different techniques that are used in the designs that resonate to come up with your original design.
Set the Mood
It's essential to set yourself up for success. I can't do creative work if someone is on a loud call next to me or if I were lost in a sea of cubicles. A clean workspace allows your mind to focus on the task at hand vs. the pile of mail on top of a mess of paperwork; at the end of every day, take 5 minutes to arrange your desk to set tomorrow up for success. Next, work to construct an environment that stimulates creativity. My workspace is full of legos, buddhas, original artwork that I love, antique camera equipment, and vintage star wars action figures (they are not dolls) from my childhood. These things not only inspire me, but they also make me happy, which makes me want to spend time in my studio.
Start with Paper & Pencil
Whether it's designing a new logo, coming up with ideas for blog content, or creating the UI/UX for an app, start with doodling or journaling ideas. Even if the project is entirely digital before you turn on your computer, it's best to start with putting pen to paper. Allow yourself to make mistakes, scribble random observations, and doodle ideas that pop into your head. You will be amazed at how one small thought can lead you down a path that inspires game-changing thoughts.
Get in the Flow
When someone is in the flow-state, they become laser-focused on the task at hand, so much that the rest of the world fades away, allowing us to elucidate complex problems that otherwise would seem unsolvable. Getting into the flow state is different for everyone. Willy Nelson is known for writing songs while driving. When he wants to compose a new song, Willy will get in his truck and drive until the entire song is in his head. He can do this because all of his attention is on the road ahead, so the pesky intrusions like thinking about picking up the dry cleaning or changing the oil dissolve, and our mind is free to have creative thoughts. It's more challenging to achieve in the flow-state in a bustling office. Here are a few tools to empower you:
Practice Core Hours
Turn off email/text/social media alerts
Take the time to clear your mind before you dig into whatever creative challenge you face. A ten-minute meditation will provide the clarity to accomplishing anything from painting your next watercolor to building a complex spreadsheet. This short focus time before you start the job will reduce the amount of time it takes to complete. Since you are centered before beginning the task, it will take less time, and you will do better work.