Written for the COFFEESHOP Music blog.
This week we’re stepping back from the filmmaking and audio spheres, to look at a much wider topic of finding creativity. Maybe the creative juices have begun to retreat, these days a mere dribble of their former glory? Maybe you have the camera skills, but just aren’t that terrific at generating ideas? Or perhaps like many of us post-2020/21, your kitchen table and local hill just doesn’t spark the imagination like those far flung travel destinations used to?
Finding and nurturing creativity can be hard, especially when we’re busy. But like any muscle, the creative mind needs to be exercised and well-nourished. And like any fitness plan, the fit, sculpted creative needs to know when to rest, when to go hard, what muscle groups to work, and how to feed them.
So here are some tips to get those creative juices flowing once more.
Go for a walk
“If you seek creative ideas, go walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” ― Raymond I. OD Myers
People don’t move enough anymore. There are well-evidenced links between physical activity outdoors and better mental health, wellbeing and productivity. Even if it’s just 10 minutes at the start of your day, try going for a stroll and give your head a little space. I’d also urge you to leave the headphones at home and learn to be comfortable in your own company. Yes, there’s definitely an argument for using the time to cram in podcasts and audiobooks to feed your inspiration. But you need to carve out a little space in the day for your mind to wonder – angels won’t whisper to you unless you’re able to hear them.
Make a plan
“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” – Thomas Edison
There’s not a chance you could run a marathon next weekend unless you’ve trained strategically for it! For some people, having the goal in place increases the odds of them getting in shape. For others, just being hench is reason enough to train. But the common thread is that these people never achieve fitness without having a solid training plan in place.
Carve out time to read, journal, fill up the experience tank, and give yourself permission to procrastinate. Literally put it in the diary: 8.00-8.15am – Walking; 2.00pm-2.10pm – Doodling. Schedule time without your phone. People-watch when you’re drinking coffee. Plan out what books you’re going to read this year. And if it helps (it probably will), write down a reason to get creatively fit – commit to a project/weekly blog/starting a YouTube channel. Put a target date on it and start working those quads!
Wake up before your editor
Now there’s a whole myriad of wisdom pedalled by successful early-risers and thought leaders on this. And at COFFEESHOP, we’re certainly not here to shout about seizing the day early and getting stuff done before the world awakes. Some people are morning people, others are at their most creative as the clock strikes midnight. But, there is wisdom to be found in getting some creativity in before your internal editor has knocked back his/her first cup of joe.
You see, we all have an editor within, pointing out what won’t work, what sounds bad, and what needs cutting. This is a good thing when we have a great piece of work that needs refining and slicing to leave only the good stuff. But our editor is a back seat driver and rarely shuts up. To beat him, as soon as you wake, start scribbling ideas and plotting whatever the hell you like. Before we’ve fully woken up, our brains are unable to make critical decisions and it’s the creative nonsense that has a moment in the sun. It’ll likely be awful, but there’ll be some gems in there too.
Capture field notes
I never have writer’s block. I have an incredible superpower that enables me to generate a finished article every time I sit down to write a song or a blog post. I guess it’s god-given?
Pssst… It’s not a superpower. It’s the voice memo app on my phone.
Ok, I’ll come clean. If I sit down in front of a blank page, I start to sweat! I actually find it excruciatingly painful to come up with creative ideas on demand and have been known to stare wide-eyed at an empty word doc for 4 hours before summoning up the willpower to write a title. But on my morning walk (we talked about this earlier), little ideas often poke their heads out from behind hedges. Some ideas come to me while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil, putting fuel in my car, recording minutes during a team meeting. And if I don’t capture them ASAP, they’re gone. I mainly use my voice memo app, but I also jot down ideas in a notepad (carry one!) when talking into my phone might look odd.
Many of these hummed melodies, thoughts and ramblings will never see the light of day. But whenever I sit down to write a song or blog, I dig into my voice memos and simply pick whichever idea I fancy putting legs on. I never have writer’s block.
Change stuff around
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” – Albert Einstein
And lastly, if your chicken korma just ain’t passing the taste test, it’s probably time to rearrange your spice rack. We’ve spoken about making a plan, waking up early, going for a walk, and using tools to capture your ideas. But the only constant in the universe that ensures growth is change. Maybe it’s time to try something new? Sometimes the smallest of changes, like a fresh haircut, can spark a little creative fire. Other times, the change has to be bigger. New job, new direction, new city. If you’re a filmmaker, writing songs might give you a new creative energy that finds its way back into your films. Trying your hand at a new language might be the special sauce you’ve been craving. Have a go at switching things up a bit, and see what you come up with.
There you go folks. We all need a little inspiration from time to time. I hope some of these ideas might just spark those rusty pistons. Who knows where the old runner may take you?