The longer I worked at my creative job, the more I found myself slumping down into a creative rut personally. That probably sounds unusual, but as a parent working outside the home, all my time was getting sucked up working, taking care of the kids, and housework in the evening. The bulk of creative energy was being invested elsewhere–into my fun, creative, career. Creativity is a muscle. I was flexing it for others rather than myself, and it was withering. For my own sanity, I needed to ignite my creative spark.
When I don’t spend time investing in my own creative endeavors, I start to feel overwhelmed, discouraged, stressed out, and my mind feels disorganized and “cluttered.” Hands up if your creative time is your “me time.” A few weeks ago I was down in the dumps, and it all had to do with my lack of creativity.
I asked my community, and they gave me lots of fantastic suggestions. These are my favorite 15 ways to ignite your creative spark.
15 Ways to Ignite Your Creative Spark
1. Rest and Relax
Who can get anything productive done when they are overtired and stressed? As ever-busy parents who might have financial or relational burdens, and a whole slew of responsibilities calling our name, it is easy to get burnt out and exhausted. I have spent the past four years waking up at often during the night to care for children. Step one to clearing your mind to make room for creative thoughts is simple: rest. Go to bed early for a couple nights (even if it means housework suffers), take a long bath, get a massage in your lunch hour, or go lay out in the sun for a while to recharge your batteries.
I love going to my favorite albums and songs to help press the reset button on my creativity. Chances are, you enjoy the music you enjoy because it is inspiring. Whether it pumps you up, gets you silly, makes you want to do something adventurous or new, chills you out… however it affects you, your favorite music can only help you toward creative re-ignition. I love using the browse feature on Spotify to get my mind going and get the positive feelings flowing.
What’s your favorite music for feeling creative?
3. Get outdoors
No matter the weather, get outside every day. If you work in an office for hours on end in front of a screen like I do, this is especially important. Go for a walk, run, or hike in the country. Tan in the sun. Stroll around a downtown area at night. Take your kids to a park. Feel the elements on your skin. Set up a tent and sleep outside. It is invigorating and rejuvenating.
Whether you go to a city an hour away for an afternoon, or drive out of town for the weekend, travel gets you out of your hum drum routine and can help you feel wonder again. Take a camera and get snapshots of everything that inspires you, for later day dreaming.
5. Take a break from kids
If you are like me, your kids are a large part of why you aren’t feeling creative. Something about wiping bottoms and listening to a child whine… Also if you are a mom who works outside the home like me, you feel very guilty if you spend any part of your weekend away from your children. Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, says
One of the greatest gifts I’ve given my children is the example of a mother who pursues her passions like a mother*****.
How can you pursue creative passions if you are not making good time for yourself. It will be GOOD for you to take an hour or two to be alone on occasions where you feel suffocated by toddler wants and baby needs. You’ll be a better mother and a better creative thinker.
6. Get a tribe together
There’s a book I’ve been meaning to get: In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs. The author, Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge, did a great interview with Elle in which she discussed how women doing similar work should view one another as community rather than competition.
When I was interviewing women for my book, I was reminded yet again that these support groups, made up of women in similar fields, were a crucial component in so many people’s successes. Rather than being nervous to share their failures, important contacts, or resources, they relished this chance to be open and learn from each other.
With this in mind, find a tribe of likeminded people to support one another as you collectively pursue your individual creative passions. Set some parameters for what type of person you want in your group: is gender important? Age? Life stage? Background? Type of creative endeavors?
Connect with one another, challenge each other, and look for feedback.
7. Take a cold shower
Take a cold shower to get your blood flowing, to help lift the blues, and feel more alert. Kick your brain into high gear. There might actually be a scientific case for the benefits of a cold shower!
8. Listen to the Magic Lessons Podcast
Published last year, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear is the incredibly motivating and helpful book by Elizabeth Gilbert. I highly recommend reading the book, watching her TED Talk (included below), and also continuing the discussion on creativity by listening to her podcast, Magic Lessons. Listening to Magic Lessons is like a magic bullet. I LOVE Elizabeth Gilbert and the things she has to say to her callers and guests on the show. It is a wonderful listen for anyone who is stuck, creatively.
9. Brain Dump
When I feel like I have confusing, jumbled thoughts, when I’m struggling to feel organized and when I’m struggling creatively, sometimes it’s helpful to practice some stream of consciousness writing and dump everything out of my brain and onto paper. A brain dump is an idea from the popular book by David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. I will set a timer for 10, 15, 20 minutes and write or type furiously, releasing all of my thoughts, feelings, and ideas, listing out my to-dos, focusing all of my energy on emptying my brain of the clutter.
10. Try something new
Do a Pinterest project, dabble in a new artistic medium, try a new sport or exercise class, step outside of your comfort zone. Magic happens outside of our comfort zones.
11. Focus on beauty
Whether this means going to see an art exhibition, or buying a book of inspiring work, following Instagram accounts with beautiful photography, illustrations or design, reading books or blogs of lovely prose or poetry, going to the symphony or a theatrical performance, go to a botanical garden or spend time in a place of scenic or natural beauty… whatever works for you, focus on the beauty and positivity in the world rather than the negativity.
We should all be volunteering. Sometimes, creativity comes from selflessly giving back to our communities. Maybe it’s the lessons we learn there, or having our perspective constantly stretched. Maybe it’s the people we come in contact with or something something out of our ordinary routine, but volunteerism is a great way get creative in a different way
I already mentioned Pinterest once in this list, but spending even 5 or 10 minutes getting lost in the world of color, art, DIY projects, curated home decor, etc, is therapeutic for me. I have lots of organized boards across all my interests, and love to dive in and collect ideas, words, outfits, projects I want to try, and to generally be inspired by other regular people like myself.
14. Healthy diet and Exercise
You know in 30 Rock where Liz Lemon realizes her trust issues and her food issues are related? I had a similar epiphany about my creativity: when I don’t take care of my physical body, my creativity suffers greatly. Eating good food and making time for exercise is crucial to getting creative juices flowing. Try out a new exercise outdoors, and you’ll have three of the 15 points in this covered!
Going out for a drive is a lovely way to relax for me. The destination doesn’t matter and isn’t even necessary. I put on my favorite tunes, roll down the windows if it’s nice outside, and allow myself to feel free. That free feeling is central to my being able to create how I need to!
What have I left off from this list? What are your favorite ways to ignite your creative spark?