There are days when we have plenty of time, and relatively strong desire to create, but just can’t get into the state of mind conducive for Art.
For me it happens on weekends when I don’t have any plans, but that makes every option a good option and so I freeze up not knowing which task to do.
What, I discovered, works for me is the following. (And keep in mind that what works for me may not work for you, but I will explain the underlying reasons so you can replicate for yourself)
Firsts - start with your environment. The physical space plays a big role in how our thoughts are formed. On one hand our environment is the reflection of our inner world, but at the same time we can influence our inner world through the environment.
To test that - just try to go into a very cluttered house and see how you feel. Then for contrast, visit a gallery or a library or a theatre. What we see around us can make us feel inspired and elated or it can crush our soul.
So when you are having difficulty with your creativity - create the conditions in your environment for inspiration.
Which means - clear you room. Clean the space where you will be working. Create a space of potential by removing as many items as possible. The more things we see - the more we are reminded of.
What worked for me was clearing my kitchen table. This allowed my brain connections to stop firing, which were associated with things on the table, and that freed up energy in the brain to be diverted to something else.
Then second thing to do - get your tools of the trade out. Whatever it is. For me it is paints, or brushes or pencils.
I took all my colored pencils, put them beside an empty page and started sharpening them. What that allowed my brain to do is to focus on a simple task. It was easy to focus on the act of sharpening and when we focus on one thing, we collect and gather energy in one place and then it becomes easier to direct it elsewhere.
Through that simple action it allowed my options to narrow and it analysis paralysis stopped.
The empty sketchbook beside me also tempted me to think of what would be fun to create once the pencils are all sharp.
Third thing I did was turn on one of my study lessons.
Sometimes focusing on just creating something seems like too much pressure.
And sometimes focusing on just learning also seems too daunting.
So to reduce the pressure from both I combined auditory stimulation and mechanical action of sharpening.
My pattern recognition start being engaged, electricity in my brain started to increase.
I started to feel more optimistic about what I would create.
Additional thing may help is if you find someone to do the activity with.
Social connections are important in general, but when you combine them with something you love doing, even more focus begins to gather. We, as humans, are wired for creatIng together and watching another person being engaged in something inspires us also to do our thing.
Last thing I had to engage with is struggle at the beginning of the drawing process.
Once all the pencils were sharpened and I was deeply engaged with the lesson I was listening to, I decided on the subject matter I was going to draw.
At that time it almost seemed as if I was running out of motivation to be creative, but I wanted to continue listening to the audio, so I pressed on.
The beginning of creative activity should feel a little difficult. Its almost as if it was a test for us to prove to ourselves that we really got what it takes to create.
By staying with that feeling of difficulty, staying with that sensation that the art piece is too much for us to handle, we are able to get to the next level where it flows.
So here is the summary of what to do to jump-start creativity:
1) Clean your environment - reduce cognitive load
2) Get your tools of the trade in front of you and start looking at them - engage the familliar networks in the brain
3) Do a simple task - something that will be easy to focus on to start building energy
4) Stack motivation by adding another fun component that can easily co-exist with your creation process - music, radio, podcast etc.
5) Social connection - to bring the feeling of connection and safety to reduce any possible anxiety thoughts, plus utilizing mirror neurones seeing your friend doing their thing
6) Move into presenting idea and stay with the struggle
So here you go, 6 steps of getting creative when you don’t feel like it.
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Pauline Dougald is a Creativity Coach and an Artist, who lives in the space of a possibility. She writes about different aspects of Flow State as it applies to creative people.