Recently I’ve decided to join the portion of Earth citizens who partake in the modern thing known as ‘Stumbling’. I’d originally joined out of curiosity (as well as to unashamedly do a bit of self-promotion) and encountered a variety of stumble posts that give a(n) (un)healthy contribution to my daily procrastination. During one of my adventures in the virtual land of StumbleUpon I encountered an article titled ‘33 Ways to Stay Creative’, which certainly piqued my interest. When I actually got round to reading it, I found it to be more like a mixture of interesting points, obvious solutions and perhaps other suggestions that perpetuate myths about creativity. At the very least I can say that it stimulated my creativity to the point where I’ve decided to review the suggested methods involved. I’ve taken more of a practical interpretation of what’s on the list.
1. Make lists.
I’m extremely sceptical of this one. I believe it only works if writing lists is something that you find particularly useful for creative projects. Personally I find its usage mainly limited to food shopping lists, which tends to be a creativity-killer for me.
2. Carry a notebook everywhere.
This is one of the methods that I’ve personally advocated in my last article, ‘6 Things I Learnt from NaNoWriMo’. Rather than repeat myself, I will explain that I do believe that this is one of the obvious ones on this list. Ideas are fickle, sneaky things. Don’t let them escape.
3. Try free writing.
The second obvious one on the list, and we’re only at number three. I also mentioned this one in my last article. Summary: try it to liberate your ideas and thoughts. You never know what you might find.
4. Get away from the computer.
It’s not the first time that I’ve heard this one but this is one that definitely deserves being repeated. It would only be more effective if it were expanded to including any device that can access the Internet and then to instruct you to beat yourself repeatedly over the head with said device. As weird and wonderful as the internet can be, we could all probably get a lot more done (creatively intended or not) if we plugged into the virtual consciousness a bit less.
5. Be otherworldly.
Where do I begin?
After the first time I glanced through the entire list, I realised this one was the only one that actually pissed me off. “Be otherworldly”? What the bloody hell does that mean? All it does is perpetuate the myth of certain traits belonging to “creative people”. Telling people to be weird isn’t particularly useful for actually developing creativity.
6. Quit beating yourself up.
I take this to mean, “don’t criticise yourself too much”. Keeping yourself grounded can be healthy, but all too often we get dragged down by our self-criticism. Do you think your first draft is crap? Don’t worry, it’s meant to be. Worried the crowd won’t like your performance? Just get on with it like you’re a pro. When we worry too much, we become too afraid to try new things or perform well. Worry less, but pay attention to good constructive criticism as well. (This is one I really need to try more often.)
7. Take breaks.
I love breaks. Breaks are good (in fact whilst writing this article I decided to take a break at this very point). Obviously while we all wish we could be more productive, sometimes your brain needs a break to facilitate being creative. As long as the breaks don’t deteriorate into extended procrastination, then perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to take a break every so often.
8. Sing in the shower.
This is another particularly useless one on the list. As much as I enjoy singing in the shower, I’ve never felt that belting out random lines to a K-pop song improved my creativity. On the other hand, if it works for you, then by all means sing your heart out.
9. Drink coffee/tea.
This is yet another one of the suggestions on the list that seems to only help readers foster a persona that seems creative, rather than creativity itself. The truth is, I believe that this only comes up because a lot of people drink tea or coffee to concentrate, or do so in the process of number seven – taking breaks. Or perhaps they’re putting something peculiar in their tea or coffee, which I don’t recommended.
10. “Know your roots”.
This is almost one of the more legitimate suggestions on the list. Getting in touch with the cultural mix that we’ve sprung forth from can be inspiring, and creatively expressing this can be cathartic. Sometimes by getting closer to our cultural origins we can learn more about ourselves. However, I said this was almost a legitimate suggestion. That’s because the same can be said about learning about the world outside our comfort zone, and by going beyond our “roots” and what we’re already used to can be even more beneficial for creativity.
11. Listen to new music.
For many of us, listening to music is something that seems to attract instant inspiration. Listening to new music can help us branch out from the beaten paths of feelings and thoughts that are attached to music we listen to often.
12. Be open.
I would like this one to be more specific, perhaps changing it to “be open to new experiences”. Venturing further afield of what you’re used to (such as what was mentioned in no. 10) will create new experiences that can help remove creative blocks. If creative projects are ways of expressing our feelings and ideas, then new experiences can give us more to express. At the very least you’ll have something to occupy the time you’d spend worrying about not being creative.
13. Surround yourself with creative people.
Surrounding yourself with likeminded people can help you develop your own ideas, however merely saying “creative people” is too general a term. Sometimes it’s helpful to be accompanied by others who are involved in creative endeavours since it can be a great motivator. However generally speaking, it’s also useful to find people who you trust and are able to give you constructive criticism so they can help you work through your rough ideas.…
14. Get Feedback.
…which leads us directly to this one. Feedback at its best will make us work harder to become better at what we do, whether we agree with it or not.
Along with number fourteen, small amount of collaboration can naturally result from the quest of getting feedback. On the other hand, embarking on a collaborative project with someone else can help us achieve things that we feel we are unable to do on our own. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be a stipulation. Take healthy amounts of collaboration and solitary work as you’d see fit.
16. Don’t give up.
This is one of the most important ones on the list. A lot of creative projects demand the kind of endurance that’s not too unlike what’s needed for a marathon. Your brain gets tired and checks out every time you try to continue, until eventually you stop trying. Don’t give up! If in doubt, check numbers 6, 7 and 9, then try again.