Getting in the creative mindset can be a challenge at the best of times, but what do you do when you find yourself with a mental roadblock and your regular creativity boosting tricks aren’t feasible? Rethink the way you see staying at home and seize the moment to try new ways to get yourself out of a creative rut with these tips from your friends at Kevin Barry Fine Art.
1. Look Back to Look Forward
Every creative has that folder full of projects from years past that we need to steel ourselves to look at. The road to where you are today with your artistic practice might have had a faltering (yes, even cringe-worthy) start, but now is the time to pause and learn from those moments. Whether you take a minute to read some old creative writings, look at projects from many years past, or thumb through old notebooks and sketch pads, this can be a great way to refresh your brain. This exercise works just as well for emerging creatives as it does for experienced professionals, so don’t limit yourself based on the stage of career you’re in. Try this exercise: Choose a word, phrase, or single focal point of a work of yours from the past and use it as a jumping off point for creating a new piece. Now set a timer. The time is dependent on the kind of creative work you do, and you may want to start with modest expectations and work your way up to a longer time period as you practice this exercise. Once you’ve chosen the jumping off point (and don’t overthink it) get those ideas down and don’t stop until time is up.
2. Focus on Process, Not on Outcomes
It can be easy for creatives to get stuck on the idea of creating productively— especially those who create for a living. Of course this is a completely natural mindset, but it isn’t especially helpful. If you’re already feeling low on creativity this kind of thinking can be even more limiting. Now is the time to focus on your artistic process, not on the outcome. If it helps, consider setting benchmarks for yourself like in the above exercise (i.e. fill up X amount of page, write X amount of words or for X length of time). To get the most of this exercise, create without stopping and reviewing your work. Try this exercise: Sometimes the best way to let go of expectations of outcomes is to try your hand at something so far out of your comfort zone that you can’t begin to predict how it’s going to turn out. If you’re an illustrator, try doing a piece that emulates an artist whose style is completely different from yours. If you’re a writer, try writing a short piece in another author’s voice. Even if all it does is give you a laugh, you’ll be stretching muscles you don’t often get to exercise, and that can be a springboard into unexpected creative moments.
If you’re anything like us, there’s a list a mile long of people you’ve been wanting to collaborate with but have never found the time to. Well, now is the moment to reach out! Everyone is looking to make connections and strengthen bonds at a time when most of us are feeling a little at sea, and one of the best ways to feel more creative is to surround yourself with creative people. Just like with the tip above, don’t focus too much on an outcome— just reach out and spend some time talking with someone whose work you admire. Even if nothing ever comes from the collaboration, big things can come out of conversations and you’ll never know what might have been if you never try. Try this exercise: Collaborations can certainly happen over email or the phone, but there’s something powerful about that face-to-face interaction when you’re brainstorming creative projects. Right now, you may not be able to be in the same room with the person, but having a virtual coffee date over Zoom, Skype or Facetime might be the special ingredient your collaboration needs in order to really take off. Also, who doesn’t want to see a new face just for the sake of novelty these days?
4. Get Inspired (Virtually)
While we’re all staying home for the time being, it can be hard to let novelty drive your creativity. People-watching, walks through the city, or visiting a museum might not be in the cards at the moment, but there are so many cultural centers taking their work online to help keep us sane and inspired during this time. Google’s Arts and Culture has an astonishing amount of free and easy to access content from cultural sites, museums, and landmarks around the world.
Here is just a short list of some of team’s favorite virtual spaces to find inspiration:
Free Monday Meditation with Alli Simon, Tropics LA and the Underground Museum
Cincinnati Zoo Home Safari
Take a Virtual Field Trip to the Kyoto Costume Institute
Explore Yosemite From Your Couch
Have a Night at the Opera — for Free!
5. Let Your Mind Play
Taking yourself too seriously can be the death of creativity. Not only that, but there is scholarly research from the field of psychology that play is a component to a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. In his book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Dr. Scott Brown asserts that play is a biological drive as integral to our health as sleep or nutrition. According to his research, Dr. Brown claims that there is enough evidence to indicate that humans are “designed by nature to flourish through play”. So what exactly does “play” look like when you’re an adult? The key is to expand your idea of play to include anything that is fun, done without purpose, and enjoyable. Whether you’re reading aloud to a partner, singing in the shower, calling up a friend for a chat, or treating your dog to a game of fetch— it’s all play. Give yourself permission to play, especially during stressful times. Taking a few minutes to play might just be the reset your brain needs to open yourself up to creative inspiration. Try this exercise: Head over to YouTube and type in the search bar “minute to win it games”. You’re going to find a treasure trove of short, fun games that often involve limited to no props. These games are silly, totally pointless, and completely unproductive; in other words, play! We hope you found these tips helpful and we would love to hear from you once you’ve tried some or all of them. Tag us in your stories or posts on Instagram (@kevinbarryfineart) to share your take on any of these tips. We can’t wait to see what you create!