Lately, I’ve been trying to rely less on feelings of motivation to get things done, and more on the principle of discipline. But alas, my mind is an ornery 3-year-old, so I often have to trick it into being disciplined. I think this is a common problem among creative types and emerging adults (heaven help those of us who are both). So I thought I’d share some of my most effective tips for getting creative juices flowing again.
Seriously. Clean your house from top to bottom. This can help in a number of ways. Firstly, having a clean living space cuts down on distractions and helps you focus. Secondly, cleaning is productive and sometimes helps jumpstart the ‘Hey We Should Do Things’ discipline center in the brain. Furthermore, cleaning doesn’t require much brainpower, so you may come up with some creative ideas while you do it. And finally, cleaning is so boring that even the most intimidating creative task is often a welcome change of pace.
2. Re-organize your supplies.
If your creative endeavor involves supplies, make sure they’re easy to find, access, and to put back away. Subconsciously, you may be avoiding creating because you don’t want to search the whole house for your supplies, or because you know your supplies will be out for days after you make something because they’re hard to put away. One of the best ways to effectively stick to something new is to remove as many barriers as possible. You might be shocked at how much of a barrier your current organization (or lack of organization) really is.
3. Absorb others’ creativity.
Go to a museum, re-read your favorite book, or listen to a podcast about creativity or art or music or whatever medium you love. Just find a way to take in the creativity of others. I know that sometimes this can make your rut worse because you can’t help feeling like you’re so far behind these other people. But other times, it’s like the creative work of others opens the floodgates in your brain, and you suddenly have 8 million different and amazing ideas. This is a bit of a gamble because it’s a game of Inspired or Intimidated, but I think most of the time, it’s worth it.
4. Set aside a specific time when you’ll try to do something creative.
If you live with someone, let them know you’ll be unavailable to help with housework or hang out together during this time. If you live alone, text a friend about your plans to help keep you accountable. During this time, which shouldn’t be longer than an hour or two, you should simply try to create. If you end up scrolling through social media 80% of the time, but you actually got your supplies out, that’s fine! If you start making something but get overwhelmed and decide to trash it, that’s okay too! This is really more about setting aside some time for your creativity than about your productivity during that time. You’re just trying to carve out more space in your life for art.
5. Start making something at an inconvenient time.
For instance, 10 minutes before you have to leave for a dentist appointment. While you’re making dinner (just be careful not to burn down the house). Any time when you know you can’t be working long. In my experience, one of two things will happen: either you will avoid getting started at all and just scroll through your phone instead, or the time crunch will force you to set aside your inhibitions and finally start. Fingers crossed it’s the second!
Some of these tips might work for you, and some of them might not. Developing discipline when it comes to creativity may seem counterintuitive and is definitely highly individual, so take your time and play around with what works for you. Just don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Creativity is meant to be fun. So, if you make it all about productivity or doing things the “right” way, all the fun will get sucked away.
Want even more tips? Check out the expanded version of this article on the author’s blog, Megan Writes Everything.