Tuesday, March 22, 2011

6 Ways to Feed Creativity

All artists need to take certain steps at times to “pump up” their creativity.

Some people refer to “the muse” and while I’m not totally comfortable with this term myself (it seems rather disempowering to me) at least it acknowledges the elusive quality of inspiration and the important work we need to do to foster our creativity.

Even the most experienced artists (or perhaps especially them) have things they do that help them to “get into the flow”.

These are the things that help me:

  1. meditating – slowing down, being in the present and practising mindfulness. These all clear the mind and open some space for creative thoughts.
  2. allowing time – while great ideas often strike in a flash, they seem to require lots of open space around them and no/low expectations. It’s hard to be creative when your life is jam-packed with doing. It’s fine to take half an hour here and there when you’re in the flow on a project that’s going well, but I definitely need to spend some gentle days, going for long slow walks, pottering in the studio or the garden to develop a sense of spaciousness.
  3. art-gazing – with the internet it’s easy to look at great work often and getting out to real exhibitions when I can is even better.
  4. going back through my visual journals, looking at all the ideas I’ve generated in the past that I never had time to complete (or start!)
  5. play – trying out new materials or just doing something crafty. Often these things feed into future projects, but just as often they don’t. It’s really just about the importance of play.

I found an entertaining talk on creativity on TED.com by Tim Brown. He’s the CEO of a large design firm, IDEO, so he’s talking about stimulating creativity in collaborative teams (more collaboration!) but I found much of his talk useful. I especially like the way he talks about the way creativity thrives in a safe, secure environment. This, I think is key. I think its why we can be so creative as students and then when we get into the real world, we suddenly freeze up. So my final point is:

        6.   let yourself feel safe to fail – create time and space to have all those playful, crazy ideas, including quite a few that plain don’t work. They are an important part of the process.

If you feel like delving more deeply into this final point, I’ve posted the TED talk below or you can go to the talk on TED where there is a script if you prefer reading to listening.




  1. didnt watch it all but got the jist. definitely feeling creatively safe makes you produce more exciting ideas i think.

  2. Apologies to Maison Conti

    I hit delete by mistake and have lost your comment :(

    I do appreciate you making the effort to comment. Sorry!

  3. Some interesting thoughts there. I fully agree that a feeling of security in many different aspects is essential for creativity (whether this is social freedom like explained in the video, time, or money, or whatever makes someone anxious...).
    But I also like other aspects of your list: One of the essential points for me is what you called "art gazing". I am not sure it has to be art, but it seems essential to me, that making experiences/get new impressions is very important to trigger ideas and creativity.