Awaken the Creative Within
Do you ever have days where you wake up to the sound of birds chirping outside of your bedroom window? You wake up feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and ready to start your day. Your ordinarily congested ’stop-and-go’ commute to work is reduced down to a cool cruisin’ fifteen minute ride.
When you get to work, the coffee has already been made and tastes just right - not too strong, not too sweet. It’s just the way you like it. When you get to your desk you notice that the usual stack of paperwork waiting on your chair isn’t there.
Throughout the day, you have a fountain of ideas - flowing seamlessly, one after another. You are like a jaguar. Sleek. Agile. Fast. Nothing can stand in your way.
Ahhhhh, if only every day could be like this. You can almost hear the resonance of Astrud Gilberto’s euphoric melody above your ringing phone.
But as they say “what goes up, must come down”.
Just as many of us have experienced days like these, we have also endured the opposite.
You are abruptly awakened by the dreaded pitch of your alarm. Your habitually long commute to work becomes even longer when you get stuck behind a semi that causes you to wait through three streetlight passes before actually being able to make your turn on a green.
Moreover, the coffee pot does not contain fresh, aromatic coffee. Rather, the remnants from last night’s final pot is stinking up the kitchen.
Worst of all, throughout the day - ALL DAY LONG - you’ve got Creative Block and can’t come up with any solid ideas.
As Charlie Brown would say:
For many of us in the creative field, this is a typical dilemma that comes up again and again. Before, (and not so long ago) I used to think that creativity was simply something you’ve either got or don’t got. Your ability to exert your creative skill was like a movement in nature - uncontrollable, unpredictable and at the mercy of a higher force.
But this was a passive assumption. It is true that it helps to be naturally gifted in your career field, or at least a convincing fit for your role. In the film “Mighty Aphrodite” Woody Allen references to this when he explains to Mira Sorvino that “Clint Eastwood doesn’t play a meek little hairdresser”. (Ideally, you are investing your time in a field where you have “some” natural competence.) However, creativity does not consist entirely of “raw” innate talent that you are either born with or not.
Creativity can be practiced, taught and learned. My first art director was the first to correct me on this. Whereas before, I felt that I could only move with the pace of my creative flow - which had its own erratic rhythm - I realized that the defeat of habit through originality is also a learned skill which requires practice and constant prodding.
All of this considered, I do have a laundry list of things I like to do when I feel myself getting stuck with Creative Block.
Maria Piscopo, from Communication Arts, states that creatives need to take time to recharge their batteries.
First and foremost, make sure that you are taking care of your basic needs. How’s your diet? Are you well rested? Do you get enough sleep? Have you exercised lately? Taking care of your essential needs is critical in order to function at full speed. There’s no way you will be able to perform your best when the needle is pointing to “E.”
Aside from tending to the basics, I have acquired a few other tips from other creatives searching to breathe new life into their work.
Not St. John’s Wort. Rather, are there special foods, drinks or music that you like to have on hand when you are brainstorming? Are you aware and sensitive to these idiosyncrasies? When I am feeling high anxiety, I break out my jazz albums and let Sarah Vaughn’s deep, soulful voice recalibrate my gears. I clear my mind and start over with a sharper, stronger focus.
Like many athletes, some creatives have special traditions or rituals they will engage in when trying to achieve a certain goal. At a former agency I worked at, our copywriter would storm through the office pacing back and forth with a deep contemplative expression on his face as he tried to come up with headlines. When those perfect five words were slow coming, he would hide in his office and close the door where he claimed the **magic** happened. Never to disappoint, he always emerged from his **magic** feng shuied office with new and fresh ideas.
“When you need new ideas, do new things.” Simple but effective advice. If you are looking for new ideas or inspiration, why not approach the situation from a different angle? If you continue to use the same method over and over and it does not yield the results you were hoping then maybe you should rethink your process.