You feel that familiar buzz in your pocket as you finally detach your eyes from the spreadsheet you’ve been staring at all day to reach for your iPhone. It’s your significant other, and they need you to call them right away. After pausing your Spotify app and removing your earphones from your ear, you dial them while simultaneously thinking about that YouTube video you were planning on watching during your break.
After you’re finished conversing about the latest political blunder you read about on Facebook, you hang up and head back to your desk. After bouncing back and forth between the spreadsheets and emails all day, it’s finally time to go home where you spend the evening watching Netflix until you fall asleep. Once you wake up, you realize you had planned to work on your creative project that day but somehow got lost in all the daily distractions.
If this sounds like a typical day-in-the-life for you then you’re not alone. Plenty of us have been sucked into the digital sphere of distractions to the point where it’s considered normal to be so all-over-the-place.
The thought of taking a few minutes out of our days to work on a creative endeavor seems impossible. Or worse, when we do find the time, we end up not getting anything done due to a “lack of inspiration.” Thankfully, there are things we can do to help spur creativity and get things done.
Here are 4 techniques that will help ignite your inner creativeness:
1. Be Fully Present
In this day and age, it’s easy to have our minds pulled in fifty different directions at once thanks to our smartphones and computers. Not only is this a problem for people while at the office, but it’s also been shown to have a very negative impact on people’s creative lives.
If you plan on creating something, try to eliminate as many distractions as possible and position yourself in a place where you can be fully present.
For me, I have a designated room where I spend my time writing or creating music. It’s quiet, my phone is left in the other room, and I have all of the tools in front of me ready to be used including my laptop, my piano, and my guitar. Without this place, I find it much more difficult to engage with my creative side due to distractions and noise around me.
“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” – American Proverb
2. Start Your Project Even If You Don’t Feel Ready
This is a tricky one for most of us – why would we start something big if we’re not fully sure how it will end up? We love to plan things out, research, talk to others about our ideas, etc. while never actually starting our projects.
The best advice anyone ever gave me was to simply start whatever it is I want to do and figure it out as I go along. It was this advice that allowed me to finish writing my first song after spending years making excuses as to why I wasn’t ready to write one yet.
I needed to listen to a little bit more Bob Dylan for lyrical inspiration, read a couple more books about the Beatles for chord inspiration, and learn a few more City and Colour songs on guitar for melody inspiration before I was ready to write my own song. In other words, I needed to feel ready before I started.
Unfortunately, we’re never going to be fully ready by most of our standards. It wasn’t until I grabbed a notepad out of frustration over my lack of action and penned a couple phrases that I had a sudden revelation that I was actually writing a song. A day later, I had the entire song penned including a chord progression and melody. A week later, I wrote another song from start to finish in just 4 hours.
Had I not taken action and actually started the process of creating by putting pen to paper, I would have never experienced the creative flow that allowed me to write these songs.
The 17th-century British poet George Herbert put it best when he said, “Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, work with whatever tools you have, and better tools will be found as you go along.”
3. Develop a Routine and Don’t Wait for Inspiration
Chuck Close put it brilliantly when he said, “Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Inspiration, while certainly important, pales in comparison to the simple act of developing a routine.
In the book “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work”, the author highlights how famous novelists such as Michael Chabon and Haruki Murakami have set routines each week that they spend writing.
This is the secret to their success more than just being inspired – they developed a pattern of behavior that gives them the time to allow their creativity to flow. Personally, I find it much easier to write music when I set aside time during the day to create rather than waiting around for inspiration to hit me like a ton of bricks.
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” – Vincent Van Gogh
4. Stop Constantly Listening to Success Stories
While I have been inspired greatly by the success stories of others, if I’m not careful I can quickly find myself spending more time focusing on other people’s success rather than my own.
Problems arise when I begin comparing myself to others and this, in turn, makes me feel frustrated that I’m not yet experiencing the level of creative success that these people are.
The cruel irony of the situation is that listening to these stories that are supposed to be motivating can actually make me feel less motivated if I overindulge. It wasn’t until I took a break from consuming this content and, instead, learned to celebrate where I was in the creative process that I gained that sense of motivation to keep striving for more.
I’m always reminded of the fact that when I was younger, I spent hours creating and publishing satirical videos on the internet, writing creative short stories, and even producing beautiful melodies on my piano without listening to a single podcast or reading a single motivating article. These tools are effective motivators, but relying on them rather than your own inner creativity can leave you feeling unmotivated and scatter-brained.
Creativity isn’t just dependent on inspiration, it’s instead dependent on people taking action and eliminating distractions. If you wish to explore your creative side, spend some time figuring out what space you need to make for yourself to unleash your creative potential and take action.