When you work in the creative industries, the constant barrage of new briefs and the whirr of passing deadlines can make your head spin. It can be difficult to get out of routines that are forced on you by outside forces – such as clients and suppliers and managers.
That being so, there are likely a lot of things about your job that you can still control, including your approach to starting a day, and the activities you engage in when you’re not actually at work, that can help you when you are.
It is an inconvenient truth that we all face up to in the first few weeks of the year, that our bodies need regular exercise to make them stronger. So, you remember when you joined the gym – you went once and you really went for it, didn’t you! Then, over the next two days, you could barely walk and you found you had pains in muscles you didn’t know you had. And, when did you go back, a week later, a month?
The secret to sustained physical fitness is to work out little and often. Push yourself, sure, but don’t hurt yourself and don’t do the same exercises every time. And the point we’re making here, is that this is also true for your creative fitness.
So, exercise your creativity in different ways. If you’re a graphic designer, how about doing something that is off-screen, like painting or playing an instrument. If you’re a writer, try doing something visual or, at least, writing something different, like poetry.
If you can, shake-up your day. Surprise yourself. If there’s a task you always do in the afternoon, try it in the morning. If you can move to a different location, do it. Take a laptop or a notepad and work somewhere new and inspiring.
We’ve written in the past about the importance of exposing your creativity to new stimuli. It’s a way of filling your creative tank with new and exciting fuel.
To that end, you could do worse than visit our blog listing 12 podcasts for every creative person’s commute. These are great ways of updating your knowledge, firing-up your interest and sparking great new ideas. We’ve also found you a slack handful of terrific TED Talks we think every designer and web creative should watch.
To get yourself away from the screen, it’s also invaluable experience to visit museums and art galleries, go and take in a play or visit the cinema to watch a film you normally wouldn’t – something foreign, for example. These are all ways to experience novel forms of creativity, which can challenge and inspire your own creativity.
If you haven’t got the disposable income or the time for all that – just open a book. Read without frontiers. Never tried romantic fiction before? Give it a whirl, what’s the worst that could happen? Haven’t opened a text-book since you were at college? Try one for size. It’s amazing what ebooks you can find for just 99p but, even before you try that, have a look see what dusty, forgotten tomes are lurking on your bookshelves.
It’s essential to keep your creativity awake and on point by teasing it with new, exciting things.
You know what they say: every day’s a school day. It’s crucial for creative people to be open-minded and questioning. Don’t be afraid of engaging other practitioners in conversation and ask questions. Some people might be precious about their process, in which case they won’t tell you, but they shouldn’t judge you for asking. Other people are only too happy to share. Once you get into a decent conversation with someone else who does what you do, you may surprise yourself by how much you know and how much you can contribute. Sometimes we don’t understand how much we understand, until we’ve explained it to someone else. That can be the way everyone can learn from a teachable moment.
Learn from the experience of others. Maybe you’re a member of a Facebook group about your chosen field of design. If someone shares a link to a video they find inspiring, go have a look – it might inspire you. If a fellow toiler in the creative salt-mines mentions a book they read which really helped them, go and find that book.
Creative people never stop learning, never stop trying to get better at what they do, never find a day when they aren’t presented with a new problem to solve. That’s the nature of the creative industries; challenges are always evolving into new shapes unknown in nature. Look upon each one as a learning opportunity.
Are you a morning person or do your creative juices start flowing only when the moon rises? Unless you’re a werewolf, the latter can be problematic. But it is true that we are not all at our best at the same time.
So, take a good look at your working habits. Are you best at grabbing a coffee and ploughing straight on with the job, in the sure knowledge that, come mid-afternoon, you’ll be half asleep? If so, plan your work-day accordingly.
Having a routine can help with a lot of people. Einstein, famously, always wore the same style clothes, so he never had to waste time and creative energy in the morning deciding what to wear – since all of his clothes were the same. We’re not suggesting you go that far – after all, how long did it take him to settle on that one look? But, it is true that a routine can help get you into a groove that allows your creativity to head off in the right direction more quickly.
Some people need the commute to wake them up. If you work from home, you don’t have this problem so, go for a jog or take the dog for a walk. Other people find themselves most inspired after physical exercise; if that’s you, then hit the gym first thing or go for an early morning dip. Time spent doing something mindless and repetitive, like swimming or exercise, can give space for your creative brain to run a few experiments and hatch a few mad ideas, ready for you to hit the keyboard or drawing board.
Similarly, a morning session of mindfulness, whether that be meditation or yoga, can clear the mind of any clutter from the day before and set things straight for a whole new day.
While creativity itself thrives on change and novelty, getting yourself prepared for that, can often be a matter of familiarity and auto-pilot. Whatever it is you need to do to get your head in the right frame of mind for work; you will get the best benefit from it if you make it a routine. Whilst being creative can be crazy and unpredictable, allowing yourself the space to be completely creative can often require a little bit of discipline. But, your creativity and your clients will thank you!
Many fine and wise creative people have stated that there is no such thing as originality. Creativity is, they maintain, a process of combining and adapting elements that already exist.
A lot of the great creative innovations came about because someone took two existing things and mashed them together. Back in the 1880s, German inventors added an engine to a carriage – and created the car. In the 1980s, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak added the layout of the typical office to their computer operating system and came up with the first GUI.
Creativity doesn’t come out of a vacuum. This is why you must meet and talk with as many interesting and useful people as possible. This is why you must listen and watch and read as wide a diet of media as possible. All of this input goes into your creative brain as material you can combine in new and unusual ways.
Collaborating with others can be a great way to lift your creativity to a whole new level. When other Creatives bring their skills to the table, you can find yourself inspired anew. Surround yourself with great people and you’ll find that your creative game is in a whole new league. For example, when content writers work with designers, it can show you just what is possible with the skill-set in your team, which can fire your mind off in radical new directions. The skills and experiences of the colleagues you work with can give you a different perspective on your own work and, in that way, it can also inspire you to elevate your own game.
Working in the creative industries can be solitary – but it doesn’t need to be so, and even the most ardent anti-socialite will understand that they can always get fresh ideas from other people.
So, what do you find helps you make the most of your creative tool kit. How do you keep your creative tank fuelled up? We’re asking because we’re interested to get that new perspective.
After all, every day’s a school day!