Mind Map

Getting and Staying Creative

Regardless of what creative field you are in, there are always days when you just can’t seem to think of anything to write, draw, doodle, animate, design, or paint. And sometimes you look at something and know something is off but you just can’t put your finger on it.

Having a solid creative process helps you develop ideas when you feel like you have none. Each person has a different process and is inspired and motivated by different things. Some people love Pinterest and for others magazines and books offer more plentiful fodder. Although you’ve probably heard most, if not all, of these before here are some reminders on ways to get the creative juices flowing again when you get stuck.

Restate the goal

Sometimes we overlook the goal of why we are completing a project. We get focused on the fact we have no ideas and the clock is ticking. Refresh your memory about what you are doing and why. Re-read your notes, emails, briefs, and if you can, talk it over with someone else on the project to ensure you know all the facts. Sometimes there is something you missed or overlooked in the initial meeting that can spark some ideas.

Even if you cannot draw, doodling seems to put people into a mindset where they are more open for ideas. Draw things related to the project you are working on. Do some comic strips or story boarding. You could even doodle some portraits of the people and characters involved.

Try something new
If you usually brainstorm on the computer, try doing some mind mapping by filling a blank piece of paper with words and phrases about your subject and goal. There are millions of tutorials online on mind mapping methods. Visiting a gallery or museum can introduce you to a new style that you weren’t originally associating with your audience. Visit the library or a bookstore. Sometimes I go to Chapters and flip through books or magazines related to a topic. Then I can jot down ideas to flush out further when I get back to my workspace.

If you usually do brainstorming without a computer, try browsing Pinterest or Google using words and phrases that came up in your brainstorming or initial conversations about the project.

Go for a walk and take a break
A lot of my ideas come to me at the most inopportune time and usually when I can’t write them down like when I am in the shower or driving. I believe this happens because you are more open to problem solving when you’re not in the middle of doing something else or pressured to come up with the next most amazing idea to ever be imagined like you are in your usual workspace.

Leaving that area allows you to be influenced by your environment and the people within it to make new connections that you might not think of sitting in your office or studio. Don’t forget to bring along a notepad though or your phone for some voice recording notes.

Talk it out
Finally, talking through an idea with someone totally unrelated (provided there are no non-disclosure agreements) can be a big help. The E3C meet ups are perfect for this option. Explaining why you have to do something or what a product is and does helps reinforce what you are trying to achieve. I often explain projects to my significant other and find I come up with a solution simply because he asked certain questions about it that I had overlooked. And often he makes suggestions that help me develop a stronger concept.

I hope some of these suggestions help you get back on your creative track. And sometimes it is the most uncanny and strange things that spark an idea. If you have ways you develop ideas when you are stuck, share them in the comments below.


I am a creative addict that loves painting, drawing, illustrating, and hand drawn typography. I am graduating from the NSCC Graphic Design program in May 2014 and will dive head first into a creative career.

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