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July 6, 2011

Get Out of Your Creative Funk

Just a couple of weekends ago I was lucky enough to attend the HOW Design Conference in Chicago. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it turned out to be quite an inspiring event …

Tavia GavinskiDo you ever have one those days when you feel totally uninspired? Or one that’s taken over by the monotony of the daily grind? We often get caught up in deadlines and routines that start to take a toll on our creative process. What I learned from several sessions at the HOW Conference may not be earth-shattering, but it’s easy to forget. So I’d like to take the time to remind you of a few things I learned to help keep the inspiration flowing.

1. Don’t judge ideas too soon.

When trying to come up with the next big idea, brainstorming is the place to start. But all too often I find that we shoot down ideas before they can fly. We’ve all heard, “that’s been done before, and it didn’t work.” Brainstorming should be a free-for-all. No idea is a bad idea. One thought will trigger another thought for someone else. Chris Chapman, an innovator at Disney, said they use squirt guns to the face if someone says something can’t be done. Negativity stifles, so be positive and open-minded. During this stage of the creative process, everything goes. Approach this phase with a “yes, and …” attitude, not an “or, but …” attitude. If you judge ideas or put them down too soon, you may never get to that final, great concept.

2. Get out of the office.

The next time you are feeling stuck or uninspired, step away from your desk. Your work station is the place to execute ideas, not think of them. Most creative ideas happen when you are not at your computer. They may happen in the shower, right before you fall asleep or over dinner with friends. So get out. Go for a walk. Look at nature. Build something. Take pictures. Doing these things will give you a new perspective and allow ideas to flow more naturally. It’s beneficial to change up your routine and infuse play into your day. If you have to be at your computer, take your laptop to the park or your local coffee shop. Break out of the same old office scenery to allow your thoughts to move about freely.

3. Start simple.
Some jobs seem overwhelming, so it’s hard to muster up the energy to get them started. Take a breath and then take a step. Moving forward helps get the momentum going. So get out your sketchbook and put your pen to paper. By getting back to basics, we allow ourselves to begin the creative process. One exercise from Chris Elkerton to get the mind cranking was to draw a single line on a piece of paper. Then have someone else draw a line off of the first one. Go back and forth like that for a set period of time and see what you come up with. It will always be different, because everyone has a different way of looking at a single line on a page. By taking small steps, we can fuel our creative juices to get past the daunting scale of a project.

Throughout the conference, there were many ideas on how to keep inspired, but these stood out as recurring themes. I hope that you keep these tips on hand for the next time you feel stuck in a creative funk.

– Tavia