There’s a definite difference between being creative, and being creative on demand.
For freelancers, content writers, artists, photographers, videographers, or anyone in a creative field, you are often required to be creative within a certain time period and on a specific schedule. This can be demanding, not to mention stressful. And this isn’t including any personal projects, social media, or other work you may be trying to develop outside of work.
As someone who’s worked in the online industry for five years, and is now a full-time freelance writer for publications, brands, and companies all over the world, I’ve learned a thing or two about getting inspired under pressure. From prompt journals that encourage writing, to brainstorming strategies, to inspiration ideas, here are seven of my daily creative practices to help reduce stress.
1. Create a visual inspiration list.
I’m a highly sensitive, visually oriented person, so starting with visual aspects helps me shape my work. If you’re visually strong, this might be the perfect strategy for you, but even if you’re not, it helps to give you a starting point.
Look around the room or area where you presently are: What do you see?
You can start with the basics (ex: brown dog, green tree, etc.) but then you can dive into things that are more advanced (ex: beige sand tinted with black and gold, light blue sky with white clouds, etc.) As you visually describe the place, start thinking about a setting within a story or poem that you could create with those visual clues.
Could you, for example, write a story about the dog? Could you write about a mother who is looking up at the clouds? These are just ideas, of course, but having a visually-oriented starting point can help you shape what you create so that you’re not staring at a blank page wondering what to write about.
Tip: If the ideas don’t spark a story, just write a descriptive paragraph. Try your best to really point out the specifics of a space so that you’re working on your word choice, detail, and fluency.
2. Make a map around your current favorite topic.
There’s an age-old saying: Write what you know. I agree and disagree with this statement, but for the purpose of this daily creative practice, I encourage you to think about things that are of interest right now.
Let’s say you’re into the topic of love. Write the world ‘love’ in the center of your paper and circle it. Then draw lines branching off of that original circle. On each line, write a word that reminds you of love. Maybe it’s a person, relationship, feeling, moment, song, etc. From there, keep adding more and more specifics until you run out of ideas. For example, branch off from the song you wrote down to talk about a specific memory with that song, etc.
When you run out of ideas, take a look at your word map. You’ll see there are a plethora of ideas, thoughts, moments, and special memories to choose from. Then pick one and start writing!
3. Do a ‘brain dump.’
One of my favorite daily creative practices is to do what I call a ‘brain dump.’
This is literally how it sounds—you take a second to dump every thought, fear, idea, or moment on your mind onto the page. FYI: This isn’t supposed to make sense. (You should see the craziness on my pages!) Just write. And when you’re done dumping, pick a topic at random and start working on a piece.
4. Start with a name.
Think of a name that intrigues you, maybe because of memories associated to it, because it reminds you of a certain place, because you want it to be a future child’s name, etc. Write down that name. Then write down how it makes you feel, what color it makes you think of, what someone with that name looks/might look like, etc.
This is meant to be a random collection of ideas—don’t worry whether it’s ‘organized’ or messy. Begin brainstorming ideas, and if/when something sticks out to you, start from there.
5. Collect four random words to integrate into your piece.
This may sound silly, but it’s a daily creative practice I’ve implemented since I was in fourth grade!
Back when I was ten, my teacher used to require us to write a paragraph that included our spelling words. While some kids struggled, I was overjoyed at the challenge of meshing words like ‘tomato’ with ‘triangle’ and’ tepid’ in one big story.
This is the challenge for you: choose four words at random (from the dictionary, from notes taped to your wall, from the ‘word of the day’ online etc.) and try to weave them into your story or poem. Although it would be ideal for the written piece to make sense, it doesn’t have to. This should just work as a fun challenge to stretch your mind and vocabulary!
6. Write a story that begins where another ends.
Have you ever watched a film, read a book, or heard a recount of something that happened and wished there was a different ending? (Me too).
That’s what this exercise is all about—rewriting endings create a new story.
For this, your options are endless! Choose your favorite nursey rhyme, children’s book, movie, or something contemporary (like news article, latest cinema release, etc.). Choose to either a) rewrite the ending, or b) pick up where the story left off and write the sequel.
This will challenge your mind to think around a story in a different way, without the added difficulty of creating new characters and ideas. You can easily move from one story to another, while still practicing different writing techniques and warming up your mind.
7. And when all else fails, color.
Hear me out on this one! Some days you just don’t have the ‘writer juices’ flowing, and that’s okay. While I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Writer’s Block is largely mental, I’ve had those days where I just don’t want to write. And rather than beat yourself up for it, you have to embrace it and do something else for a little while.
When all else fails, color. Coloring is an amazing practice because it uses another creative part of your right brain, which may, in turn, spark inspiration for your written work. Plus it’s fun, too.
Lately I’m a fan of this coloring book on Amazon because it reminds me to actively breathe and serves as a meditation tool, too!
Featured Image Credit: NeONBRAND