I guess we all get stuck in a creative rut from time to time – artists whose variations on a theme have begun to lack, well… variety; musicians whose new songs sound a little too much like their old ones, or whose musical phrasings have become so well worn that they’re almost worn out; or writers who have settled for the easy.
And if what you produce fails to satisfy yourself then the chances are it will fail to satisfy your audience too. It’s time to shock yourself out of your creative rut.
How? Here are 7 ideas to set your imagination free and help you fly out of even the deepest of creative ruts. Choose one or a few and see what happens.
1. Change your inputs to change your outputs
Your creative rut may well stem from living your life from habit. You know what you like, what interests you and what entertains you, and you stick to it. Your inputs have grown stale. What can you do? Change your inputs.
TV, music, books, newspapers, films, theater, people, hobbies – shake them up to revitalize your creative ideas.
2. Test your assumptions
Assumptions are sneaky. They creep up on you and take hold of your mind so that more and more options and possibilities seem like impossibilities. It’s frightening how much we can rule out because of untested assumptions. So test them.
Exercise: use the following headings to make lists of your assumptions. Here are the headings:
- I could never…
- I can’t…
- I should…
- I need…
- It’s not my style to…
Then for each assumption you list ask yourself questions like: Why not? Who says? Am I sure about that?
3. Make subtle changes
Consider adding new styles or techniques to your repertoire. Or experiment with modified themes and changes of emphasis.
4. Think about the levels of change that are possible – and impossible
It may be that the subtle changes of style, technique or theme above are enough to get you out of your creative rut. But if not, spend some time brainstorming all your options, from the saddest to the maddest. Use a friend to help you come up with ideas, including ways to reinvent yourself. Have fun and rule nothing out.
5. Do what scares you
A bit of bravery needed here. What scares or challenges you – either in your own artistic process or in life in general? Make a list and use it as a challenge to your creativity.
6. Change your creative process
Experiment with changes to tools, methods, locations.
7. Mess around with bad ideas
You can have some great fun with this one. Disgusting combinations, extreme cheesiness, blatant pastiche – anything that would make you wince at the thought of you creating it. Make yourself groan and giggle at the sheer awfulness. Collaborate to find even worse ideas and then try some of them out. Feel free to burn the results.
Whatever you choose, give yourself the time and freedom to experiment without worrying about the outcomes. Remember that at this stage it’s not new work you are trying to produce – it’s new inspirations.
Be ready to notice the interesting things when they happen – because what happens could be very interesting indeed.