Besides volunteering for an organization that promotes creative problem-solving, I’ve been writing and making things with my hands my entire life. Yes, I have a love affair with creative expression. My bookshelves are filled with books about creativity. The collection is so large that I suspect it rivals and exceeds a similar collection at my local library. As I walk past the shelves, titles such as these jump out at me:
- Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within, by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
- Pencil Dancing: New Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit, by Mari Messer
- Painted Pages: Fueling Creativing with Sketchboks & Mixed Media, by Sarah Ahearn Bellemare
- Art at the Sped of Life: Motivation & Inspiration for Making Mixed-Media Art Every Day, by Pam Carriker
- The Muse is In: An Owner’s Manual to Your Creativity, by Jill Badonsky
The thread that ties all of these books together is the authors’ desire to awaken creativity, nurture it and keep it going. It is altogether too easy to set aside our creative projects and fill our days with mundane distractions such as paying the bills, doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, dusting the furniture and keeping the floors clean. To be fair, those same tasks, if they are repetitive, can also be so soothing that they induce a Zen-like state of mind that fuels creativity—but only if you stop doing them long enough to accomplish something!
The creative state needs fuel to sustain itself. “In order to create, we draw from our inner well,” says Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way and many related books. “This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well-stocked trout pond. . . . If we don’t give some attention to upkeep, our well is apt to become depleted, stagnant, or blocked.”
You need to make a date with yourself on a regular basis to play, to expose yourself to sights, sounds, scents and even feelings that are different from those you experience every day. In doing so, you build a library of memories upon which you can draw when you create. This is also the way you battle a creative block. “The object isn’t to make art,” says American painter and teacher Robert Henri, “it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.”
One of the ways that I have found helpful to encourage my own creativity is the use of creative prompts or exercises. You’ll find them in all of the books I listed earlier in this post, but you can also find them online in the form of challenges or lists. I participate in creative challenges as a member of Blogging Business Artisans, which encourages everyone to explore a different theme each month. If you enjoy mixed media art, you may enjoy The Sketchbook Challenge, started by fiber artist Sue Bleiweiss. Some people participate in photography memes such as Wordless Wednesday or Alphabe Thursday. The goal behind all of these activities is the same: to light a fuse to your creative spark, and have fun along the way. If you have never explored creative prompts, or are looking for some alternative creativity starters, consider the following lists. Print them off and cut them up into little notes or note cards, and slip them into a jar. When your next creative funk comes along, reach into that jar, pull out a slip of paper, and do whatever it says.
- 50 Art Journal Prompts, by April Bowles-Olin of Blacksburg Belle
- What to Do for Creative Block, by Deb of The Storybeader’s Bookshelf
- The Unofficial Guide to Creative Prompts, Challenges, Inspiration, by Tammy of Daisy Yellow
- Creative Play Cards, by Violette of Violette’s Creative Juice
- 100 Ideas, by Keri Smith
- Creative Prompts, a Pinterest board by Salley Gurney
The power of creative prompts is that they awaken our creative engine, encourage a spirit of discovery and playfulness, urge us to view things from a different perspective, and build up that crucial library of experiences that feeds every creative project we attempt.
© 2013 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.