Freelancers in the creative industries frequently find that staying in a creative mindset, day in day out, can be a real challenge, especially if they’re tired or working on multiple projects simultaneously. For all these people, we’ve compiled 15 tips for improving creativity and staying creative for longer.
1. Carry a Notebook Everywhere
Without doubt, the best way to stay creative is to keep a notebook with you at all times. Don’t use it to write your shopping list in or anything else for that matter: carry it just for jotting down new ideas. You never know when a brainwave is going to strike, so you have to be ready. Just knowing that you’ve got an ideas notebook in your pocket will keep your subconscious creative mind ticking over.
2. Consume Culture
Reading, visiting art galleries, watching movies, going to the theatre and other cultural pursuits are great fun. Furthermore, they’re the key to improving creativity. Not only will you be inspired by how others have channelled their creative juices, you’ll be able to “borrow” certain themes and ideas for use in your own work.
3. Seek Out New Experiences
Constantly seek new experiences in your daily life to broaden your creative horizon. Try a new hobby every six months, travel to experience different cultures and ideas, and try new foods and drinks. If you enjoy classical music, try going to a nightclub which plays dance music. If you enjoy reading romantic novels, try reading some crime fiction for a change.
4. Break the Routine
Having a routine is great, but it’s important not to have one that’s so rigid and repetitive that you rarely get a chance to experience new things. Experiment with working, relaxing and socialising in different places, at different times.
Write the title of a piece of work at the top of a page and let ideas start to spill. Don’t think about what you’re writing, just spend 15 minutes or so getting down everything that pops into your head, asking yourself all the important who, what, where, when, why and how questions. Afterwards, review what you’ve written, picking out the best ideas.
6. Mind Map
A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas and the relationships between them in a visual way. It can be particularly valuable to create a mind map from all of the ideas you’ve come up with in your brainstorming session, although some people prefer to start with the mind map itself.
7. Contrast Conflicting Ideas
If you’re struggling to come up with any new ideas, why not start with two or three old ones. Write out each old idea onto paper, place them side by side and compare. Take the best elements of each and incorporate them into something completely new.
8. Discuss Ideas
No freelancer is an island. If you want to stay at your creative peak, you need to regularly run your ideas past other people. If you can’t come up with anything at all, why not try brainstorming in a group, bouncing ideas off each other.
9. Talk to Everyone
Discuss ideas with fellow professionals by all means (being careful not to disclose your trade secrets, of course), but don’t be scared to ask totally random people too. If you’re finding it hard to come up with someone new, try speaking to someone far removed from your social circle. Running ideas past children, for instance, can be great for getting a completely novel take on a project.
10. Find Your Creative Peak
Some people are most creative first thing in the morning, for others it’s directly after lunch, and for others still it’s just before bed. You need to identify when you’re at your most and least creative and use this to your advantage. Get non-creative tasks out the way during your creative downtime so that you can come up with new ideas during your creative peak.
11. Take Regular Breaks and Exercise
If you want to maintain a high level of inventiveness over a long period of time, you need to take regular breaks so that you don’t burn out. Exercise is the best thing that you can do during these breaks. It’s a great way to relax and clear your mind, ready for creativity and productivity. Healthy eating and plenty of sleep are also vital.
12. Use the Right Stationery
There’s no use sitting in front of an empty Word document, waiting for ideas to come. You need to ease their passage by using the right stationery. Choose plain paper over lined, as it lets your ideas flow, and make sure you’ve got lots of coloured pens and pencils at hand.
13. Find Your Creative Space
Search to find the place where you’re most creative. This might be a library, a park, a museum or simply on a public bench at the end of your road. If you work best in an office, make sure it’s really peaceful, with good lighting and a comfortable chair.
14. Be Confident
Don’t be scared to run with ideas which might seem stupid at first. The world’s most creative people have had to stick to their guns, ignoring naysayers to make their dreams a reality. If you’re confident and assertive, people will think twice about your ideas before disregarding them off hand.
15. Stimulate Your Brain
Like every other part of your body, your brain needs regular exercise to stay at its sharpest and most focused. Doing crosswords, sudoku puzzles and even playing Brain Training type computer games during periods of downtime can be conducive to creativity throughout working hours.
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