Nurturing creativity is a skill that needs to be built over time. Like with anything, it starts by taking the first step and then building good habits that you reinforce. Over the years as a professional, I’ve tried many techniques to improve my creative process. Today I wanted to share with you three techniques that are super simple and that anyone can use. These techniques can be used on their own or you can get Artella to help you supercharge the process.
1. Capture your ideas
Creativity is like a muscle, if you haven’t worked the muscle then you can’t lift a lot. The more you lift, the more you get excited and the more addicted you get to the process. For me this starts with finding a way to capture ideas in the moment because ideas come and go so fast it’s easy to lose them if you don’t record them. When I have an idea I say it out loud and record it on my phone.. I then listen to my ideas at least once a week (Sundays) to see which ideas I liked most and which I’d like to do something with.
Do your ideas come to you in the form of words, pictures, sounds or designs? You can also capture inspiration with video and photos, or a quick sketch in a sketchbook. USe whatever works best for you. No matter what you use (sketchbook, tablet app, etc), find a simple method for capturing your ideas quickly and in the moment and review them often. This will help your creative muscles grow.
You never know what will spark your creativity or trigger a new idea. An artist might be inspired by pictures or colors. A production manager may get an idea from analyzing a report or a case study. Every person is different. Be open to new ideas by feeding your mind with art, movies, music, books, or even just daydreaming or thinking about a project.
Documenting and recording your ideas the first step, but you also need a way to organize and keep track of them so you can build on them and play with them as you start working on your project. Artella can help you keep track of all of the files that you use for inspiration. The digital asset management software allows you to quickly organize and save your files in an easy to understand file structure. With Artella your ideas will have a place to live and give you a quick and easy way to find and access them as you use them to develop your projects.
2. Trust your ideas
You are our own worst critic. We doubt ourselves, our ideas and our abilities. The most talented people often are the hardest on themselves. In animation, I often hear new artists say, “I don’t have a good idea, tell me what to do.” It’s hard to hear that because creativity exists in everything we see, hear and do. To become our true creative self we have to step outside our insecurities and begin to trust our voice.
The first step is allowing yourself to be silly. To be okay with flexing this new muscle. Enjoy the process of trying something new. With time it will become a habit and you’ll have more ideas that you know what to do with.
Really start to pay attention to see the world around you. Take it in when you’re standing in line at the store, or at a festival. Watch, observe and listen. If not just for the pure sake of being present at that moment, what are you taking in? How is that parent interacting with their child, how does that person who’s worked at this place for years treat customers?
By being mindful of the world around us, we can also start to see new possibilities in our thoughts and ideas and give ourselves permission to explore them and play with them. This is especially important in the world of digital interruption that most of us live in these days.
Because insecurity and fear are basic human emotions, it gets overused by people who seek to influence us. Sometimes it seems like the whole world wants you to doubt yourself. Every time I open my email I see subject lines telling me I’m doing something wrong and need to be doing it better and differently. I open my facebook and see posts from coaches that can help me improve the way I do something in my life. Although it’s okay to be a lifetime learner, sometimes you need to distance yourself from that and stop focusing on what’s lacking, or what’s wrong, and focus instead on what’s right. Stop letting outside influences undermine your confidence.
As a creative individual, the most important voice to listen to is the one inside you. You need to trust your instincts and develop a sense of confidence in your ability to generate and nurture ideas. And follow those ideas where they lead with a sense of wonder and awe, instead of second guessing them.
Many of us have a negative “gremlin voice” in our heads that expresses nothing but insecurities and self doubt. It capitalizes on our innate insecurities and loves to remind us of mistakes we’ve made in the past. Although it has nothing of value or worth to add to our lives, it simply won’t shut up.
I’ve tried hard to turn my gremlin voice off, but found that it is really difficult to silence it completely. So instead I focus on doing the next best thing which is to turn the volume down. Instead of letting it blare at a maximum volume of 10, I tell it, “I hear you, but I’m not that interested in what you have to say,” and I tell it to lower the volume. Even if it only goes down to a 5 or a 6, it’s a huge improvement. Because now I have the mental space to think other thoughts, explore my ideas, and simply ignore what the gremlin has to say. Before I know it I’m excited about my ideas and enjoying the process of creating instead of dwelling in the negative space of the gremlin. It’s definitely a life-long practice, but once it becomes a habit, you can put those insecurities behind you, and have the strength to take action on your ideas. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you. Instead focus on the joy of creating. Take your idea and see it through. You may create something amazing.
3. Share your ideas
This may seem like an intimidating step. When you share ideas you’re opening yourself up to criticism from others. It’s a very vulnerable space to be in and can stop a lot of people from taking action. Instead of letting it stop you, learn how to accept input and feedback from other people. Instead of seeing it as criticism, understand that only the people who really care about you are going to take the time and care to give you feedback on your work. Help them by asking questions to clarify what they are saying, and ask them to be specific.
For example, say someone tells you they don’t like something about your work, but are not specific about what they don’t like. Take a breath.
If they are your supervisor you need to understand specifically what the issue is so that you can work with them to improve the problem. Even if they are communicating in a way that feels rude or abrupt to you.
The best way to defuse the tension and get the conversation moving in the right direction is to ask if they can provide specific input that can help you get the work to where they want it to be.
For example, ask them “What would you suggest?” What you want to get to is something more concrete that you can use. Sometimes you have to use leading questions, like is it this sequence here, or the one before it. Is it a timing issue, or an exaggeration issue?
Saying something is not working is a good alarm bell for reflection, but doesn’t mean you have to change everything. Where applicable look for ways to make the piece clearer and more engaging and, when there’s doubt, ask clarifying questions to give you some juicy input to consider adding or subtracting from the work.
This is constructive criticism and can help me be better and take my ideas out into the world with more confidence.
Asking for someone else’s input can be scary, so if possible, provide them with guidelines about specifically the kind of feedback you are looking for. This way it can be a win win for both the giver and the receiver and it can make your ideas even stronger and more engaging.
To build confidence in this area I suggest tapping into the golden rule, show early and often. Sharing your idea EARLY allows you to be more open to feedback and input that may actually make your idea better. To hold onto your idea too long, loving and crafting it to perfection, only makes getting feedback more painful.
No matter what your craft is, writing, design, graphics, etc. find a way to nurture the creative process in yourself.
For continued learning, I found this great slide deck with lots of tips for nurturing the creative process. Although the context is not necessarily 100% applicable, the concepts are. Check it out
You can even use a tool like Artella to share your work. And with the review tool, other members of your team can even add to and enhance your ideas and creative work with ideas of their own
These three principles are what I used when I decided to create Artella. I wanted to create a tool that allows you to easily capture your ideas, save them, improve on them, and share your work with everyone in your team. The software solution easily integrates into your existing workflow and creates an environment where you can share, give feedback and see how your ideas become finished products.