While occasionally it feels like ideas just pop into our heads, it’s rarely without some preparation on our parts.
That’s because creativity is a practice. It’s magical in many ways. But the magic requires a trained magician.
Here are 15 fun activities you can do in 10 minutes to jump-start your creativity and inspire your imagination.
1. Go on a photo safari.
“Grab your camera — any will do, even your smart phone! — and take yourself out for a 10-minute walk around the block,” said Susannah Conway, a writer, photographer and author of the book This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart.
“Photograph all the red, yellow and green things you see.” Focus on the little details. You might find these colors on the ground, in windows or on people, she said. “Look up as well as down. Get closer. Think of your camera as a tool to help focus your attention on the here and now.”
You also can pretend “you’re taking pictures for Vogue or the Museum of Modern Art,” said Zohar Tirosh-Polk, a playwright and creativity coach who recently wrote the award-winning play “SIX.” “It will help you to see ordinary things in a new light.”
2. Do housework.
Housework might sound like a strange suggestion, said full-time painter Karine Swenson. But creativity can flourish in the mundane. She noted that “it should be something quiet that doesn’t take too much thought,” such as “sweeping, folding laundry or dusting.”
“Try a new recipe, make a new smoothie [or] bake some cookies. It will get your creative juices going, and it will taste good too,” Tirosh-Polk said.
4. Make a small collage.
Page through your favorite magazines and pick several pictures that resonate with you, Tirosh-Polk said. Cut them to create a collage. It can be small enough to fit into your journal. Each collage also can have a theme, she said, such as “Things in Red,” “Urban sparkle,” or “Spring.” Or it can be “your vision for your dream home, job [or] trip.”
Simply stare out the window, and let your mind wander. “I have read that when our minds are in a relaxed state, the subconscious will take over. If you believe, as Jackson Pollock and many of the surrealists did, that art comes from the subconscious, then you may wish to try this,” Swenson said
6. Create a list.
“Create a playlist like you’re the hottest DJ in town, a reading list like you’re the New York Times, a destination list, or a menu for yourself or someone else,” Tirosh-Polk said.
7. Check out your go-to inspiration.
What books, songs and videos inspire you? For instance, Michelle Ward, a creative career coach and speaker, suggested doing exercises from Keri Smith’s books, listening to Ukulele Anthem by Amanda Palmer and getting a pep talk from Kid President.
“It doesn’t have to be a conversation about art or creativity. Sometimes the most random comment from small talk will stick with you and spark a new idea,” Swenson said.
“Break out the crayons and draw for 10 minutes, like you’re Picasso, or you know, Pollock,” Tirosh-Polk said.
Try an activity you used to love as a child. “Ten minutes in a swing works wonders,” Swenson said.
Tirosh-Polk suggested sitting on a bench for 10 minutes and observing others. Pay particular attention to their conversations. Write down whatever you pick up, she said.
12. Find a quiet spot.
“If at all possible, find a place away from the bustle of humanity,” Swenson said. This might be a park, the seaside or a quiet path, she said. But leave your iPod at home.
Instead, “plug your ears to the sounds of the world around you. Immerse all of your senses in this experience…and just be.”
13. Problem-solve with your dream advisory board.
Justine Musk, a novelist and writer, suggested creating a dream advisory board of five people. This could be anyone you admire, “dead or alive, famous or not famous.” Consider a recent problem, “whether it’s personal or professional or artistic.” Then turn it into a question.
“One by one, write a letter to yourself from each member of your board, seeing the problem from each member’s perspective. How would each person advise you to solve it? What would each member want you to do, think about or know?”
14. Create a collection of prompts.
“Write a list of writing topics or drawing subjects, each on small, individual pieces of paper,” said Christine Mason Miller, a mixed-media artist and author of the book Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the World.
Then put these pieces of paper into a bowl or jar. “Anytime you need a 10-minute creative time-out, draw one of your prompts from the jar and give yourself 10 minutes to go for it!”
15. Just start.
Give yourself “full permission to be as bad or messy as you need,” said Ward, co-author of the book The Declaration of You. It could be the “cheesiest, most horrible thing ever,“ Tirosh-Polk said. The product doesn’t matter. The key is to start.
“The only thing that could be ‘wrong’ when it comes to being creative is to not do anything at all,” Ward said.