Creativity is like a muscle, said Krista Peel Starer, a jewelry designer, illustrator and painter.
“It can get really nimble if you use it often.”
The key to strengthening this muscle is finding exercises that work best for you.
For inspiration, we asked several creativity coaches, artists and authors to share the one activity that, without fail, helps them access their creativity. Maybe you’ll add these to your repertoire.
“Nothing is better for my self-care, my well-being and my imagination than a soak!” said Michelle Ward, a creative career coach, speaker, and co-author of the book The Declaration of You. She usually brings a book with her and keeps a notebook – for jotting down ideas – within arm’s reach.
For Ward, being around any body of water is inspiring. “Whether I’m on the beach or in the shower or in a park around a lake, that’s where the ideas flow and inspiration happens. Hmmm…maybe purchasing that boat I want isn’t such a wasteful move after all…” (We agree!)
Listening to Music
Playwright and creativity coach Zohar Tirosh-Polk’s muse is music. “Music instantly gets me in a more connected, creative place.” In fact, each of her plays, including the award-winning “SIX,” was inspired by a song or set of songs.
Tirosh-Polk creates a playlist for every project. “It keeps me connected to the soul of the play I’m trying to write. It helps me remember the world I’m creating in a tangible, direct way.” And it helps her get out of her head and into her “soul and body.”
Even when Tirosh-Polk isn’t working, putting on music inspires her to write, dance, sing and draw. “Music does create atmosphere and it has a way of bypassing our thinking minds and get our creative juices going.”
“I’m not trying to be creative or poetic. I write these pages to get to the other side of the wildness that’s cluttering my brain. When I do that, I find I can let go of everyday surface anxieties and shift into a calmer, more creative place.”
Musk described this practice as unlocking her mind. In fact, she believes all freewriting is powerful. “It takes you to the end of your thoughts in a way that just being in your head never does. It’s like it opens up a secret passageway in your brain, leading you to what you really think, and what you really know, that might surprise you.”
Being Out in the World
“I’m self-employed, so I spend a lot of time at home slaving over my laptop, a situation that isn’t always conducive to creative thought,” said Susannah Conway, a writer, photographer and author of the book This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart.
So she makes sure to venture outside. Even going to the supermarket gives her new ideas. “It’s like rebooting my brain so it can make connections I might not have found while sitting at my desk staring at the screen. I need to breathe in the streets of London to find a new perspective.”
For Christine Mason Miller, a mixed-media artist and author of the book Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the World, the best creativity catalyst is “to simply show up.” That might include painting, writing or doodling.
“Even if I’m not in the mood, I can get into a creative zone very quickly just by starting. Even something as simple as gluing or taping images and papers into an art journal counts!”
The same is true for full-time painter Karine Swenson. “The one activity that always inspires my imagination is going into the studio to do my work. Once I am painting or drawing, the ideas come freely.”
She believes it’s a common myth that “the idea comes first and the art follows.” Foremost, for Swenson, is putting in the hard work at her studio.
Peel Starer’s no-fail creativity booster is waiting. “If I’m waiting for a train, or in a doctor’s office lobby or sitting in the car at a light, my mind fills up that space with some creative entertainment, and it’s usually pretty good stuff.”
It’s why she has lists and notes in her pockets. She also sends herself messages throughout the day. “Sometimes the ideas stick and then I can formulate the best plan of attack, and get to the fun part, which is that blissful ‘working phase.’”