Kicking creative block in the face
Over the holidays, I'd slipped a little on my morning ritual; spent way too many nights up late, which gave me way too many mornings hitting the snooze button, but this week, I'm back on it and feeling good.
This morning, my alarm went off and as I got out of bed, I thought about all the amazing things I wanted to share with you. Actually, that's not true at all, because I had no ideas come to me.
I was blank as I brushed my teeth, still empty as I drank my morning glass of water, and began to mildly panic as I grabbed my coffee to sit down in my nook of the sofa where I do my morning writing. I had no ideas coming yet.
Fear not my lovely reader friend, because just as I have a ritual for my mornings, I also have a bit of a ritual when it comes to generating ideas, and as I was thinking about that ritual, I figured it would make a good topic of discussion.
I call this process Conrey's Failsafe Method for Kicking Creative Block in the Face!
Actually, I don't call it that, I just made that up, but it sounds kinda awesome though.
When I have a moment of blankness, the first thing I do is look internally. Aside from the thoughts about creative block, what am I also thinking or feeling? What was I thinking about before I went to bed? Sometimes as I'm trying to get to sleep, but my brain won't shut off, I'll purposely think about stories I want to write just to trick my brain into thinking about something creative, which has a calming effect and puts me right to sleep. Because I actively thought of those ideas, I can usually recall them in the morning.
The idea box
In my Notion app, I have a page just for notating ideas of things I want to talk about. Anytime a thought comes to mind about something that inspires me, I'll jot that idea down in the idea box. Often nothing comes of those, because I'm usually motivated by them when they first come to mind, but not so excited about them later, but I keep them in the box because one idea might stir others inside me.
What am I working on
If my immediate thoughts and feelings don't get the job done, then I think about what projects I'm currently working on. At the time of this writing, I'm working on a new video and struggling with the motivation to continue it. It's going to be a good video, but I like to get my videos down in one sitting or the motivation to continue wavers. I'm thinking about that, but I've written a lot about lack of motivation lately, so we'll put that one aside.
I'm also working on a poster about Martin Luther King, Jr., and that stirred up a thought that we haven't had a prominent leader talk about civil liberties in a long time. That's definitely a topic I'd like to get into, but perhaps a post for another platform; Medium perhaps. At the very least though, I could write about the poster itself, and how it and others are available on my revitalized Etsy shop (not-so-subtle-hint).
I also have a creative projects calendar that lists out project ideas for future creative projects, videos, podcast topics, and newsletter items. That's almost a surefire way to get the creative juice pumping. If I'm feeling things enough to put them down in my calendar, I certainly have some space in the brain for deeper thoughts.
News of the day
Google News is my favorite aggregator of current events, but I have to be careful here. It's easy to get stuck reading story after story, which is not what I want right now. I'll race through some of the main headlines of the day to see if anything catches my interest creatively. If something jumps out at me, I'll scan that story to see if any ideas pop, but if I don't get anything from it within 30 seconds or less, I'm out.
If current events don't get me started, then I'll niche down into stories about art or design. There's almost always a story from Art Forum, 99U or Colossal that will get me thinking about the state of things in the creative world.
Social media with a serious filter
This is my last resort because it's way too easy to get caught up in my social media feeds. Before I know what happened, I'm 45 minutes into stories about kids, cats, or what dumb stuff Donald tweeted overnight.
If I'm using social media for inspiration, I keep it to more visual platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube. It's really easy to get caught up in those feeds as well, so I'm looking to them for immediate inspiration. I want a visceral response to something, so I'm speeding through them as quickly as possible.
With YouTube, I'm not actually watching videos, but scanning the trending videos. Most of that stuff doesn't interest me to watch, but it might spur a critical thought or commentary.
If none of those worked, I'll make my way to Twitter, but I do not like that space for creative ideas. It usually spurs up a lot of negativity, whether it's the constant posts about politics or a constant barrage of self-promotion. I'll often skip this one altogether if I feel like I'm not mentally in a good spot at the start because I don't want Twitter or any other social media dictating my mood for the day.
Go for a walk
If none of those things worked out, then it's probably not going to happen that morning, and that's OK. Instead, I'll go to the gym, or go for a walk, and let my subconscious brain do the driving for a while. I probably won't get home and want to write, but if I have ideas, I'll put them down in my idea box for later use.
If I've reached this point, and no ideas have come to me, then I let it go for the day. I'm not going to beat myself up if I didn't get some words down. Even though I'm trying to keep the ritual of daily writing, I do not want to force the issue.
At this stage, my exploration has probably jostled my brain enough to want to make some art, and that becomes my quest for the day instead. Nothing bad ever comes out of this process, which is why it's called Conrey's Failsafe Method for Kicking Creative Block in the Face!