As a creative professional, your work relies on your ability to come up with something new, unique and, well, creative! But sometimes mental roadblocks prohibit you from employing your usual imaginative brain. Everyone has moments where it feels like your creative well has run dry and there’s just nothing you can do but wait it out.
When you’ve reached that point, sometimes you need to try something a little off-the-wall. We enlisted creative minds of all kinds to their best brainstorming ideas with us. So when you find yourself in a creative draught, refer to this list and try one or two new tactics to get those creative juices flowing once again.
20 top-notch creative brainstorming activities
1. Do something active
Take a walk, hop on your bike, don those old rollerblades, or do some in-home yoga. Exercising helps blood flow to your brain. More blood equals more oxygen, which makes for a more effective brain.
2. People watch
“When I need to jump-start my creativity, I leave my apartment and people watch,” fashion accessory designer Mary Young of Marymade shared in Brika’s 33 Habits of Highly Creative People. “Everyone is so unique and has something amazing to offer; I take what I see and translate it into my work.”
3. Do something mindless
Sometimes to get your mind to create, you need to first give it a rest. Fold laundry, color with crayons, wash dishes and let your mind enjoy a little retreat. You might be surprised to find one of these little tasks free your mind to find the best ideas and inspiration.
4.Read or listen to poetry
The power of poetry is in the metaphors and word-pictures. As your brain begins to put different words and concepts together in a poem, it practices thinking in new ways. This can help you get geared up to be creative.
5. Get the nitty gritties done
“My biggest secret is preparation,” says game developer Samuel Coster of Butterscotch Shenanigans. The night before a day of content creation, he gets all the prep work done ahead of time. That way when morning comes, he can simply sit down and start creating. “Getting that gritty legwork out of the way frees my mind up immensely,” he adds.
6. Set a timer
Some people just need to create a sense of urgency to start creating. Coster sets an online stopwatch for twenty minutes and “dives in” to his first task. “It's rare that I need to reset it again throughout the day,” he says. “Something about setting that deadline and hitting the GO button is extremely motivating.”
Have a favorite Netflix show or YouTube channel? Take a break and let yourself laugh a little. University College London Institute of Neurology found that deciphering jokes exercises your brain similar to how a brainteaser would. On top of that, laughter releases dopamine, your body’s own happy drug.
8. Watch a TED Talk
Want to get your creative juices really flowing? Some of the most creative minds out there have been featured in the TED Talk video series. Gleaning insight from some of the world’s most innovative folks is sure to inspire new thoughts and ideas.
9. Set some boundaries
During times of desperation, it’s easy to fall back on older ideas or concepts. Setting some restrictions will provide a challenge for you to approach the problem in a different way. Limit yourself to designing with only a handful of colors, composing a song using only a few chords or writing a poem using 100 words or less.
10. Create a word bucket
Humor writer Adrienne Gusoff has a word bucket for when she gets stuck in a rut. She typed up a list of funny words and expressions then cut them up with one word or phrase on each strip. Sometimes she draws just one for inspiration. Other times she’ll pull two and sees how her brain pieces them together.
11. Phone a friend
“Ask around,” says Karen Kilpatrick, award winning author/illustrator and president of Pumpkinheads. “Tap into the creative minds of others. Often people will help you see things from other perspectives and help you clear roadblocks.”
12. Take a shower
“Water is grounding, which is needed for creativity,” says Jaime Pfeffer, writer and award-winning speaker. “Showers are also meditative, which kicks up creativity.”
13. Find a creative spaceChoose a coffee shop corner booth, a comfy library chair or even a room in your own home where you go to create. Your brain will begin to associate that space with its most creative moments.
14. Free write/draw/design
Many artists, writers and designers referred to the idea of ‘free’ creating as a way to get the creative juices flowing. Simply allow yourself to create in some capacity with no pressure as to what it is and for no purpose other than to see what comes out.
15. Attend an event
“I like to hit different cultural events and performances to get a different perspective on things,” says graphic designer Erin Cheyne of Air Bear Bear. Watching other people in their creative state can often inspire you or expose you to new forms of art, thought and expression.
16. Take a drive
“If it's daytime, I will hop in the car and drive around the city daydreaming and checking out the graffiti and crazy architecture,” says Cheyne. Don’t live in a city? Nature drives can be just as inspirational.
17. Have a cup o’ joe
“I drink (too much) coffee and then sketch every idea that comes to me. No matter how dumb or silly,” says author/illustrator Kelly Cook.
Aivar and Georgette Lee-Magin, web designers at Magin Web Design, like to take a few days away from the office and put themselves in new environment. “We can go away for a night, for a day or just few hours. We look out for deals and just go for anything that we find.”
19. Listen to movie soundtracks
Soundtracks are designed to help the listener engage with a moving picture. When you just listen to them without the visuals, your mind may be inspired to create its own moving picture to match the music.
20. Find what works for you
We’ve given you a lot of ideas, but this last one wraps it all up. “Everyone’s creative process is different,” jewelry designer Telle Lefler shared in Brika’s 33 Habits of Highly Creative People. “Stay true to your unique nature, and don’t get wrapped up in how other people are making it happen.”
Go forth & be creative
Now you have a handful of new brainstorming ideas up your sleeve when you encounter the dreaded creative block. With all of that creativity flowing through you, you may just be able to advance your hobby into a creative career! Learn about 9 Types of Design Jobs for Creative People.
Be sure to bookmark this list for easy access when you find yourself in a creative rut!