Type the words ‘creativity’ and ‘advice’ into a search engine and it will come back to you with hundreds of articles, books, videos, and podcasts all offering practical tips on the best way to tap into your imaginative powers. These tips range from developing a morning ritual for your craft and surrounding yourself with creative people, to drinking lots of coffee and spending time with either your own or someone else’s children. There is tons of advice out there for those who are looking. But is any of it really that helpful?
In my experience, reading up on how to harness creativity has only led to feelings of inadequacy as I have come to realise that my way of doing things is simply not in line with much of the available advice. Far from being organised in any way or following any particular ritual or routine, my poetry writing process depends on where I am and how I feel. What I need and don’t always have are: a) a comfortable space in which to work; b) no distractions; c) a flexible mindset; d) psychological peace. No matter how much time I make or how hard I try, if any of these needs aren’t met then the writing simply won’t happen. I can also go for fairly long periods of time without feeling any inclination to put pen to paper, something that I’ve always felt annoyed by but also considered a pretty standard experience amongst creative writers.
However, after reading somewhere a few years ago that to properly harness my creativity I should be writing every day in a dedicated journal, I began to wonder if perhaps I wasn’t being as productive as I could be. And so I tried to be more ‘literary,’ buying myself pretty notebooks and pens, and setting aside time at the end of each day to write beautifully composed passages in elegant handwriting. Rather than helping, this actually turned out to be more of a hindrance to my writing process, as I found myself spending more time focusing on when and how I was writing than thinking about the ideas themselves. Returning to my disorganised ways, I realised that my writing process isn’t wrong, it’s simply different. Just as everyone’s is.
To dispel the myth of there being a ‘right’ way of working that will suit everyone, I got in touch with a range of creatives working in various fields to find out how the creative process works for them. Those interested to find out more can read the answers that I received below. In the meantime, though, my creativity tip to you is this: do whatever feels right and works best for you!
Q: What inspires you to create, how do your ideas develop, and how does it feel when a concept begins to emerge as a tangible piece of work?
Freelance Writer, Editor, and Project Maker
My creative process begins with a need. This need might come from outside, or it might be internal. As a writer and a performance maker, my practice is diverse, and therefore the needs that stimulate it and the responses to them are also diverse. When writing, the need is most often an external one as I most often write to commission. I will receive a simple brief from my editors, and then it is largely up to me to discover a direction that the piece wants to go in. My first step is to try and get some tangible sense of the ‘place’ involved, whether it is a real geographical location, or a place within an idea. I do this through watching videos, reading, talking to people, asking questions on social media, looking at photos…
For me, everything around me can be a form of inspiration. My upbringing, my family, my partner, nature, my travels, an article in the paper etc.. I think of the creative brain as a sponge, something that can absorb many different things that you might overlook at first but sometimes come back to you years later. I feel like my ideas develop in very abstract ways, sometimes it does come as a click, a wild thought that just pops into my mind, or sometimes it’s about how I am feeling or a place that I have been to. I think my biggest struggle is the same as everyone else’s, that is to start…
Electric Guitarist in The Nightjar
I think that my surroundings and my life experience play a big part in inspiring me and when I’m in the right frame of mind I can get real excited about creating something. The first beginnings of an idea come in different ways. Sometimes I find that when I am working on a piece of music I come up with something that may not fit the composition I am working on at the time. I try to shape this new idea quickly and record it really roughly before I forget it. I have many fragments like this that I have built up over the years…
Writer, Musician, and Music Producer
A lot of things inspire me to create nowadays, not just art, but life, experiences, insightful discussions, etc.. I usually get some kind of jolt/urgency to get the idea out. Once I start, I either go full throttle for hours or it can wane quickly or last a few minutes. Sometimes, the jolt comes but it’s light, and I let the idea simmer for a bit, until I get uncomfortable keeping it in any longer…
Founder of Yobaba Lounge and Serial Entrepreneur
Inspiration comes from the outside, not so creativity. I have found it fascinating to watch and investigate its nature: creativity undoubtedly arises from within. There seem to be at least two kinds: an expansive one, which is kind of there all the time. And then there is the one which responds to limitation, to problems of any kind. Once it gets going, this kind flows with speed and focus, it has a sense of urgency. The ideas come fast, one after the other. Word after word, stroke after stroke, ingredient after ingredient (yes, also when making food). So personally, I find that I need to get in touch first with that vast rhythm of creativity inside me, it’s like an ocean lapping at my shores, sculpting my inner universe, even when I’m not thinking about it…
Writer, Actor and Spoken Word Artist
Similar to many, if not most writers, I have been writing all my life. Tatty old notebooks overflowing and poking out of every shelf in my home, and boxes crammed full and not quite closing in the loft are testament to some 30 or so years of processing life and the world through the written word. Even though now any creative work I write gets typed up on my computer and copied to an external hard drive (when I remember to back up), I still can’t come close to dispensing with the notebook. In fact my preoccupation with always having something with me to write in has lead to a rather lovely supply of gifted-notebooks, given by friends who understand or enable this dependency…
Photo credit: ! Santiago Alvarez ! via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND