Where does your creative inspiration come from? We’ve all heard of some of the best ideas materializing in the shower. Those times when the brain is on idle so to speak, the creative spark finds room to peek in and make itself known. But what if you’re running low on so called “down time,” and therefore none of that spark is making its way through? You know how it is, your mind is going a million miles a minute, and idle is something your brain never has time to be anymore. This is when you have to actually create your own down time; but how to do it without feeling so contrived that it renders useless? You have to break out of your element, explore new places – either physically or mentally – in order to jar those great ideas out of hiding.
Take a Walk
This seems simple enough, but sometimes it takes more than a spin on the treadmill or a walk around your neighborhood. If possible, get out in nature, where there are little to no distractions, and just walk. Being surrounded by trees or near water, noticing the little things, like a row of ants marching along or a patch of your favorite wildflowers, will take your mind out of its hectic state and allow some of that creativity back in. Breathing in fresh air and remembering your place in the big scheme of things can really calm down your mind, as well as free up space for fresh thinking.
Listen to Music
This may seem obvious, but sometimes it takes more than turning the radio to the same tunes you hear every day, with DJ and commercial interruptions. Put in a CD or turn your iPod to something you haven’t heard in a while. I personally like to tune into Pandora (www.pandora.com) where I have my own personal stations. While I’m working and running low on ideas or energy, I like to listen to jazz. It seems to calm my brain, and as the melodies and riffs run through my head, I often conjure up fresh ideas. For you it may be rock or R&B; there is no right way, just finding what inspires you and keeps your ideas flowing.
This one seems like a no-brainer as well; do we really have a choice? But I’m not talking about the shallow, mindless breathing that we may take for granted for days on end. I am talking mindful breathing, which comes from being aware of our breath and the affect it has on our body. Inhale fully so that your lungs are filled to capacity, and then exhale completely, until they feel empty, before filling them up again. Even just doing this for five breaths amazingly clears your mind and alleviates stress. If you can do it for even longer, great. Remembering to breathe mindfully during times of stress or low energy can make a huge difference in your mind (and body’s) well-being.
Take a Trip
I know it's not normally feasible to hop up at a moment’s notice and travel to another city or country. But, we can take a virtual trip online. Google Maps is a great thing; where have you always wanted to go? Just type it in, and voila! you’re there. (select Satellite View and you can actually navigate your way around). Explore the streets of London or sunny California and take in some of the sites. Enjoy seeing the different types of architecture and landscapes, or even cars and people. It really does get you out of your element and let your mind explore something new without even having to leave your workstation.
These are just a few ideas of things we can do when running low on creativity, ideas, or just plain old energy. Incorporate them into your daily routine, and take notice of how you feel. I'm sure others have their own methods (and I can already think of a few more - part II maybe?); I'd love to hear about them!
Came across this YouTube video entitled "Life as a Graphic Designer." Turns out that the wife is a Graphic Designer, and her husband and small son are acting out a day in her work life. To be taken with a sense of humor of course! I thought it was so cute... had me LOL.
During a recent conversation, it came up how Kinko’s just isn’t the same since being bought out by FedEx, to which I replied; remember when we used to go to Kinko’s in the middle of the night? When I was in college, pulling all-nighters was part of my routine. It didn’t matter what time it was, if I needed to rent (yes, rent) computer time, have a color copy printed or needed something cut, I’d hop in my car and drive to Kinko’s (in the middle of the night, by myself and without a cell phone I might add). This was before you could print out a decent – actually, quite good – color copy on your home computer. And I may be aging myself, but this was only the early 90’s. Graphic Design has come a long way over the years… in the late 80’s I landed a job at a typesetters – an industry that has since fallen by the wayside. For those of you scratching your heads, designers would come in with the type they needed for an ad. When they came to pick it up, their type was professionally “set” in whatever font and size they needed, with the desired spacing and alignment, so that they could then paste it up (literally) on their ad, business card or whatever they needed it for. Because you could not yet do this on your computer if you even had a computer. I always say it was an interesting time to be in school for Graphic Design, because the capabilities literally changed before my eyes. From hanging out at Kinko’s and paying $1.49 per color copy, pasting up photos and type, using amberlith masking film (remember that? They stopped making it in 2007 because of diminished demand), to having your own computer and color printer and never having to leave your home or office unless maybe you needed something bound or cut. Not too long ago I’d print my own business cards at home to save money; now I just go online and order them, and for a considerably low price I get professionally printed cards delivered right to my door.
Something else that has changed completely and makes my job so much easier, besides the obvious emailing and texting, is video calling. With Skype or other video calling applications, you don’t even have to leave your house to have a face-to-face meeting with your client. You can even share files, have them view your screen or vice versa, while at the same time wearing your slippers with your dinner simmering on the stove, or sitting in your favorite coffee house enjoying a latte. In today’s hectic world this saves time, not to mention gas, and greatly adds to the ease of servicing clients in other cities or states. Of course, nothing beats the experience of meeting clients in “real life,” but to have this option is indispensible nowadays.
So, that’s my story of days gone by, and haven’t we come a long way? I do think myself lucky that I was only in school and not a professional designer during those pre-computer days… and I would bet, just as I am reminiscing about my “old days,” that there are seasoned designers whose careers played out way before all this technology was even thought of saying “this generation has it so easy!” It makes me wonder what else lies ahead, and I can’t wait to find out.