If you’re like most people, you don’t have the luxury of working on your creative project all day, every day. You have dozens of demands that take you away from your creative goals: things like work, kids, social engagements, or household chores.
While a little time away from your project isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can make it difficult to get back into the creative groove.
These three strategies are sure to help you get past the creative doldrums.
1. Set a Simple Goal
If you’re like me, you have lots of ideas floating around in your head at any given time. These ideas are exciting, but they can also be distracting when you are trying to focus on a single project.
The natural inclination is to work on an idea until the excitement has worn off and then move to another idea that seems more exciting. This “cherry-picking” approach can be effective for getting your ideas on paper, but it doesn’t help bring those ideas to completion.
Coming up with a simple, achievable goal for that day’s work session can help you stay on track and bring you closer to finishing your project.
Here are some examples of simple goals:
• “Write 500 words on topic X in the next half-hour.”
• “Finish ten rough sketches of the new website design.”
• “Edit an existing piece of writing to half its length.”
Each of these goals have the important qualities of being achievable, simple, and quantifiable.
Once you have your goal, write it on a piece of paper and post it somewhere prominent so you can see it while you are working (a sticky note stuck to a wall in front of you works well).
When you find yourself straying from your original idea, wondering what you’re trying to accomplish, or getting stuck, just glance at the goal and say to yourself, “this is the most important thing I can do right now. I will do nothing else until I achieve this goal.”
2) Do A Braindump
The good news about having a lull between creative sessions is that while you have been spending time away from your project, your brain hasn’t. Like a chicken brooding its eggs, your subconscious mind has been stewing over your ideas and drawing connections that you hadn’t considered.
These connections have probably come to you as sparks of inspiration that have popped into your head while you’ve been at work, driving down the freeway, or washing the dishes. They’ve occurred when you’ve least expected them. Hopefully, you have been writing them down before they slip away. If not, start now.
At the start of your work session, spend some time to gather all those scraps of paper, iPhone notes, voice memos, emails, or sticky notes. Compile all these ideas into one central place and then destroy all the original notes and scraps of paper you had.
Take out a piece of paper or a notebook and write ALL your ideas down in one place. If more ideas pop into your head, write those down also. The important thing is to get them all out in one central location.
Now, stand back and look at what you’ve written. Is there one idea that really excites you? Is there a common theme between multiple ideas? If so, that’s your brain telling you that it’s ready to get to work. Make a goal for today’s work session that is based around that idea or theme.
3) Follow An Unexplored Path
If done correctly, this technique can spark new creative ideas that propel your project on its path to completion. If done incorrectly, it can be a dangerous downward spiral of dismay and destruction (how’s that for alliteration?).
To use this technique, take out something you worked on during your last creative session. Now, set a timer for three minutes (set an actual timer: don’t estimate!). You have three minutes, and three minutes only, to do one thing: find un-followed paths in your work.
What is an un-followed path? It is an idea or concept that you started exploring in your last work session, but for whatever reason, never followed through to completion. Maybe it branched off in too many directions to follow, or maybe it hit a roadblock.
Whatever the reason, today is the day to follow that path. Dedicate yourself to exploring that idea, and that idea only, during your work session.
Note: During this exercise, it is very important that you don’t start critiquing what you have been working on during your last session. Doing so can discourage you, hamper your creative inclinations, and kill your motivation. Save the critiquing for a time when you can control it; don’t let it sneak up on you.
There are many more techniques out there, but these three are surefire ways to get your brain on track.
Here they are in brief:
1) Set a Simple Goal
• What is the one thing you want to accomplish during this session?
• Make it achievable, simple, and quantifiable
• Focus only on achieving this goal
2) Do a Braindump
• Gather your notes and compile them in one central spot
• Find an idea or theme that excites you
• Set a goal to work on that idea
3) Follow an Unexplored Path
• Look back at something you created last time
• Find an unfollowed path to explore
• Explore it!