Need a boost to your creativity? Here are 5 steps I've learned over the years that really work.
1. Step away from the technology.
There are scads of great editing and graphic design tools that make it easier to complete our work: quilt design applications, photo editors, word processors, and the like. For me, the role of these tools comes after I’ve sketched, scribbled, colored, and created my ideas. If I start with the technology, I invariably get hung up on using the technology, and it rapidly depletes any creative energy I started with. Which brings me to exercises 2 and 3.
(Above: Tennessee Crossroads by Konda Luckau)
2. Try the “Lefty-Righty No-Looksie” trick.
This combines an art class I took a while back with an exercise I learned 15 years ago in a course for “meeting facilitators”. Aside from breaking the ice and getting lots of laughter, this really engages the creative muscles of your brain, so it can “creatively solve the problem” of recording what the eye sees, rather than illustrating what you believe you already know.
The exercise is simple: Get a blank piece of paper (even the back of a printout). Hold a pen or pencil in your opposite hand, look at an object, and without looking at your paper, sketch that object. This should loosen you up for some fun creative expression.
3. Put pen to paper.
I find this both creatively liberating and productive at the same time. It seems I can accomplish anything with a blank sheet of paper and a pen. I prefer pen to pencil because the very act of correcting with a pen—scratching out, drawing arrows to new text, circling existing text, and doodling with reckless abandon—offers countless opportunities for unique thoughts and sketches.
Sit down with pen and paper and begin writing a letter to someone (even yourself, or that squirrel outside your window). Even if you can't think of a thing to write, just start writing. Try "Dear squirrel, I know this sounds silly, but I want to let you know how much I enjoy your company." Fill up at least 1 whole page.
(Above, left: Squiggles Squirrel by Heather Lynn)
4. Grab your stash of fabrics, and throw a handful on the floor.
Now pick up 3 pieces, and arrange them in a pleasing way. This is a fun way to free your thoughts and create a “model” of how your fabrics can work together in terms of color, texture, and print. It allows random forces of the universe to kickstart your quilt design. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the combinations unfolding before your eyes.
(Above: Willow Street by Jeni Gaston)
5. Change your perspective.
This is my mini version of an exercise I learned in a “Personal Coaching” class many years ago. It’s an effective way to see things through a new lens.
Do you have a favorite chair you always sit in? Sit in a different one in a different corner of the room (or in a different room). Now your eyes can light on countless objects, colors, light, and patterns, and you will find yourself creating some good innovative work!
These exercises have worked wonders for me time and time again. I end up with a lot more enjoyment in my day, and with better results. I wrote this article after performing exercises 1, 2, 3, and 5. Now I’m using the technology to type it up on my laptop. You don’t have to do them all every time you need a creative boost. Just try one and I’m sure you’ll see positive results. Most importantly, be sure to have fun in everything you do. Let me know how these work for you.