4 steps to becoming more creative:
1. Carry a small notebook/sketchbook and pen/pencil wherever you go
Write down your ideas, make notes of things you like as soon as you see them, practice making art on the go or in fringe time that normally gets swallowed up looking at your phone. Get curious about your daily surroundings, mine your life and record your discoveries. The scrappier and cheaper it is, the more likely perfectionists will actually use it instead of keeping it ‘unspoilt’ in its perfect original state!
2. Make something everyday
Make something, ANYTHING to practice exercising your creativity muscle. If you can find a spare two minutes, then you have enough time to make something. If you think “what’s the point of only spending two minutes?” It adds up to an hour after a month and creates a small pile of art. Spending two minutes is better than spending zero minutes (especially if the myth of having to spend hours making art feels overwhelming and is stopping you from making anything at all).
3. Focus on quantity not quality
When you make art for yourself, you can let go of it needed to look ‘good.’ You’re not in school trying to please the teacher anymore. You get to make bad, messy and imperfect art because you ENJOY it. That’s the only important reason you need. By focusing on quantity, it helps to shift focus from worrying if you’re not doing it ‘right’. And when making quantity can actually accelerate creativity, quality can be so overrated.
4. Start making art right now
Don’t wait for the start of the year/month/week to roll round. Start NOW. You’ve heard you only need two minutes so pick up a pencil and paper and make some marks immediately!
We need your bonkers ideas and your crazy art! Sometimes it’s the crazy ideas that fuels creativity more forcefully than the ‘normal’ safe ones. Crazy and bonkers might also inspire others a little bit louder and who knows where it could lead to.
“Change the world with your brilliant and bonkers ideas!” That’s what Little Inventors wants: helping kids by encouraging inventive thinking. It connects kid inventors to skilled grown ups who make their ideas work in real life: workable models of the brilliant and bonkers ideas. The founder of the project Dominic Wilcox says in this behind the scenes video “I think we’re all born creative but some people say “Oh I’m not creative.” But that’s not true, you were creative when you were a child, you’ve just lost it… by going through the education system and then the work as an adult. Your mind gets a little bit limited and restricted and you get a bit self-conscoius suddenly your creativity can be lost.”
If you feel your creativity is lost right now, know it’s never completely gone. You can always find your way back to it, whenever you’re ready. Start by picking up a pencil and paper and making some marks. Any marks – messy ones, bad unperfected ones, ones full of mistakes and rough ideas. Because making anything is always better than making nothing at all. And who knows where it could all lead to.
Ps. Dominic Wilcox has a Ted talk on his project called Turning children’s imagination into reality.
When you give yourself permission to make art, you slowly and silently give permission to others around you. You don’t have to physically show others what you make. It’s enough to talk about the creative experience and share how you feel while making art (it’s not always helpful to reveal your ‘messy’ art to potentially judgmental eyes). Sharing the experience could have a big impact on many others in more ways than you’ll ever know.
Victoria Moran encourages “The idea that everything is purposeful really changes the way you live. To think that everything that you do has a ripple effect, that every word that you speak, every action that you make affects other people and the planet.”
Perhaps you share with a friend how free you feel while making art and how excited you are to make more. Or even a stranger overhears and sees your enthusiasm. That enthusiasm could plant a seed of inspiration in other minds. It could be a gentle nudge of silent encouragement that they too could have a go. No need to tell people to copy you, instead honestly share your insights from being more creative. If that seed one day grows bigger and they decide to take action, you’ve helped them just by being yourself (it may never grow bigger for them and that’s okay too because the main thing is you’re growing your own seeds).
As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. — Marianne Williamson, from the poem ‘Our Deepest Fear’ in Return to Love
How can you adopt a more playful attitude towards your art making practice and why would that be beneficial to you? Aside from experiencing the joy that being playful creates — which could be argued is the main purpose of life and therefore automatically a worthwhile trait — it allows you to be more creative and thus create (over time) more value to your work, life and the contribution to other peoples lives.
On a Freakonomics podcast on creativity, Mitch Resnick speaks about Lifelong Kindergarten, one of the M.I.T. Media labs research units: “We focus on four guiding principles that I call the four Ps of creative learning: projects, passion, peers, and play. So we feel that the best way to support kids developing as creative thinkers and developing their creative capacities is to engage them in working on projects based on their passions in collaboration with peers in a playful spirit… Often when people think about play they just think about fun and laughter. And I have nothing against fun and laughter but that’s not the essence what I’m talking about. I see play not just as an activity but a type of attitude and approach for engaging with the world. When someone has a playful approach, it means they’re constantly experimenting, trying new things, taking risks, testing the boundaries. And I think the most creative activities come about when we’re willing to experiment and take risks.” [emphasis added]
How can you introduce more experimentation into your practice? Do you regularly try new things such as working in a new medium, drawing with your non-dominant hand, seeking out different films, books or media you’d not normally watch or visit a different part of town to find something that sparks a new creative idea? Do you take risks by using colours combinations that don’t traditionally go together, try using trash to make something or draw outside the lines to purposely make messy or ‘bad’ art? Can you find a way to test your boundaries and go outside your comfort zone? It could be as simple as trying to draw on paper that’s double the size you’re used to or using a pen instead of a pencil you can erase to make permanent marks.
Try adopting a playful approach to making your art and focus on the fun of experimenting.
There’s no better time than the present moment to start making art. Here’s what you need to do:
- Get a pen and paper or whatever is lying around nearby – old receipts and envelopes work just as well as blank paper.
- Make some marks for 2 minutes. Increase time as you progress.
- Repeat daily. Voila, you’ve begun making art!
Stuck as to what to draw? What’s in front of you: food, pets, family, faces, plants, shoes or possessions. From your imagination: doodles, cartoons, dreams, patterns, shapes or words. Fun experiments: blind drawings, using your non-dominant hand, foot or mouth, dot to dot, use a stick or draw in the dark.
If you’re silently expecting to be as good as artists like Da Vinci or O’Keeffe right away, you’re going to be VERY disappointed. Your art will be messy, ‘bad’ and gloriously filled with wonderful mistakes (aka learning potential). Focus on the fun making something out of nothing and continue in the face of disappointment that you’re not a master artist immediately. It takes time and a lot of practice to move past the beginner artist stage, but this stage is the most exciting and messy because everything is new and you can make your own rules as you go. Embrace the fun of being a beginner!
“Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.” — Robert Collier
All you need to get started making art is a pen and paper. But once you’ve built up some practice and courage (it takes a lot of courage to continue to make ‘messy’ art and beginner art), you can start to try different drawing materials. This adds a whole new fun level of experimentation but one that can be overwhelming with possibilities and choice. Before you rush out and buy all the colours in all the different art supplies, remind yourself of your objective – to have fun. To enjoy the process of making something out of nothing. It’s easy to feel disheartened when the art doesn’t match the expectations in the mind but it can become magnified when money has been spent buying tools to help make ‘great’ art.
Carolyn Schlam in The Creative Path says “I encourage you to try many different media and just soak up all the fun and complexity of art making. Play and experimentation are essential components of our profession, and taking on new toys puts us in a playful mood.” The focus is on play and experimentation. Different media could mean whatever you’ve already got in your cupboards. They don’t have to be specifically art supplies as there are plenty of foods and household supplies that can work just as well. Things like painting with food colouring, beetroot juice or coffee. Making collages out of old packaging, magazines and leaflets. Or make patterns using everyday objects to. There’s so much you can get started with without having to leave the house. Don’t get caught up on using fancy supplies, instead focus on having fun exploring unconventional media that you can start using today.
The biggest challenge you face when making art is yourself. This is something Paul Klein discusses in his talk How to Succeed as an Artist: “There are no obstacles,.. the only obstacles that exist are obstacles we put in front of ourselves.” Can you identify any self-imposed obstacles you’ve created? Obstacles like “I don’t have time” (time can always be made), “I’m not good enough” (too high expectations) to “I don’t have the right art materials” (all you need is pen and paper to make art).
How can you get out of your own way and break through them? By giving yourself permission to spend time making art and to make messy art, bad art, to play and have fun making. Give permission to spend some time being creative without needing it to be productive or ‘valuable’ (i.e making sell-able art). The value is the fun. Break through self-imposed obstacles and open up to the possibility of becoming more creative.