4 steps to becoming more creative

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

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!

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Intentionally having ideas and making notes

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

The thing about writing ideas down is they move from being a thought, to physically existing. It becomes tangible, held down on paper and unable to escape (unless of loose the paper). What if you wrote down every interesting idea the moment it appeared? What if you sat down for a moment during each day and actively thought of new ideas and then wrote those down? Would the capturing of ideas down on paper help inspire your art-making? Absolutely – intentionally creating ideas gets the brain thinking creatively which helps feed inspiration and enthusiasm.

In the Art For All Podcast, Danny Gregory talks about intentionally creating ideas helps him get unstuck: “When I get stuck, I spend my personal project time making lists of ideas. Take half an hour early in the morning to just sit and brainstorm. Write down 10 ideas and then have breakfast. In a week I have 70 ideas. In the following week I have lots of things to start with. I have my big list of ideas.”

The list becomes a future mine of inspiration to pick from. One tiny thought could eventually grow into a bigger project. But in order to remember them, you must write ideas down asap because, like the wind, they can disappear as quickly as they arrive. Carry a small notebook (or make note on a phone) to collect every idea. It’s better to use a notebook compared to loose paper because everything will be automatically chronological and in one place, which will make it much easier for your future self.

Carry a notebook wherever you go

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

Carrying a notebook wherever you go can change how you interact with the world. When you make notes or sketch anything that catches your eye, you start to pay closer attention to your surroundings. Your senses for spotting small unusual things become sharpened because you’re training yourself to take notice. This skill of mining your everyday life for inspiration feeds back into your art making practice and allows you ultimately think more creatively.

In 1903 the writer Jack London gave advice still is as relevant today “Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” Making a note on your phone isn’t the same as the experience of pencil on paper and won’t seal in the memory as strongly. In a digital world, the notebook is a safe space to collect all the weird and unexplainable interesting thoughts and things you encounter.

Rule one of a notebook: don’t judge the importance of what you write down. Who knows what it could spark in the future: ideas, poems, sketches, paintings, collages, songs or any other creative endeavour. Write it down.

Using a notebook allows you to get curious about your world, which is something London also encourages: “Find out about this earth, this universe; this force and matter, and the spirit that glimmers up through force and matter from the maggot to Godhead. And by all this I mean WORK for a philosophy of life. It does not hurt how wrong your philosophy of life may be, so long as you have one and have it well.”

Sketchbooks and notebooks and overcoming the first page hurdle

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

If the way to get more creative is to practice regularly, a small sketchbook for mark-making or notebook for writing and idea-collecting is invaluable. But when you’re just starting out, a new book can feel intimidating. The pristine white, untouched paper, the potential of what you could fill the pages with when everything is still perfect in your head makes the first page feel more important than it actually is. “This page sets the tone for the whole book so it better be good!” You want to get it right – to write or draw something that is worthy of gracing the front page. And so you wait. You wait until you have an important enough reason or idea to make marks in your new book.

But of course, nothing will ever be good enough as the unspoilt newness of the paper will always triumph over your scrawled marks. This way of looking at it will keep you from using your book and you’ll be robbing yourself of the opportunity to make friends with this invaluable creativity tool.

How to overcome this?

  • To begin with only buy the cheapest books. The more money spent, the more precious it becomes because the ‘nicer’ the book, the less you’ll want to mess it up.
  • Write a title for the first page e.g. “My messy imperfect book” and set an intention that your book WILL include MANY bad marks, misspellings and mistakes.
  • Purposely make it the most messy, ugly or mistake-ridden page possible.
  • Ignore the first page completely and start on page 2 or even further in.

Whatever gets you regularly using your book to jot down ideas, doodles, words or start making art, do it! Don’t treat your book as fine china, only to be used once or twice a year, on “special” occasions. As Regina Brett says, “Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.” Your book needs to be broken in ASAP because the sooner you dive in, the quicker you’ll get over being so precious (you’ll make bad marks and survive from it!) and the more often you’ll use it.

“You’ll get “better” at it all by yourself. If it’s fun, you’ll do it more often. And if you do it more often, you’ll do it well.” – Felix Scheinberger, Dare to Sketch

The point of having a sketch or notebook is to use it regularly as a creative tool. It’s not made of fine china so don’t treat it like it is.

How to mine your daily life for snippets

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

Snippets are different from quotes. They are a words or small sentences that peak your curiosity. Words can be collected from everyday life in the form of signs, shops, windows, labels, graffiti and posters or from art such as books, magazines, websites, audio, tv, movies and online. Anything you see or hear. Coleman Barks said “When I was twelve years old, I kept a little notebook of words that I loved: azalea, halcyon, jejune. I just liked the taste of them… I just love lively language wherever it occurs.” Austin Kleon created a journal for creative kleptomaniacs, “This journal is designed to get you looking at your world like an artist, always “casing the joint,” always collecting ideas, always looking for the next bit of inspiration to lift – to turn you into a creative kleptomaniac.”

You will need: a notebook or paper and pen/pencil

  1. Carry a notebook wherever you go
  2. Write down anything you find interesting.

Even conversations can be a source of inspiration, either from people you know or from strangers. Listen gently but not obsessionally. This works best with people walking away from you so that you only hear a tiny piece of their conversation. It’s also less voyeuristic and creepy that way.

“The great advantage of being a writer is that you can spy on people. You’re there, listening to every word, but part of you is observing. Everything is useful to a writer, you see – every scrap, even the longest and most boring of luncheon parties.” Graham Greene.

Any snippet could spark an idea, get you thinking about a project or serve as an abstract journal. For instance if you’re on holiday and overhear something interesting, writing it down could later transport you right back to that moment (add a note of where you were to help retain the memory). Snippet collecting creates more engaged with your surroundings because you notice every day delights that normally may be invisible.

“… crafty way of blending in / Try to make it swaggy. / …trotted out like a prize bull / Tooling around / By crickey / Blithering blowholes!” – various snippets collected June 2018

The biggest rule of collecting snippets? Don’t judge what you find interesting or censor yourself writing it down because who knows what it might spark in the future. Regularly seeing the small may just surprise and delight you in the process.