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Friday, 20 April 2018

Creativity on fleek! (a.k.a. how to quickly and effectively get over a creative block)

I hope you're ready to do some mind work today, because we're going to walk through a bunch of exercises that are guaranteed to open you up to your inner pool of creativity!

Creativity on fleek! (a.k.a. how to quickly and effectively get over a creative block)

So recently, my depression has made an on-and-off reappearance, and as a result, my creative juices seem to have dried out a little. If you're in the same boat at the time of reading this, know that you are not alone!

And luckily for the both of us, creativity isn't always this elusive force that may or may not appear today - instead, think of creativity as a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it will get, and the easier it will be for you to create! However, just like any muscle, it takes some heavy lifting to build it up, and sometimes, your creativity will experience fatigue.

So the obvious solution would be to rest and allow your source of creativity to recover from the excessive pressure it might have experienced.

But life is rarely that easy. If you're a career creative - that is, if your main source of income is your art, writing, music or any other creative product - taking a complete break from creativity can be incredibly harmful to your work.

So what do we do when a muscle cramps up but we need to keep running? We give it a good massage.

These super simple exercises will do exactly that, allowing you to create enough momentum, allowing your creativity to gradually return to work.


Let's do this!

DISCLAIMER: These exercises are heavily inspired by Sinix Design (whose Youtube channel is honesly the most helpful I've ever seen, by the way), and I do not, in any way, take credit for these ideas, simply for their application!

You will need:

  • A piece of paper and a pen,
    a graphics tablet and a basic art software (MS Paint totally works!)
  • At least 30 minutes with no distractions
You can totally listen to music if you like, but I'd advice against podcasts (yes, my heart breaks too) because we don't really want to be using our conscious brain to do any thinking.

Step 1: Mobilise your arms and shoulders

Begin by doing some basic shoulder stretches and arm rotations. If we're going to doodle mindlessly, we can't be worrying about repetitive strain or a forearm cramp. Make sure your blood is up and running, and your muscles are all warmed up.

One super quick way to achieve this is to pretend you're axing down a tree. Bring both your hands well above your head, then swiftly drop them in a fluid motion. Repeat this a couple of times, and if you're feeling especially stiff, add a mini squat as you go down, to help mobilise your lower body, too.

The reason we're working so hard to get everything in motion is two-fold: 

First, we need to make sure we're protecting our muscles, since there will be a lot of repetitive scribbling involved, which can be injurious to your wrist and elbow if you don't stretch them out right.

Secondly, moving around like this sends a signal to your brain that you're ready to do some physical work. In other words, your brain will know to divert more energy towards movement, rather than conscious thinking.

Step 2: Basic Drills

Now that we're warm and ready to go, it's time to grab that pen or stylus, and find a comfy spot. 

NOTE: For every single one of the exercises from this point forward, you are going to use your shoulder and elbow to draw, NOT YOUR WRIST! This is absolutely crucial - your wrist stays steady! Trust me, you'll notice the difference in your confidence almost immediately.

We're going to start by drawing lines, as straight as you can get them, in every direction possible. Go ahead and scribble them out, and don't worry about how it looks - we only care about the motion right now. 

Pay close attention to drawing as long a line as you can, in one quick fluid stroke, keeping it as straight as possible every time. No feathery lines built up from tiny strokes, no slow, deliberate lines, and definitely no going back to refine each line. Keep doing this until you're confident that you can create one long, confident, straight line along the longest edge of the paper.

Next, it's time to draw different shapes with corners - any polygon will do! So think about triangles, squares, rectangles, pentagons, octagons - anything that has straight edges and corners. Same as with the lines, you want to draw each of these in one motion, without lifting your pen. Keep going until you're confident that you can draw a standard, perfectly symmetrical polygon in one motion.

Finally, it's time to draw some circles. Now this is where it gets really tricky. If you've never drawn a freehand circle before, start with ovals and work your way up. The point is, again, to use one long line to create each circle/oval. Don't worry about making the ends meet, just make sure you're only using one line.

The easy version of this exercise is to draw a circle in the direction towards your dominant hand - clock-wise for right-handed people, and anti-clockwise for lefties. Once you have this down, challenge yourself by switching directions - draw towards your non-dominant side!

These basic drills are something I do every single day before I start drawing or writing, or even setting up my bullet journal spreads.

How this step works:

Humans have a natural tendency to tense up when they're stressed - this is a simple reflex response, and we all have this. A majority of us store most of this tension in our neck and shoulders. A lot of the times, we carry tension in these areas even when we're not stressed, just out of sheer habit.

By mobilising your shoulders, you're reverse-hacking your brain. If stress causes your muscles to tense up, simple logic states that relaxed neck and shoulder muscles mean you're not under stress anymore.

Your brain doesn't understand causality, just correlations. So if your muscles are tensed, your brain is going to connect it to stress, regardless of whether there's actual stress. And, vice versa, if your muscles are deliberately relaxed, your brain is going to connect it to calm, peaceful experiences, even if you're tied up to a rail track, cartoon-style!

The reason I mentioned using your entire arm to draw, and not just your wrists, was to ensure that your brain is constantly perceiving loose, stretched out muscles, allowing it to calm down and settle into the rhythm of creating.

Step 3: Advanced Drills and Note-Taking

For this step, make sure you also have a notepad or a word processor software open.

Here's what we're going to do: as we free our muscles even more, and direct our conscious thoughts towards slightly more advanced motions, our subconscious/creative brain will take this opportunity to unwind. This is when the ideas will start to trickle in again.

So while you go through the next set of drills, make sure you're able to pause for a second and take notes whenever something interesting comes to you!

Again, try not to judge or analyse any of the ideas, simply note them down.

Okay, so the first think we're going to do is draw a bunch of cubes. These could be facing any direction, have any perspective, and be any size that you want them to be. I highly encourage playing with all of those parameters until you have a bunch of differently sized cubes, facing different directions.

Now, go back to each cube, and begin to draw diagonals on each surface of each cube, connecting opposite corners. You want each face of each cube to have large X-es on them.

Next, draw a circle on each face of the cube, so that your circle is evenly distributed across the surface, and touches the centres of all four edges. This is hard to explain, so just look at the gif below, where I draw these out.

I will say it again: you need to do all of these in one motion each - no going back to correct any of the lines or circles! Sure, you can erase an entire line off and start over, but you absolutely can not simply erase the "bad" parts and correct them.

And like I said, take note of any ideas that pop up. This may not happen the first time you try these drills out, but once you get used to the motions,  your conscious brain will learn to switch off when you're drill-ing!

Also, don't push your brain for ideas. I understand it can be frustrating to go through all these exercises and end up with nothing, but remember, you're doing this for the process and not for the result! It is never a waste to carry out these exercises because, at the very least, you'll end up with a much steadier hand and confident lines!

But should an idea arrive, don't just drop everything you're doing and go chasing that spark. Make sure you finish your drills, because there will be even more where the last idea came from!

And finally, always remember that creativity is an infinite resource.

You will never "run out", and there will always be more. 

A lot of us are afraid of "using up" all our creativity, and "peaking too soon". I promise you, as long as you're open to creativity, it will always bring you novelty. And all of these drills and exercises will help you become and stay open to these novel ideas, regardless of which field you work in, because creativity is universal!

So play around with these exercises and tell me how well they work for you! You can drop me a message over on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or via e-mail at any time, and we can talk about anything under the sun, whenever you like! And if you like this post, please take a second to share it and help a friend unblock their creativity, too!

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Creativity on fleek! (a.k.a. how to quickly and effectively get over a creative block)

As always, thank you so much for reading, and I'll see you guys again very soon!

All my love,

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