In this life, there is work to be done. There are emails to answer, meetings to hold and laundry to satisfy. We find ourselves locked into routines out of sheer necessity. And, through these, there are the inevitable failures and mishaps that serve to create walls around all that enchants us.
We may think we are protecting our hearts but, eventually, we find ourselves having gone months without being carried by inspiration. And, then, when we reach for it, it seems to have forgotten our names. We strain to connect, but there is only static. We make a seánce for our genius, but it treats us like a stranger.
Ahead are eight dreamy and practical ways to burn through those creative blocks and link arms with inspiration, no matter how long, hard or boring the road has been.
1. Create a brag board.
How skillful we are at echoing back to our loved ones their most noteworthy accomplishments, yet we seem to suffer amnesia when it comes to remembering our own. One stumble or stretch of a creative dry spell, and we worry we are doomed to a life of moldy old could-have-been’s. We forget we have ever made magic at all. We either think our best work is behind us, or maybe that we never produced anything worth a damn. But what if our best work is ahead of us?
Rekindling starts with remembering. We are fueled by self-belief. In her fiery and history-making speech at Billboard Women in Music in 2016, while being honored as Woman of the Year, Madonna said, “There is no safety in this life except for self-belief.”
And, when it comes to cultivating a sense of creative worthiness, she is right.
So cover a board with clips, photographs, sketches and quotes that commemorate all that you are most proud of having created. Make it roar with applause. Are you still flooded with chills when you recite those song lyrics you wrote four years ago? That silhouette you shaded in art class? That script you poured yourself into for months? What about the time you hit that high note? If calling upon those ingenious moments and exuberant brain babies still causes your body to buzz, throw a party for them. Give them a trophy and relive the glory.
While vision boards are fantastic resources for keeping you focused on where you wish to go, brag boards remind you of why you are equipped to reach those places. They remind you of what you are capable of doing again and again.
2. Step into time travel.
Sometimes our creativity is stifled because we are too tangled up by the stresses, obligations and monotony of our daily lives. We become imprisoned by our responsibilities and routines.
When we transport ourselves to other eras and periods by way of albums, books, films or documentaries — points in time where the modes of communication were different, the fashions were different, the economies were different and the trending names and faces were different — it unchains us from all that we think we know for sure. We loosen from the ties that bind us to current annoyances and troubles. And that opens trap doors for new and interesting creative possibilities.
3. Explore an unknown corner of your city or town.
Wander-lusting is a virtue, though not everyone is in a position to travel great distances. But that doesn’t mean a Saturday venture to an indie record store or a hiking trail on the other side of town — one you’ve never paid much attention to — won’t serve your senses with a dousing of wonder. Anytime we experience something strikingly new, our brains create new neural pathways. New neural pathways mean more expansive ways of thinking, which then serves as a ripple effect in a multitude of areas of our lives.
So go for a gorgeous drive or take a train ride. Find a swimming hole, a field of flowers or a cluster of obscure antique stores. Discover a new corner of your community or region for biking, kayaking, picnicking or sunbathing. Venture out of the realm of familiarity. Let it show you what else may be lurking right under your nose.
#4 Taste a foreign flavor.
Wander over to your local international market to taste a food or drink you’ve never been introduced to. Even those with the most diverse palettes haven’t sampled everything.
Not a particularly daring person? How about starting with something different for breakfast. Instead of rattling off that same lazy order for a banana nut muffin and a steamed latte´, ask for something else. Try the quiche or the parfait. Eat something that’s “weird” to you — whether foreign or simply overlooked. It sounds simple, but this prevents you from falling into the trappings of monotony, while keeping your mind alert and your consciousness expansive.
#5 Tune to your pleasure principle.
I’m sure you have your favorite fragrances, flavors, sights and songs, but how often do you pause to be fully alive within — and even romanced by — your experiences of them? This is not at all about pacifying pain with pleasures, but about letting yourself stretch out your humanness within the orbit of your most treasured things.
Become wide open to remembering all of the things you have most enjoyed in your life. The smell of a freshly-cut lawn. The whistle of a tea pot. The texture of ice cream. The whine of a steel guitar. A plush throw blanket draped over your shoulders. The feeling of hands stroking your hair. The fiery sun setting over a beautiful rocky horizon.
And, as you remember each of these things, move into pursuit of them. Pleasure is the gateway to the soul. The soul is where your creativity lives in waiting.
#6 Dress your flesh in a different color.
Do little black dresses fill your closet? Do you always seem to gravitate toward gray or white tops paired with skinny jeans? Or, maybe, when you’re feeling sexy, you dare to slip on that playful red romper or blush camisole.
But how about introducing the hues you always pass by in the store? You know — the ones that are a bit “too much” or way out of your norm, yet you feel strangely drawn to. Zip yourself into magenta or cobalt. Slide your feet into those lavender heels that caught your eye. Try seeing your reflection in a different color — one that makes you feel mildly to moderately uncomfortable — and follow whatever else it inspires.
#7 Stretch a dormant creative muscle.
So often we never consider exploring the creative terrains that we don’t comfortably know. We may lean into the page because the illumination of characters finds us organically. We may reach for a sketchpad, a camera or a guitar because those devices feel like home. But why not step outside of our zones of comfort and see what else we are capable of birthing?
What if you were to let yourself swim a lap or two through artistic bodies of water you were always curious about yet equally intimidated by? Like that documentary idea you once had but quickly filed away with inspirations long expired, or that spooky black and white home film you were excited about for a week before life got hectic again. Maybe you could even wipe the dust from your piano keys.
Remember: It isn’t necessary for the outcome of your creative efforts to be worth sharing with anyone other than yourself. The point is that it stretches and awakens a dormant creative muscle, which will then assist your most beloved creative muscles in remembering what they are capable of championing to the world.
#8 Exile old energy and make fresh space.
Cleanliness and organization shouldn’t be reduced to the physical avoidance of filth and clutter; this also washes away the clutter from your mind.
So thumb through your belongings — from your car to your purse to your closets and drawers — and discard what no longer serves you. Perhaps some of the items were given to you by an ex lover, and carry with them the residue of betrayal and heartbreak. Maybe there are coats hanging in your closet that remind you of when you lost someone you were sure was irreplaceable. If an item makes your stomach flip or your throat tighten, get rid of it. It must be exiled.
There is no reason to “hang on” to anything — whether it be a belief, handbag or pair of heels, which steers you into a negative zone. You’re not just cleaning out your clothing racks and junk drawers; you’re creating fresh and breathable space within the corners of your mind. And that’s how the good stuff gets in.