Guest author: Mike Wienke
Whether you are a writer, a painter or a creative person of any sort, there’s nothing more intimidating than staring at a blank canvas. At times, it feels daunting and can even cause anxiety. After all, a step in any direction is the first step down a creative pathway…
…and what if it’s the wrong path?
This fear of the unknown tends to guide us into safer waters. The familiar feels non-threatening and sometimes, it just feels rut… I mean right.
So, how do you force yourself to venture into new creative spaces to get out of a creative rut? The easiest way is to flood your brain with new fodder. With these five brainstorm techniques, you’ll get the creative juices flowing again and break out of your creative comfort zone.
1. Create An Inspiration File
- This is one of the most common brainstorm techniques for most artists, and if you aren’t already doing this you should. It’s easy to do and even easier to maintain. All you need to start is some place to keep images that inspire you.
- It can be a moleskin sketch book, an accordion file or a file on your computer. Every time you find something that inspires you or intrigues you throw it in your inspiration file.
- When you’re getting ready to brainstorm new ideas, pull out your artistic inspiration file and go to town. Reorganize it based on different criteria, such as color, or content or style.
- Look for ideas in how these images fall together. Pick one image and make up a story about it. What happens next? Paint or draw the next part of the story.
2. Draw The Dictionary
- A dictionary isn’t just a tool for a writer. It’s a wonderful brainstorm tool for anyone.
- After all, it contains every word in the English language, so you won’t find a broader source of inspiration.
- Flip to a random page and pick a random word. Repeat. Repeat again.
- Eventually, you’ll start building a list of random words. Do any of them naturally fit together? Do they draw create an image in your mind? What do they have in common?
3. Forced Association
- In a way, forced association is related to an activity for which you might use your inspiration file.
- To start you’ll need a couple of different categories of content. It could be images, words or a combination of the two. To create these categories, you can base them on your subject matter, your medium, the emotion you want to convey, etc.
- Now, select one image or word from each of your categories and force a connection between them. How are they related or similar? If you combine them, what do they make? The strength of the relationship isn’t important. It’s more important to find some sort of connection.
- In no time, you’ll find a pair that seems to be a natural fit and sends your creative energy in some new and unique direction.
4. Stream Of Consciousness Writing
- Another writing exercise? Absolutely. Once again, this is a time-tested method of finding a unique creative concept.
- Start with one simple question. What do you want to create? A still life. A sculpture of a man playing the bagpipes.
- A sweater embroidered with a likeness of Elvis. Whatever strikes your fancy. Next, give yourself a time limit that’s at least 5 minutes long.
- Now write. Will it be fat Elvis or thin Elvis? What kind of jumpsuit is he wearing? What’s he got in his hands? A microphone and a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.
- When the time expires, put your pen down and create what you’ve just written about.
5. Meditation / Do Something else
- As the old saying goes, “A watched pot never boils,” so stop waiting for inspiration to strike.
- Your brain is a marvelous multi-tasking machine, so go do something else. Ideally, you should pick something monotonous like mowing the lawn or washing the dishes.
- Once your mind starts to wander, you’ll be surprised how quickly it will start generating ideas.
- The trick is to record them as soon as they pop up, so you don’t forget them.
After trying some of the steps above, you’ll start accomplishing more than just staring at a blank canvas!
Thanks Mike! I really enjoyed your unique brainstorming techniques. I have never tried the ‘dictionary’ tip! You can find my Twitter friend, Mike at his blog http://brainboltz.com
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