Your brain is three pounds’ worth of imagination fuel, but sometimes the tank goes dry.
If you write, it’s an epic, daily struggle to keep pumping out fresh ideas. We communicators also must juggle—every single day—the needs of diverse, demanding, sometimes draining audiences. It’s easy to get frustrated and depleted.
Amid a steady stream of bland assignments, finicky readers (and executives) and the constant search for inspiration, what’s the best way to keep the creative wick lit?
Here are six outside-the-box ways to spark the creative pistons and get the mental wheels turning:
1. Fix something. Are there certain mundane tasks around the house that you’ve farmed out to “experts?”
Whether it’s changing a tire, repairing a deck, building a fort, mending a fence, hanging a door or fixing a toilet, tinkering is an easy way to boost dopamine, and fixing something also enhances creativity.
Embarking upon DIY repairs forces you to use different parts of your brain. Writers tend to be right-brained artistic types; sometimes it helps to flex the other cerebral hemisphere that’s more associated with logic, math and reading boring instruction manuals. Pick a project, watch a how-to video, and rejuvenate your creativity.
(Pro tip: If you do try fixing the toilet, make sure you watch through the entire how-to video—especially to the part where you flush before replacing the fill valve.)
2. Read “The Chronicles of Narnia.” When’s the last time you read for pleasure?
Writers often read all day long for work, which leaves little time or eye strength for pleasure reading. Unfortunately, writers must be avid readers to improve.
If you’re feeling creatively dry or depleted, let C.S. Lewis’ classic seven-volume series transport you to the magical, wonderful land of Narnia. Far from being “embarrassing,” revisiting childhood books through adult eyes can reignite the sparks of joy, whimsy and adventure that adulthood tends to snuff out.
As the man himself wrote: “One day, you will be old enough to start reading fairytales again.” Perhaps you are old enough now.
3. Attend a religious service. Humans have an innate desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. If you’ve long avoided scratching this spiritual itch—or even if you’ve lost the faith—make a pilgrimage to your local church, temple, mosque or enigmatic cave monastery to soak up the good vibes.
At the very least, you’ll probably get a doughnut and coffee out of the deal. At best, you’ll get a rush of mindful, soul-stirring creativity.
4. Find your roots. Americans, especially, are not known for honoring—or even knowing the names of—our forebears. That’s a shame.
Don’t let our individualistic, forward-thinking culture (or a potentially shameful family history) prevent you from learning about your ancestors. Piecing together a genealogy opens up an educational rabbit trail that will surely enliven your imagination.
Who were the first people in your family who came to America? What were their lives like? Do you have any presidents, queens, conquistadors or notorious pirates in your line?
Traveling abroad apparently boosts creativity, too, so bonus points if you can travel to your land of origin.
Fun, zany, obscure facts are rich fodder for content. Every trivia night question is a potential blog post or article. If you’re a freelancer, ask your accountant about writing off that trivia night bar tab as work-related “market research.”
6. Ask kids random questions. If you ever seek truthful—or hilarious—answers to life’s big questions, ask a child. If you’re not sure what to write about this week, ask a group of 7-year-olds to blurt out the first things that come to mind. Tell Tommy and Suzy about an assignment you’ve been putting off, and maybe you’ll glean some fresh ideas.
It’s true that kids say the darnedest things. They also have a knack for saying (sometimes shouting) the most interesting, jarringly insightful things. Don’t ever underestimate the mighty, unrestrained creative power of little ones. Sometimes, it takes the mind of a child to help you break out of a creative slump.