Creative fuel

Posted by:
Kaitlyn Wells

Kids have the biggest imagination. I can remember when I was a kid, I would make up stories, draw pictures of things that weren’t really there, and imagine other worlds that don’t really exist. As an adult, have you ever noticed that sometimes you don’t have quite the same creative spark you had as a kid?

So, how do you fuel your creative world?

About a year ago, maybe more, I stumbled across a few books that help creatives find their muse. The two books I’ve been using (and will be referencing for this post) are: “Zing!” by Sam Harrison, and “Caffeine for the Creative Team” by Stefan Muman & Wendy Lee Oldfield. Both give exciting, interactive tips and exercises that help fuel the creative mind. After going through both of these books, I’ve pulled together some of my favorites; I even have some examples to show you.

Get off your damn computer.

The biggest mistake I make when looking for an idea, is I keep Googling. Get your research and move on. Explore beyond the internet and actually get out there. Take a walk, sit in a cafe. People-watch, as some would say (just no stalking, please). Take a sketch book with you or a small pad of paper, sit somewhere and sketch or write out words. How are you feeling that day? What are some of the sounds you’re hearing? What’s the weather like? What types of things are around you? What colors do you see? Did you happen to overhear some weird statement while in line at Starbucks? What are the people around you like? What are they doing? What might you say to them if you wanted to start a conversation? Exploring can open your eyes to new things and in turn spark an idea.

Do Something Different.

If you’re a designer, like me, try reading a poetry blog instead of a design blog. Read something you wouldn’t normally read, such as a local newspaper (print, not digital), a book about anthropology or ethnography (as our very own Lena Blackstock would say). Eat somewhere new or cook a new meal, make a random turn on your way home or lay in the grass and stare at the clouds (you can find faces in them, I swear). Ride your bike instead of walking, keep a journal. Doing something different gives you a new experience, and new experiences can lead to new solutions.

Get others to help you.

If you’re stuck, have someone else help you. Talk about your ideas, collaborating with someone else can turn your mediocre idea into a great one. Great work rarely comes from just one person, it comes from a group of people. Maybe that idea you had 3 months ago for a different project might just work for this new one, bouncing ideas off of someone else can help that come out.

Do a group exercise.

The very first exercise in “Caffeine for the Creative Team” by Stefan Muman & Wendy Lee Oldfield goes a little something like this: “…each of you is going to use a pencil to create a monster. The only restrictions are: [1] once you put the pencil down to start drawing, you can’t lift it back up – scribble, scratch, shade, do whatever you want, but you can’t remove the pencil from the paper until you’re done – and [2] you and a partner are working together to create one monster, so you must both start at the same time on the same piece of paper working on the same monster. You can talk it out as you go, or stay silent and read from one another’s direction what you can add to the monster. Make sure you have enough space around a table to move, get different perspectives and see what’s been created.”

This very first exercise caught my eye as something fun to do this morning, so I did. My Creative Director (Damir Brajdic) and I gave it a go.

This little guy (nicknamed Kamir) only took a few minutes to do, he’s lopsided, partly hairy and partly scaly, but he has a lot of character and it helped open up our minds for the day. Another book you can reference is “Caffeine for the Creative Mind” also by Stefan Muman & Wendy Lee Oldfield…I have this book at home, so maybe next time I can show off another example.

There are so many ways to find inspiration and spark your creativity and these are only a handful. So tell me…

How do you fuel your creative world?

About stokefire

A Washington DC-area branding & advertising agency, designs strategic identities - names, taglines & logos - and effective marketing campaigns.

2 Responses to “Creative fuel”

  1. Stefan Mumaw says:

    GREAT monster! Glad to see you takin’ the plunge. And wonderful advice, by the way. Well done!

  2. Kaitlyn Wells says:

    Hi Stefan!

    Thanks for the comment! I really enjoyed drawing the monster and I’ve been searching through the book to find the next one I want to do. The idea of opening your mind in a way that’s creative, but may not directly link to your profession is exciting and refreshing and I look forward to doing it again!

    – Kaitlyn

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