How to Get Those Creative Juices Flowing

From Jeff: This is a guest post by Jim Woods. Jim is a writer, dreamer, and coach who lives in Nashville, TN. You can connect with him at his blog or on Twitter (@unknownjim).

Let's get something straight: You are creative. You've completed term papers, finished science fair projects, and participated in school plays. Maybe even written a poem or two for that someone special.

The creativity is there, somewhere — so how do you get it to come out?

Flowing Water Photo
Photo credit: Luke Addison (Creative Commons)

A formula of sorts

Here's how this works:

Information + Inspiration = Creation

Without information, it's hard to create. You need some “stuff” to start with:

  • If you're a writer, you need a topic.
  • If a musician, you need a key.
  • If a painter, a canvas.

You get the idea. But it doesn't stop there. Without inspiration, your work will fail to be creative and you'll end up regurgitating the same content over and over again.

You are capable of creative, innovative work the world has yet to see. It may take time and effort to get to a point where it flows, but it's in there.

Although you've heard all kinds of steps and solutions about working through creative blocks, I'm going to tell you the truth: This is about choices. Plain and simple. And here are several important ones you should make to get the creativity flowing:

Do your homework

Homework is practice. It's not glamorous, and it's rarely fun. Homework is digging ditches with your bare hands; it's playing that same stupid scale on the piano — over and over. This takes intentionality. It means less time on the couch and more reps.

Don't kid yourself — this is going to be painful. Pain is inevitable; it's part of the process. Embrace it for the gift that it offers, because the struggle is what makes it worth it.

Practice usually takes longer than we'd like, but never longer that we need. The consolation is that if you chase your passion, the work may be tolerable, even enjoyable, at times. But it will still be work.

Expect resistance

Roadblocks, irritation, and failure are all realities you face. Expect them and push through, anyway.

There will always be resistance, always another challenge to overcome. If you fall, get back up. Pity parties have no place in this work. What you need to do is keep moving.

Stubbornness is now your greatest ally; use it to persevere. Embrace these difficulties; they're a sure sign you're on the right path.

Read… a lot

You need to read a ton. Seriously. Watch fewer movies, spend less time on Facebook, and quit needlessly checking Twitter.

Use your library card for the gift that it is. Swap books with friends, read a few blogs (but not just blogs), and open the newspaper once in awhile.

Continuously fill your mind with compelling content and inspiring stories; these will fuel your process.

Read widely. Don’t be too quick to dismiss a book or magazine as irrelevant; if a subject doesn’t resonate immediately, give it time. You never know where inspiration may be lurking.

Learn from others

You are not in this alone. So stop acting like it.

Join a community group or create one yourself. These can provide great accountability and encouragement. Moreover, they're a great way to get feedback on your work and grow in your craft.

Another way to learn is to meet potential mentors and coaches in person. Ask them out to lunch or coffee — and pay the bill. Be intentional: show up on time, ask questions, and pay attention.

These conversations will provide the insight you need to take the next step in your journey.

Keep creating

Write until you can't write anymore. Paint until your arm hurts. Sing until your voice goes hoarse.

Now is the time to go for broke. Don't fall for the myth of perfectionism; start moving and see happens. Do not give into your fears of failure or make excuses for why you haven't shown up.

Just begin — and keep going until you get good.

Get ready for the overflow

Always be alert and ready for inspiration to come. You never know when it may strike.

Have a notebook or voice recorder handy at all times. Why? Because inspiration will come at the most random times. And when it does, the overflow will come.

The overflow is when the boring, tedious work you've been plowing through suddenly comes together to create something beautiful. It's when your work begins to feel effortless.

Your inspiration may lead you to make something very different from what you first envisioned, and that's okay. The point is when it really starts to flow, it should stop feeling like work.

A final word

The creative process is not easy; it takes time, energy, and effort. But nothing worth doing is ever easy, is it? That's what makes it wonderful.

It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.
—Jimmy Dugan, A League of Their Own 

Your work will be hard, but it will also be great. Stick with it and enjoy the challenge the journey provides — it's part of the reward.

How do you get your creative juices flowing? Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: Luke Addison (Creative Commons)