If you’ve ever been tasked with creating something, you’re no doubt familiar with the overwhelming pressure to make it the greatest, most unique thing anyone’s ever seen.
(If you’re not familiar with that feeling, well...stop showing off.)
In the Digital Age especially, we’re all keenly aware that there’s nothing new under the sun--and yet somehow, it’s easy to feel that everyone else has fresher, more compelling ideas. Add that dash of Imposter Syndrome to the fact that 2020 put all of our normal routines through a Vitamix, and you have a perfect recipe for creative blockage. Sigh.
As a Shopify merchant, you rarely have the time to wait for the Creativity Fairies to come and sprinkle inspiration. We totally feel that. Here are 9 tips to get the creative juices flowing for any project.
Change Up Your Surroundings
Hoo, boy--we’ve spent a lot of time staring at the same four walls in the last year. In addition to being generally bOrInG, staying in one place too long minimizes the amount of input your brain receives, meaning there’s a lot less mental “content” to pull from for inspiration.
To help alleviate creative stagnation (and soul-crushing monotony), switch up your space. Take a walk and scribble thoughts into a notebook or on your phone. Work (socially-distanced) on a patio at a coffee shop. Go people-watching and spin up stories about their lives in your head. Anything that changes the information you’re taking in will wake up your senses and get things moving.
If going out isn’t in the cards, get weird with what you’ve got: put something new on the walls, rearrange your furniture, change up what you listen to--anything that will create variability in the room where you work most.
Practice Non-Judgemental Brain Dumps
This suggestion may cause our perfectionist friends to hyperventilate, but recording an uninterrupted stream of consciousness is one of the easiest ways to generate new ideas--or new iterations of old ideas.
Set aside whatever period of time you have to spare--could be five minutes, could be an hour--and just write (or record an audio clip of) whatever comes to mind.
The key phrase here is non-judgemental. Don’t make any assessments--good or bad--about what’s coming out. Resist the urge to self-edit at all costs. Just let it flow.
If you’re having trouble getting started, jumpstart the process by making a list of cue words related to whatever you need to create, and then build on them. If you need to put together a promotional email for a new product, for example, think about it on a large scale and begin to write down whatever words come to mind, no matter what they are. If it’s a body wash, for example, you might jot down:
Blue Milk from Star Wars
(No matter what they are, remember?) Once you’ve finished, take a step back from the material and come back to it later to examine why you think those words came to mind. You never know where inspiration might come from, and we’re seeing a pretty memorable email come together here.
Phone a Friend
Our friends and peers can be an invaluable resource for creative inspiration, because creativity is all about perspective. Much of the most celebrated creative work in history achieved that status because it flipped the script on what’s “normal.”
Think: Jackson Pollock, the Beatles, or Kim Kardashian. (Yes, we know, ew, but the girl corners the market on digital disruption.) Whether you like their art or not, there’s no arguing that they revolutionized their respective industries in their time.
Talking to others (with an open mind) can provide that same kind of revelatory experience because it breaks the cycle of our “normal” thought. All the better if they’re creatives too! Collaboration fosters creativity in and of itself.
Balance the Content You Consume
Ingenuity doesn’t occur in a vacuum, so you’ll need to load your inspiration arsenal with plenty of content that’s creatively motivational to you. This can be done with social media apps like Instagram and Pinterest, books, movies, music--whatever tickles your fancy! Creating moodboards (digital or physical) is also a great way to curate things that visually inspire you.
That said, there’s balance to be had here. Overconsumption of others’ work can lead to:
- Dissatisfaction with your own creativity
- Feeling like everything has already been done
- Idea overwhelm
- Copycatting (even unintentionally!)
To avoid this kind of self-defeating content gluttony, try paring down the number of creatives you follow, restrict screen time, or try a new way of seeking inspiration that doesn’t involve pulling from the outside world. (We’ve heard meditation is a good place to start.)
Watch Mad Men (Or, Think Outside the Box)
Tako Creative Director, Grace, has watched all seasons of Mad Men no less than 4 times, and get this: it’s actually made her a better creative.
Says Grace, “Mad Men [is] written so well, I feel like I’m just watching very talented colleagues work. Don Draper might be a complete disaster in his personal life, but as a Creative Director, he’s pretty genius.”
It may seem odd to draw inspiration from fictional characters, but this is your sign to think outside the box.
Creative success is most often directed by learning how to think instead of what to think.
So, while looking at the product of another creative’s labor (such as a website design or a painting) can be inspirational, diving deeper and learning about their process, then brainstorming how you can apply the same principles to your own work, can be just as invigorating.
Set Goals and Work Backward
If you’re not feeling particularly inspired, try doing something a little more tactical or administrative instead, like plotting out a content calendar or making a to-do list.
Schedule everything according to your goals (“we need x number of tweets about x product this month”), and then work backward to fill in the blanks with actual content. This will give you a “big picture” look at your project before you throw yourself into content creation and is a great way to trick your brain into the idea-generating mood.
Keep Up to Date with Trends
Ugh, we know. Who wants to be trendy? <gag>
Negative connotations aside, a trend is simply a prevailing tendency or inclination. If your primary goal is to get the attention of a customer and encourage an action (marketing and sales, anyone?) you’ll have to be aware of their prevailing tendencies and inclinations.
This doesn’t mean you should be a slave to the almighty Fad, but do pay attention to thought leaders in your industry. Read articles, listen to podcasts, and soak up all that delicious knowledge on a regular basis.
Never forget: customers are finicky and easily bored. It’s important to stay on top of what’s making them tick.
Create Something, Then Destroy It
This exercise is particularly powerful if you make something with your hands--like a drawing or clay sculpture--and it’s Buddhist monk-approved!
It’s easy to be daunted by the idea that our creation won’t “take” with our audience or that, if it does, it won’t leave a lasting impression.
Creating something for destruction is a psychological exercise that reminds our brains of the impermanence of everything, which can yank us out of the “I must create a legacy” loop and open us up to just make.
Plus, it’s just damn cathartic.
Dedicate Time in Your Week to Creative Work
Especially in times when creativity feels like a distant memory, it can be easy to conveniently “forget” to make things.
To avoid putting off your creative work, try scheduling it into your week. We mean this in the most literal way possible: put it on your calendar, block off the time like you would for a meeting, and do not concede to fill that time with anything else.
If something unavoidable arises and you need to reschedule--do it like you would a meeting with your boss: quickly, and for the not-so-distant future. You deserve to take your creative work seriously.
Generating content ideas does not have to be an ominous process; you’ve got the chops. Just keep your environment fresh and your mind open. Talk to friends and peers, practice non-judgemental brain dumps, and know when to stop looking at Instagram. Set goals and keep up on trends. Remember the impermanence of everything and look for inspiration in unusual places.
Last, but not certainly not least: value 👏🏻 your 👏🏽 own 👏🏾 work. 👏🏿
Looking for other creative inspiration and know-how? The lovely interviewees in our Conversations with Black Creators series have a lot to offer.
P.S. Don’t forget the other delicious bites we’re cookin’ up weekly at the Tako Stand.