Being creative means constantly evolving.
You might be in a state of creative flow, where everything feels natural and effortless, but what about when you hit a dry spell? It’s easy to stagnate and rest on the toolbox that got you to where you are today.
Where do you find inspiration? How do you ensure your work is relevant? And to put it broadly, how can you be more creative?
Here are 101 ideas, big and small, tested and true, to add to your creative toolbox.
These ideas, habits, and techniques will fuel your creative thinking and give you a foundation so that the next time you need them, you don’t have to dig as deep.
1. Start Early
Set that alarm clock! Carving out more time in the mornings can give you more time to focus distraction-free on creative projects.
Joan Miro, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Sylvia Plath are a few of many creatives who swore by getting an early start to the day.
2. Reduce Screen Time
Cutting back on screen time can have a significant impact on creativity. Putting down your devices promotes healthier sleep habits, leading to better creative functioning and a boosted mood.
3. Incorporate Movement
Studies show that regular physical activity (however much or little) can be linked to heightened levels of inventiveness and creativity. Chuck Palahniuk, Haruki Murakami, and Anna Wintour all place a lot of importance on the impact movement has on their creativity.
4. Take Effective Breaks
Daily (or even hourly) breaks are a standard part of most people’s day. But taking an effective break can make all the difference in encouraging a creative mindset.
Get the most from your 15 by being intentional about break time. Try switching “off”, stretching, meditating, refueling, or whatever works best for you.
5. Prioritize Digital Well-being
Perhaps easier said than done, but prioritizing your well-being in an online world is important for maintaining an effective creative process.
Rather than falling into negative habits (like doomscrolling), focus on using technology in a way that benefits your creativity (such as interacting with your creative network).
6. Build a Creative Network
Building a creative network can provide inspiration, motivation, helpful feedback, tools, and knowledge for increasing your skills.
To find your community, keep an eye out for like-minded creatives by joining meetups, freelance platforms, and other social networks.
7. Be Confident
Letting go of imposter syndrome isn’t always easy. Overcoming self-doubt and working towards creative confidence is a great tool for creatives.
Luckily, there are strategies for letting go of imposter syndrome and developing confidence in your creativity. You can start building confidence by getting outside of your comfort zone.
8. Find the Right Playlist
Depending on the way you work, music can help nudge you toward creative ideas and inspiration. One study found that happy, high-energy music can increase creativity. For others, slow and calming tunes might do the trick.
Whatever your ideal work habits and goals are, find the playlist that works for you.
9. Build On Ideas: Yes, And…
Building upon the ideas of coworkers and colleagues is a great way to practice both collaboration and creativity. Try playing with the “Yes, And” concept. Rather than dismissing the ideas of others immediately, see if you can build on them to create something that works.
10. Work Towards Objectivity
For many creatives, their work feels personal. This can result in confirmation and negativity biases, as well as the “Ikea Effect”.
To work effectively as a creative within a team, work towards greater objectivity by getting some distance from the work, thinking about the intended audience, and asking for feedback.
11. Take Feedback Well
Getting feedback can feel uncomfortable and scary. Being open-minded when it comes to feedback is also essential for healthy growth and development.
Being more receptive to feedback allows you to integrate the perspectives and skills of others into your work. And will improve your ideas.
12. Watch Other Creatives
Keep an eye on what other creatives in your field are doing. Subscribe to various newsletters and blogs to stay up to date with new ideas. Take it further – don’t only follow creative people who inspire you, but engage with them.
13. Learn From The Trailblazers
Get inspired by creatives who broke barriers and overcame obstacles to put their work into the world. It’s always inspiring to learn about people who produced amazing creative while jumping through hoops.
14. Watch Documentaries
There are endless documentaries out there to inspire your creativity. Check out these great lists of documentaries on graphic design, photography, and the art of advertising to get started.
15. Break the Rules
There’s a reason that many creative minds have spent time behind bars or excluded from society. Creative people often aren’t afraid to break the rules and push boundaries. Like George Carlin’s taboo routine or Banksy’s “vandalism”, don’t shy away from breaking a few rules in the name of creativity.
16. Look in Unexpected Places
Creative inspiration doesn’t manifest out of thin air. Those who have experienced creative block know that all too well. Rather than waiting for the *ding*, look around you for inspiration. Street signs, fashion on the sidewalk, furniture, or the fonts in a magazine, inspiration is everywhere, you simply have to be open to it.
17. Learn to Write Effective Emails
Better business writing will put you up a weight class. Sounding more respectful, approachable, and professional (all at the same time) in emails is an art in itself. It might not make you more creative, but it will definitely help you land the creative gigs you are looking for.
18. Be Patient
Does life-changing creative work happen overnight? Unlikely. Overnight success is a myth. Don’t underestimate the power of patience in the creative process.
19. Expect Failure
When we do fail, we tend to feel ashamed. What we might not realize is that those failures are pivotal in our journey toward greater things. And embracing our failures makes us better collaborators, colleagues, and leaders.
20. Learn From Failure
Live and learn, right? You can’t get better at something if you don’t try, fail, and make mistakes. As long as you learn from them!
21. Be Curious
As we get comfortable or set in ways of doing things, we can forget to incorporate curiosity into our lives. Being curious benefits creative thinking and allows us to explore more of the world – beyond our own immediate environment or experiences.
22. Set Up Your Workspace
Your workspace can have a significant impact on the way you work. Think of the workspace as an extension of your creative process. Does your workspace inspire you? Does it reflect what you want to produce?
23. Or, Change Your Environment Entirely
Finding fresh inspiration might be as simple as a change of space. Head to a coffee shop, co-working space, Airbnb, or even a picnic table in the forest. Anywhere with fresh energy.
At the very least, try working from a different room in your home. Author Agatha Christie claimed the bathtub was where she came up with the best ideas.
24. Outsource When Needed
Having a network with an established community of creatives is essential – especially when it comes to offloading tedious tasks or work that isn’t inspiring joy.
Freelance workers are a great option for outsourcing things like design, editing, illustration, and writing.
25. Practice Being Concise
Keep it simple.
26. Read as Much as Possible
Spend as much time reading as you can spare. There are enormous benefits to reading (as a bonus, it correlates with being a millionaire). You’ll never regret adding these books on creativity to your library.
27. Let Creative Ideas Evolve
Sometimes you get it on the first go. Most often though, it will take many iterations. Give yourself space and time to let your creative ideas evolve and develop over time. Don’t get stuck on the way a creative execution is “supposed” to be.
28. Use Rewards Wisely
A reward system can but doesn’t always boost creative output. In fact, it may lead to an “overjustification effect”, causing you to abandon the task altogether. So, don’t lean too heavily on positive reinforcement or the promise of rewards, but figure out a way that rewards work for your process.
29. Experiment With Constraints
Though it’s not the answer for everyone, it can be helpful to experiment with working with constraints in your creative process.
Try various time constraints, using a limited number of colors, or something even more brain-tickling, like avoiding words with three letters. It’s a great exercise for creative thinking.
30. Step Into Different Shoes
A great practice for any creative is to see things from a different perspective. Think about how your work will be viewed by the intended audience.
How might it be seen by someone on the other side of the world or by someone 100 years from now? Stepping outside of a narrow perspective can also be a great way to avoid biases and see your work more objectively.
31. Embrace Boredom
We often fill every moment of the day with tasks and activities out of fear of being bored. We don’t often end up with downtime unless we make it intentionally.
Letting yourself be bored or letting the mind wander can be a valuable practice for developing the imagination and thinking of new ideas.
32. Hone Your Marketing Skills
Creatives should have a basic understanding of marketing regarding pricing, distribution, presentation, and more. Check out our favorite marketing blogs, newsletters, and podcasts to get you started.
33. Show Gratitude
There’s power in showing gratitude and saying “thank you” for opportunities and experiences. Thanking people for their time and contributions will also make you a better leader and collaborator. The data suggests that saying thank you can make you more creative.
34. Nurture Relationships
Successful creative collaborations rely on good communication and relationships. Great creative work happens when teams put effort into how they relate to one another.
35. Enjoy the Journey
It’s easy to get hung up on the outcome or “final result,” – but remember that the process itself can convey just as important a message. At the end of the day, you spend all your time getting to an outcome and only a small period with the outcome itself.
36. Find a Balance of Experimentation
Establishing a routine and rituals that work is essential for creative productivity. But having a healthy balance between that process and experimentation is also important.
37. Make Your Eyes Happy
Sight is an important part of being a productive creator. Studies show that surrounding yourself with the color blue can encourage creativity, while red can aid with attention to detail. Find the colors and visual cues that work best for you.
38. Tap Into Your Sense of Smell
Scent can be a powerful tool for fostering creativity and inspiring new ideas. Because of the strong connection between smells and memories, scent can be an effective conduit for boosting cognitive performance and creative thinking.
39. Develop Your Cognitive Flexibility
Developing cognitive flexibility is a stronger indicator of success than IQ. It enables you to think about multiple ideas and outcomes simultaneously and allows you to adapt your thinking rapidly – an important skill in creative fields.
40. Challenge Assumptions
When should you take things at face value, and when should you actively question general assumptions? Just because everyone is doing things one way doesn’t mean it will be the one that works best for your project.
Instead, build your own opinions based on experience and research. Challenging assumptions – constructively – will make everyone’s ideas stronger.
41. Think of Bad Ideas First
A big benefit of the brainstorming process is that it allows you to come up with a variety of ideas. Don’t be afraid to write down “bad” ideas, or even try them out. Sometimes identifying what you don’t like – and why it doesn’t work – can highlight why the best ideas work.
42. Host Community Brainstorming Sessions
Whether in person or virtually, a joint and diverse brainstorming session can be a great way to both develop relationships with collaborators and get to ideas you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
43. Frame Situations with Optimism
Luck has nothing to do with it. You can make your own luck by shifting to a positive frame of mind.
44. Find a To-do List That Works for You
You’ll be hard up to find a successful leader, CEO, or creative director who doesn’t keep a well-organized and structured to-do list. Whether it’s a list of objectives for your year or smaller daily tasks, it’s always satisfying to tick something off.
Just don’t be afraid to change or adjust your list when needed – It’s not written in stone!
45. Nurture Existing Rituals and Routines
Many creatives spend years trying to get in the right groove. What they don’t realize is that it might already be right in front of them. Pay attention to small actions you take daily, and be intentional about the aspects of your day that make up your natural rituals and routines.
Incremental change is often the easiest, healthiest, and best way to grow.
46. Diversify Your Toolbox
To break out of a creative slump, try using different creative tools, whether physical or digital. Implementing a new tool can be a good brain exercise, and you just might find something that works better for you.
47. Try Something New
Step out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s a different routine, process, community, tool, or non-work-related activity, getting your brain excited and moving can feed your creativity.
48. Put Pen to Paper
In the digital world, we may be neglecting the benefits of writing with a pen on paper. Mindful writing practices and stream-of-consciousness journaling can also be a great way to get creative juices flowing.
49. Invest in Knowledge
Part of growing as a creator involves investing in deeper knowledge. Develop your skills with courses on Linkedin or learn from the best through courses like Masterclass.
50. Learn to Give Great Creative Feedback
Knowing how to give feedback the right way will make you a better leader and collaborator, no matter what kind of project you’re working on. It will also make your network feel comfortable giving you creative feedback.
51. Say Ideas Out Loud
Ideas that live solely in your head can feel abstract, making you question their value. Speaking about ideas out loud to collaborators can help ideas feel real, tangible, and possible. Or even to yourself – but in a place where no one will judge you for talking to yourself, of course.
52. Backwards it About Think
Run through the steps of your plan or process backward to get a new perspective on creative work. Bonus: this is also a great way to proofread.
53. Sign up for Free Online Courses
Learning never ends. There are endless free online courses that you can take to upskill and gain new knowledge and insight into your creative field.
54. Revisit Childhood
The hobbies and passions you had as a child haven’t disappeared. It can be a reawakening and inspiring exercise to revisit the activities you enjoyed as a child.
55. Read a Biography or Memoir
Learn about your chosen field from the people who lived it. They are experts, famous, and successful. There’s some bit of creative wisdom they can impart.
56. Be More Spontaneous
Make time in your schedule for spontaneous activities or work. Letting the universe take the reins might allow innovative ideas to emerge. Let serendipity in.
57. Take a Digital Purge
Much like your physical workspace, your digital space should be clean and organized. It will feel good.
58. Bookmark It
Make use of your browser’s “Bookmarks” folders. Save articles for future reading or useful references and inspiration – like this post!
59. Don’t Compare Yourself
Don’t let comparisons be the killer of your motivation. Comparison, after all, is not only a thief of happiness but also of innovation! Just do you.
60. Create Chaos
Allow for (just enough) chaos to find the sweet spot between comfort and challenge. A certain level of chaos or urgency can ignite passion and creativity.
61. Prioritize DEI
Surround yourself with people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are great for not only creativity, but productivity and collaboration.
62. Tools for Everything Else
Experiment with various tools, apps, or platforms, to ensure you have the right tools that work for you and your workflows. And not only the ones for creating but for other steps, too – like proofing, collaboration, invoicing, communication, and more.
63. Be Mindful
Focus on being mindful and purposeful. It will boost your creative process.
64. Listen to Creative Podcasts
Podcasts are a great way to expand your knowledge and learn from leaders and successful creatives.
65. Embrace Unusual Habits
Creative geniuses are known for embracing their unusual habits. Beethoven got great ideas while he counted coffee beans, and Stravinsky did headstands.
If it works, why question it?!
66. Support and Engage
Actively try to engage with other people working within your field. Seeing other creatives as “competitors” or gatekeeping your methods only blocks you from benefiting from the experiences and knowledge of others.
67. Resist the Mainstream
Does the same methodological process work for everyone? Absolutely not.
There may be some big-picture structures you can’t avoid in your work, but when it comes to your personal process, don’t be limited by one method.
68. Know Your Cycles
Get familiar with your creative cycles – know the ebb and flow of your personal process. Optimize your day for the task.
69. Try Intermittent Collaboration
A combination of solo + async work can be a great way to diversify the way you work and kickstart your workflows. Force this by blocking your calendar for creative time.
70. Close the Door
To find your flow, practice separating work and life. Make your space. A simple way to start is to create a designated work or creative space and, if possible, close the door.
71. Take Time For Play
You know what they say…
72. Use Your Sense of Taste
Tastes associated with pleasurable experiences or memories can be powerful motivators for creative thinking. Why not whip up Nana’s muffin recipe? Or recreate a dish from your travels for a dose of inspiration? At the very least, you’ll be fueled and ready for focused work.
73. Attend Conferences
Be it in person or virtual, conferences and talks are an excellent way to gain knowledge while building up your network.
74. Royalty-Free Resources
Whether or not you use stock images in your creative work, having a library of images that inspire and motivate you can be an excellent resource. Try compiling your own library from this list of free stock photos, videos, images, and resources.
75. Ted Talks
You could binge-watch the 37th season of Gray’s Anatomy this weekend, or you could dive into the world of Ted talks and learn something new.
76. Learn to Self-Edit
Knowing how to self-edit your writing is an essential skill for anyone working with creative.
77. Don’t Ignore the Sense of Touch
Your sense of touch is a tool that can alter your mood very quickly. Keeping tactile objects that trigger specific emotions at your desk can help refocus your thoughts or even help you overcome a mental roadblock.
78. Create Something Pointless
Creative work doesn’t always have to be incredible and perfect. Make something silly. Sometimes, it’s good to create just to create. Not everything needs to change the world.
79. Accept it Can be Ugly
Any published author can tell you that they wouldn’t want anyone seeing the very first draft of a book. The first version is hardly ever perfect, so don’t be afraid to make something ugly or “wrong” – it may help you figure out the right way.
80. Establish Boundaries
In the process of creative work, it’s important to establish healthy boundaries for both yourself and those around you – whether co-workers or family members sharing your space.
81. Take Care of Your Mental Health
If you’re dealing with chronic stress or burnout, it’s hard to be creative. Take care of yourself and focus on your mental health.
82. Practice Saying “No”
Refusing work or opportunities might feel like you’re being disrespectful or ungrateful. But learning to say “no” properly to things that aren’t of value to you can benefit your creative work and collaborations.
83. Just Start!
Jump right in and see what happens. There’s nothing worse than wrestling with a blank page.
84. Solidify Your GTD Techniques
Creative minds are notorious for being all over the board regarding productivity. Purge your hamster wheel brain’s to-do list and get your techniques for “Getting Things Done” in order.
Well, don’t actually steal. But observe, borrow, and get inspired by the work of others while making it your own.
86. Imitate the Real World
Keep your eyes open to the natural and human-made world around you. There’s nothing more inspiring than the environment you’ve set for yourself.
87. Accept That Rejection is Part of the Process
Every famous author or artist has been rejected, including King, Hemingway, the Brontës, and Bradbury. So, accept that rejection is part of the deal.
It’s not easy, but daily focused meditation can open the mind to seeing what’s lurking and find inspiration. Add a cushion or yoga mat to your office space so you’re more likely to fit it in, or try an app like Calm.
89. Carry a Camera
No, your phone doesn’t count. Try the ancient practice of carrying around a camera to capture things that inspire you. You might be surprised by what catches your eye.
90. Bring a Notebook
Sorry if your bag is getting a little heavy by this point, but add a small notebook to your list. Carrying around a notebook allows you to jot down quotes, ideas, or things you hear that you might later incorporate into your work.
Journaling, even for 5 minutes, is a good practice. And it’s a joy to reopen down the line.
91. Trash It
Creatives tend to be precious about their work – and why wouldn’t they, after all the blood, sweat, and tears? Let go of ideas or projects that aren’t working or were not meant to be. The sooner you abandon a bad idea, the sooner you have room for a good one.
92. Spend Time With Yourself
Get to know the person behind the creative work. Try spending quality time with yourself by going for a quiet walk, exploring a museum or a market, or going out to eat alone.
93. Explore New Horizons
Try creating in a field you’ve never worked in, even if you don’t know much about it. You might learn something in the process – or decide you were better off where you were.
94. Make a Vision Board
Visual layouts for projects are a great idea to help you get started and can be useful for your overall career or goals, as well.
95. Hydrate and Eat Well
Fuel up! It heals and powers your body, mind, and creative soul.
96. Keep A Backburner
Was something you created great but rejected by a publisher or client? The canvas isn’t looking right? Try going back to it at a later date to see if you can rework it, recycle it, or rebuild it.
97. It’s Never Too Late
Many successful creatives didn’t start until later in life. Some even had full and established careers in other fields before trusting in their creative abilities and passions. Claude Monet didn’t gain widespread recognition for his work until his mid-40s.
98. Make Perfectionism The Last Step
Don’t worry about making something perfect until the end (if at all). Keep work loose and flexible until the last moment, when you can then focus on tightening it up. This way, you’ll be more open to changes and additions.
99. Stop Negative Self-Talk
Telling yourself you’re not creative or good enough is a sure way to start believing it.
100. Make time for Nothing
There is value in making time to do… absolutely nothing.
101. Be Gentle
Remember that creativity is personal – what works for others might not work for you.
Don’t be too hard on yourself when things don’t work out right away. Give yourself time and grace to discover your process… and incredible creative work will follow.