I want to let you in on a not-so-secret, secret. My number one rule for staying creative, is well, as simple as – keep creating. Everything that you create leads to something else that is creative.

Sitting stagnant in a room with nothing to do is the best way to NOT stay creative. Get off of social media. Stop browsing the web. Use down time to figure out your next move. Write down every idea regardless of how stupid you may think it is.

Write it Down

Get a cool notebook. Not one of those spiral bound ones from high school that had snoopy or Dee Snider on it. I am talking about an adult notebook. No, not a centerfold porn one either. A really nice notebook that is leather bound or designed creatively with its use and functionality geared towards staying creative. I have dozens of full notebooks at this point. In fact, I am working on a separate post about “The Notebook”. Whenever I am down or my emotional mojo has been stripped, I open up a notebook. All my sketches and ideas that I have EVER had are sitting right there. You never know when an idea that is a decade old becomes a new direction for your photography mindset.

The Personal Project

You have probably seen lots of photographers working on personal projects. The personal project is the number one way for staying creative on your own terms. No work? No problem, generate your own. You may be sitting there saying that personal work does not pay. It can though. You have to write proposals and get other people and companies involved. If no one knows about your personal project, how can they help support it? The act of writing down your idea also helps with staying creative as well.

Staying Creative without a Crowbar

I always say don’t force an idea or photograph. If it is not working move on. Staying creative can turn us into broken records. One trick ponies. If a photo composition isn’t working dump it and look for something else. If you are trying to create an article about an idea that is not working, save the file and try something else. The bottom line is that too much force creates an unsubstantiated idea. Move on, if for only a day.

A previous idea always comes to light when you are suffering. Realize this and take the bull by the horns. Spend a day working on different project instead of suffering. Create what your brain is suggesting.

The Action

What do I mean by, create what your brain suggesting? Well there are days when I just don’t have it in me. I don’t want to take pictures. Or I don’t want to do office work. Cannot stand the though of sitting at my computer and writing another article. So I do something that I want to do at that given moment. I design a graphic. Outline a new project. Essentially, I follow my inner voice. There is always something that I want to do. I give my mind this time.

While you may be thinking that is not always convenient or realistic, you are correct. That is why I have a changeover day when it is convenient. This replenishes the batteries so when I need to be ON for something like shooting an assignment, I am. In this process, I have inevitably created something else worth exploring more in-depth later too.

I Drive Everywhere Now

In the last couple of years, I have begun to drive everywhere. It started out as a cost savings exercise because it is so expensive to fly out of Jackson, Wyoming. However, the action of driving, has my brain decompressing and it begins to think. This in turn recharges my creativity. I put my camera on my passenger seat and I shoot photos while exploring the U.S. I carry all my camera gear with my bikes and camping gear with no additional charge or headache. Yes, it may take me a day longer to get somewhere, but staying creative is almost guaranteed.

I learned this from a trip I took to Thailand for a magazine. We traveled all over the country by bicycle. It was the slower pace of the bike on the ground that had us seeing Thailand from a different perspective. This got me thinking. While I truly don’t have the time to ride a bike to places like California, I can drive and this is far more enlightening than flying.

Other Mechanisms

While continually creating leads to staying creative, don’t forget to look elsewhere for inspiration. I read a lot of books about graphic design. Graphic design is directly related to how I design a photograph. However, graphic design also looks at font and text layup, as well as printing methods and even responds to how we interpret the web. This again, fuels staying creative for me.

Think about what could add to keeping you creative. Is it music, art, painting, woodworking, etc. Most creative disciplines have crossover relationships.

Don’t forget to surround yourself by like-minded people. Get advice from other creatives when working on new projects or concepts. Designing by committee can actually help your progress too. You don’t need to do everything that everyone suggests. You take the best ideas that strengthen yours and work from there.

Staying Creative Conclusion

Creativity is like an infectious disease. It can take over when least expected. It can jump from person to person. And it can lie dormant when unprovoked. The key is simple – provoke it often. That way you never suffer from a creative block.

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2 Responses

  1. Ok, so no Snoopy notebooks allowed, what about a Raquel Welch 1 Million Years BC notebook? Asking for a 67 year old friend.

    On creative note today’s an example: This week in CO has been so-so w/ lots of rain. Today was in Colorado National Monument, no great expectations but I had a blast & think I got some pretty decent images.

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