As improvisers, we are considered “creative types.” Some of us may be quirky or even moody, but regardless of our personality, we are all after the same thing: to get in the creative flow.
When we get into the flow, it’s like being a surfer riding a big wave, and it’s exciting. Ideas just come to us out of nowhere, and writing a sketch, working on a screenplay or coming up with ideas for funny videos seem to take almost no effort.
But it’s not always easy to get into the creative flow. It’s a skill, which means we need to work at it.
I originally came up with a list of ideas to inspire creativity a few years ago, and here is an updated list of things that help me get my creative juices flowing.
- Bounce Ideas Off Your Friends
Coming from an improv background, I have always found that getting together with a friend for coffee and or talking to a friend over the phone and sharing an idea I’ve been working on or something I’ve just written and then asking for their feedback leads to inspiration. The hardest part for me is asking for their time. It does help to buy them the coffee and thank them for their time.
- Helping Others
When I am working on a project, it can get very focused on it, which can sometimes dry up my creativity. Every now and then, my brain needs a distraction. One of the best ways I’ve found to get out of my head is to help someone else. Not only is it easy to give some a ride or help them with a problem over the phone, but I almost always feel better about myself afterwards and I’m better able to return to my work with a clear head. But don’t take this too far. Make sure you have good boundaries with your time so you don’t end up with resentment, because resentments are the enemy of creativity.
- Give yourself breathing room
Creativity is fragile. If you push too hard you’ll break it. I am currently reworking parts of my one-person show, “World’s Greatest Dad,” and it so freaking hard not to spend every waking hour thinking about it in my head. FYI: That is called obsessive thinking. But thinking about it over and over doesn’t usually give me new ideas. Instead, when I give myself some time off and come back to it, I usually have a different take on it.
- Go to nature
Mother Nature can sometimes be the perfect muse. Trees give us oxygen and are much better for brains than staring at our laptops for hours trying to come up with the right dialogue or the perfect ending to our story. So, go find some trees or a park and breathe in the oxygen. When you get back to your laptop, you’ll probably find the perfect ending waiting for you on your computer screen. You can thank Mather Nature later.
- Talk to yourself
There are two things that I really enjoy while driving a car: one is picking my nose, and the other is talking to myself. Picking my nose has nothing to with my creativity, but talking to myself does. In fact, I talk to myself on a daily basis. I cannot think of a better place to work on characters, or an acceptance speech for winning an Emmy or being interviewed by Howard Stern than when I’m alone in the car.
- Go on a walk
My brain seems to just flow when I am out there walking in the fresh air. It is even better when I can find the time to walk in nature. I have also found that taking a walk is another great place to talk to myself (see the pattern?). Although being outside helps me the most, I’ve found doing anything physical – dancing, working out at the gym, etc. — can get my brain going. Sometimes in class when I see a student stuck on stage and they can’t get the words out during an improv scene, I will ask them to move their body, and when they do the dialogue comes out like water out of a fire hose.
- Take a shower or a bath
I can’t explain this one, but it’s been amazing how many great ideas have come to me by taking a hot shower or sitting in the warm water of the bath tub. They just do. I don’t need to over explain this one, it’s pretty simple.
Each morning, I meditate for 15 to 20 minutes, and I can’t tell you how important this is to my creative process. It not only clears my mind before I start the day, but it also reminds me to listen. Creativity is as much about expressing your own ideas as it is about listening to your muse, or other people, or the silence, and meditating makes me more open to doing all three.