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Jumpstart Your Creativity

Find your creative edge with these four questions, from creativity coach Paige Baldwin Ando.


Embroidery hoop with a creative embroidery of a lake, green grass, and a person floating in the lake.

You’re already a creative powerhouse. 

Just look around you. This life you’ve built for yourself is the ultimate creation, and you’re still in the process of carving it out every day. 

But there may be something more specific that you’ve been hungering to bring into the world. Maybe you’ve got a novel brewing, or you’re hoping to start a band, or you want to undertake a huge DIY project. 

Whatever it is you’re hoping to do, these questions can help you dive into the next stage of your creative project. 


1. How small can you think?

I’m about to tell you something super counter-intuitive. In fact, you’re likely to hear it and think, “Ugh, that’s never going to work.” The nugget  of wisdom? Try making the smallest goal possible.I mean, like, minuscule. 

So if your goal is, say, to fill a gallery with 12 paintings in three months, and you’ve currently got zero, it’s no wonder your system is overwhelmed and scared. That’s quite a leap! Even going from zero to one painting can be enormous, especially when our expectations are high. 

The cure? Go tiny. It tricks your brain into thinking that the step you’re taking is no big deal, which means it won’t activate any tendencies toward perfectionism or procrastination. Small means it’s not a threat. In our painting example, this would mean going into your studio, doing the next tiny step forward, and then giving yourself permission to leave. Do the same a little later. And again after that. If at some point you find that you want to do a bit more–and it’s likely you will–awesome! Go ahead! 

But the important thing is that you truly give yourself permission to leave when you’re done with your tiny step. This sends the message to your primitive, protective amygdala that there’s no threat to be found in the studio. In fact, it teaches this part of your brain that the studio is fun! 

You’ll be on a roll before you know it, without any pushing, forcing, or resistance.


 

A creative stitching project showing a woman with black hair with flowers in her hair.

2.  Where’s the joy? 

Pleasure is a necessary component of creation.

Because of the way most of us have been educated, it’s easy to approach our creative plans in a logical, goal-oriented way. We make a schedule for ourselves and think it’s absolutely imperative that we maintain the discipline to stick with it. And while the intentions here are pure, what often ends up happening is that this regimented thinking saps the vitality out of our project. We get caught up in what we think we should do, rather than what would actually feed our creative process.

You didn’t start this project to take on another obligation to slog through, did you? In all likelihood, you started it feeling a sense of excitement about what was ahead. 

So when you think about your project, what’s calling you next? What aspect feels exciting, compelling, or playful? Go straight for that. 

Regardless of your schedule or plan, letting yourself gravitate towards the joy in your creative process is the easiest and most fun way to propel yourself forward. And the bonus to this strategy? You’re gonna have a way better time.


3. If you were to chat with your creative project, what would it say? 

As long as you’re feeling into the energy of your project, why not go ahead and have a chat with it? Because here’s the thing: you and your creative project are in relationship with one another. The project itself has a life of its own, with its own energy, and its own wishes for how it wants to come into the world.  

Haven’t you felt it in those moments when you’re pushing against the grain of your project, and it feels like it’s refusing to cooperate with you? Or, far more pleasantly, during those times when you’re flowing together in the most glorious dance? 

You can have a conversation with your project in super simple ways, just by hanging out with it and having a chat in your head while you’re doing the dishes. Approaching your project like a friend, you could ask, “What is it you’d like to do next?” or, “How could this feel more fun?” 

You might find that your project asks for something unexpected, like a new material, or a day at the beach, or a total overhaul of something you’re working on. That’s okay! When you listen, your project will guide you intuitively towards what comes next in ways that your logical mind wouldn’t be able to. 

Whatever feedback it gives you, approaching your project with respect, affection, and the open expectation of enjoyment can do a world of good in the progress you make together.


 

A multicolored pin cushion with pins sticking out of it.

4. How might you cultivate more creative connection? 

For years, I believed myself to be a loner when it came to my creative work. I’d start a project, go at it like gangbusters for a while, lose steam, and then wander off to the next thing. It took me a good long while to realize that part of what I was missing was creative connection. In fact, I really thought that working in community or collaborating with others would hold me back creatively. 

I couldn’t possibly have been more wrong. 

For most of human history, we have created in close contact with other people. Whether that meant cooking communally, building a structure, or making a quilt in a circle of women, we evolved to collaborate. 

This is not to say we never crave working in solitude, but sometimes focusing on our own thing with another person nearby can be just the ticket to getting things done. Or starting a project with a friend gives us far more momentum and joy than trying to do the same project alone would. 

Are you craving creative community, even in some small way? This might come about as an urge for creative conversation, a sense of niggling discontent, or even envy when you spot creative communities that seem tight-knit and fun. 

If so, going out to find it may spark something exciting and fun that you’d never have seen coming. Are there any classes in your area that intrigue you? Any class or group you’ve seen online that’s piqued your curiosity? Perhaps there’s a conference related to your creative interest that you could attend? Even if you’re someone who doesn’t feel like a joiner (I’m most certainly with you there!), connecting with other people who love what you love can provide ongoing joy and inspiration. Plus, it’s super fun, to boot. 


As you approach your creative projects with a spirit of openness, curiosity, and playfulness, more interesting and enjoyable work is bound to emerge. Try some of these strategies out, and see what you enjoy most! Taking the opportunity to shape your creative trajectory with the same consideration and attentiveness you’ve used to craft the rest of your life will yield beautiful results. 

And your creativity will be sure to thank you! 


 

Paige Baldwin Ando is a writer and creativity coach who’s helped people worldwide move past their blocks. As co-host of The Creativity Cafe podcast, she interviews a variety of global artists about their personal creative processes. A former textbook writer and editor, Paige now focuses on poetry and creative non-fiction.


Image Credits:

Embroidered pond by Geoff Oliver

Woman with flowers embroidery by Seiji Seiji

Pin cushion by Lisa Woakes



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