And none of them involve looking at other designers work!
I don’t know about you but this summer has worn me out. Granted, we just bought our first house which has come with its own set of ups and downs, we are also planning our wedding so life has just kind of had a mind of its own. Needless to say I haven’t always felt the most creative with all that we have going on. However, there are several go to things I do to jump start my creativity when I get like this and I know that there are those of you out there that need a little push in that direction every now and again as well.
Sure, we can all look at other designers and oh and ah over what they are posting but at least in my experience, when I’m already feeling uninspired with my own work, looking at other designer’s work completely bums me out! I start feeling envious over how awesome I think their designs are and compare them to my own work that I’m already feeling down about. It’s a bad spiral to be in and I find it to be one of the worst things I can do for myself when I’m desperately needing encouragement. In fact, when I’m needing a boost of inspiration I avoid looking at other designer’s work for this very reason.
When I need to be inspired I look outside of my field. I have found that there are better and healthier ways to re-inspire yourself and kick your creativity into high gear, all while protecting your mental health in the process.
1. Find other mediums that excite you
This is my go to. While graphic design is my main focus at this point, I still have a world of other art forms that greatly peak my interest. Painting, printmaking, photography, journaling, calligraphy, you name it. I follow lots of accounts on Pinterest and on Instagram that are different art forms than my own and I find so much inspiration in seeing the wide array of things that other people create. But if I’m feeling really stuck for ideas, and if time allows, the greatest thing to do in my opinion is to take some time to pick up a new hobby, or an old cherished one, and create something totally different than what I was working on for a client. I swear it taps into a different part of the creative brain and gets you looking at colors or composition in a new light. An afternoon out exploring with my camera or an evening spent inside painting can do wonders for my mental and creative state.
2. Get physical
This kind of goes along with what I just said up above because I know that so many people use physical activity as their hobby outside of work. While it’s not necessarily an art form (depends on how you exercise of course) breaking a sweat can be an awesome way to refocus your creative energy. By wearing out your body doing something physical, you’ve not only given yourself a mental break from your work throughout the time you spent working out, but you’ve also allowed your body to fatigue and reach a relaxed state that allows your mind to then take back over. Of course any workout that involves meditation is also going to leave you feeling clear headed and ready to tackle new problems. My workouts throughout the week consist of biking, jogging, Pilates, and yoga. I switch things up depending on what my body and mind are needing.
3. Organize your space
Confession: I’m not the most organized person on the planet. I’m a weird mix of Type A and Type B and it really depends on the day. However, it’s incredible to see the difference in my overall well being when the space around me is tidy and I know where to find all of my tools. It’s one of those things that if you brain isn’t having to hunt for things or isn’t getting frustrated by the mess around you, it’s suddenly free to think through problems and tackle larger things. I know, I know, I’ve heard that the more creative you are the messy your work space tends to be. But if you are lacking inspiration in your current work area maybe a change of pace is in order. If you don’t need to clean it, maybe a little rearranging of the furniture or items on your desk will help refresh the space and refresh your creativity.
4. Read, read, read
I’m a big proponent of reading. I was raised in a house where we legitimately converted a room into a library because we had too many books for the other bookshelves in the house. It’s no wonder I was also an English Lit minor. So of course reading is another one of my go to’s when it comes to jump starting my creativity. Finding a story that captivates you is such a great way to encourage creativity. But if you don’t want to get immersed in a novel (more likely you don’t have the time) I think a magazine can be just as good at getting you to think other thoughts for a bit. In fact, magazines are another love of mine (you should see my collection) because as a teenager I was in LOVE with the layouts and images in fashion magazines. It may or may not be the reason I’m in this career now. Reading a great book, looking through magazines, or simply perusing the shelves of an old bookstore are all wonderful ways to get re-inspired.
5. Seek out your ideal client
This one is a biggie for me, not only because I like to see what my ideal clients are up to, but I almost always have new ideas after looking through their sites. I’m not saying that seeing the way another designer has designed their site is all it takes. Rather, I see it as an exercise in what I would change on each of their sites. This isn’t necessarily a time when you need to talk to this ideal client, but rather look at the visuals of their brand and site, see how they are conveying different types of information, and think about what you would do differently or see if you can distill their brand down to its core values. I find this so helpful and I’ve done it for so long that it’s almost second nature to me at this point. I look at a site and I think “Okay, what are they trying to say with this graphic? What type of mood are they trying to set with this font choice or color pallet?” Mental exercises like this help you look at your own work with a fresh perspective and can give you tons of new ideas for your current project.
6. Consume entrepreneurial content
I have so many amazing business podcasts that I just love to tune in to, Jenna Kutcher being a long time favorite. But when it comes to design and business there are new one’s popping up everyday. We even started our own just this past year. Once you find one you love to listen to or look forward to again and again it can really start to be a motivating and inspiring part of your workflow. This goes beyond podcasts though. I think finding business blogs that you love and even business youtube accounts can all be great inspirations. Really it’s all up to whatever medium works best for you and your time management. There is such a wealth of knowledge out there on the internet that I’ve learned most of what I know through reading what has worked and what hasn’t worked for other business owners. If nothing else, it’s wonderful to know that you aren’t alone in this complicated entrepreneurial lifestyle.
7. Buy or create a new planner
It’s no secret that I like to plan. Something about a fresh planner literally makes me want to plan out my entire life. Even when I have a planner all set and ready to go I still find myself strolling through the planner isle at Target and daydreaming about the adorable possibilities. However, this past year I’ve made a switch to using digital planners on my iPad or on my laptop, just to cut down on paper waste. There are so many great options out there, but I prefer one that allows me to track my sales, followers, blog posts, client work, and goals that I’ve set for myself all in one place, like these fantastic ones from Saffron Avenue! Of course, if you want a truly custom planner I’m totally all for creating your own! If a traditional planner isn’t really your thing, I recommend using an app like Trello to help plan out all your business needs.
8. Get out of the house
Whether it’s with exercise like I mentioned up above or simply just getting a change of scenery, getting out of the house can give you a great creative boost, especially if you head to your favorite inspiring location. Working in a coffee shop is my all time favorite, aside from my office, but heading to a local art museum, park, or simply meeting up with friends for an impromptu lunch date can do the trick! When we surround ourselves with the same thing day in and day out sometimes that can start to stifle our creativity. Mixing things up in your routine and getting you around other people with other ideas can jump start your creativity. I even find that if I go somewhere like a coffee shop with the sole purpose of getting a work task done, I find it so much easier to focus in an environment where all I have with me is work. While working from home is bomb, obviously there are things to distract you at home, including house work. A fresh place with no other pressing distractions is key.
9. Talk with other creatives
This could be its own blog post, and it still might be down the line, but I have had some of the best conversations with other creatives in my field this year and it has done wonders for my own creative energy. Just like reading other business blogs or listening to business podcasts, we all need someone that gets us and what we are going through every day. By surrounding yourself with a network of fellow creatives, not only will you have someone to swap stories with, you’ll also see that everyone has ups and downs in their business and that everyone also experiences times where they don’t feel creative or motivated. That’s just the nature of being human. I can’t say enough good things about how making friends in the industry has helped me this year and I firmly believe every creative needs a community in order to succeed.
10. Give yourself time and grace
This is a hard one, but like I just said, everyone goes through times where they aren’t their most creative selves and that’s OKAY! No one is 100% all the time but finding ways to get yourself back into the groove of producing creative work and beating burnout is the only way you are going to keep going. Allow yourself downtime, don’t beat yourself up, but still find ways to keep moving forward and improving. Sometimes the best thing for you is to take some time for yourself and breathe. Let your work sit for a day and don’t let it weigh on you. Trust me, it’s not going to go anywhere, so go take care of yourself for a bit before coming back to it. Relax and you’ll come back refreshed to tackle anything.
What are some things that help you feel inspired? Creativity is different for everyone so I’d love to hear your journey in the comments!