Monday, January 11, 2016

25+ Ideas to Help Stretch Towards Your Creative Goals

Let's make 2016 our most creative year ever!  You with me?  Whether you are seeking out new hobbies, challenging yourself to grow, working on your creative blog/business, or simply trying to extract yourself from a bit of a creative rut (yes, me too...), here are 25+ ideas to help inspire you to stretch those creative muscles!

Get Ready to Stretch
  • Make the commitment.  This sounds simple, but it might just be the hardest part.  Make the commitment and hold yourself to account. If time is an obstacle, commit to a regular time in your day/week to pursue your creative passion (or new explorations).
  • Foster a creative environment. Whether its a full studio, a crafty corner, or an itty bitty storage box, you'll be so much more willing to dive in and create if your creative supplies, equipment, and space are clean and organised. Start your creative stretching with a clean-up and resolve to keep it that way (or perhaps improve it).
Find Your Creative Self
  • Keep a creative journal or sketchbook.
  • Create a mood board or, if you lack space or need the portability, a binder.  Pinterest great for collecting inspirations and semi-works as a mood board if you prefer to keep things virtual, but it is missing the visceral creativity of sourcing, cutting, placing, pinning, taping, etc. your ideas together.  If your creative medium suits, you can also include paint samples, textile swatches, papers, cuttings...your imagination is the limit!
  • Explore the works of others.  Visit an art gallery, museum, or exhibition and study what you love (and don't) about the works of great artists. If this doesn't work for your creative genre, perhaps explore the works of some contemporaries and peers (in reality or online) instead.  Remember, this isn't about comparison (the infamous thief of joy...) but about exploring what aspects of the genre you most enjoy and appreciate.
  • Look through your past creative works.  What did you most enjoy creating and why?  What was best received by others and why?  How do your perceptions align or differ? Does it matter?
  • Aspire. Decide where/how you would like to grow creatively in 6 months, 12 months, 5 years time.  Use this to help shape your plans, including what sort of activities you would like to try when you're starting to stretch.
Stretch Your Creative Muscles 
  • Join a project group or challenge. For example, if you enjoy photography, perhaps you might take up a daily, weekly, or monthly photo challenge to be inspired by the new themes and encouraged to stick with it by fellow participants.
  • Face your fears. Pick a technique in your creative genre that you struggle with or dislike, and undertake a project that requires you to use and practice that technique.
  • Step out of your comfort zone. Pick a creative genre that you are unfamiliar with and undertake a project that requires you to use and learn a new skill.  
  • Enroll in a class or workshop to expand your skills or learn something completely new.
  • Buy a great how-to book on a genre or variety of genres and work through it incrementally, one skill/topic at a time, even if you think you know enough to skip a section.
  • Take a time machine. What did you love to make as a child? Revisit some of your favourite hobbies.  It is ok to be a little silly too and have some fun while you're at it!
  • Switch it up old-school. If your genre is relatively modern, experiment with the old-fashioned approach and spend a little time reflecting on the similarities and differences. Spend time sketching or painting instead of taking photographs, hand sew instead of machine, do some calligraphy instead of digital design, hand carve or scuplt instead of using a computerised cutter/printer, etc.
  • Take a lucky dip.  Randomly select a small number of items and see what you can create with them.  This can be particularly fun as a group or with kids, where you can place materials in a container for blind selection and see what everyone comes up with with their selections.
  • Do something that you KNOW you will mess up.  Try something outrageously outside of your skillset and remind yourself that it's ok not to be perfect.  Go ahead - try some complex hand carving, sculpting, portraiture, etc or tackle that complex recipe that looks so perfect...on Pinterest.  You'll have fun, no matter how it looks in the end.  No one needs to know...
  • Get inspired. Subscribe to a creative publication or find a few blogs that you really enjoy and make time in your schedule to make them regular reading. Bonus stretching points for trying out some of their tutorials, recipes, etc. Need ideas? You can see some of my favourites in the rotating blog links on the right sidebar.
Growing Your Creative Blog/Business (If Applicable)
  • Explore the works of others. Study your favorite blogs and/or other successful shops.  As with the genres, explore what you like and dislike. Remember, this isn't about comparison or copying, but about exploring what appeals to you and why.
  • Review and assess your site. Is it aesthetically pleasing? Easy to navigate?  Is your branding cohesive?  Are your images appealing?  Have you completed your profile page, policies, etc?  Does it reflect what you want to share and present?   Make a plan for how you would like to evolve and attack it incrementally as time and resources allow. 
  • Build brand recognition.  Have a cohesive brand look and style that suits your subject/audience, and ensure that that this carries across your shops, blog, and/or social media. 
  • Stay fresh.  This can be a big as full make-over or it can be as simple as occasionally tweaking your profile, header, or other images so that things stay fresh.  Changing months, seasons, holidays and/or special events make great triggers for small updates.
  • Aim for awesome photography.  Great photographs can make an enormous difference. Make sure that you are always putting your best look forward and growing better all the time.  Why not make photography one of your creative stretching objectives?
  • Create an impression.  If you have a physical product, ensure that it looks great including packaging for shipping and that you give great customer service.
  • Review your social media strategy.  Make sure that the media you use for your business is aligned with the look/content/audience you are targeting, kept current, and that it is value added.  Social media can be a big traffic boost, but it can also be a big time suck so don't feel that you need to do everything and be everywhere. Make it part of your plan.
  • Make a connection. Become part of a community, forum, or team.
  • Be ready to shine.   Build yourself a mini-press kit and have some key information and photographs on hand in case you are asked for an interview or invited to be a featured guest.
  • Invite yourself.  Offer to write a guest post for a blog or forum in your area of expertise.
  • Pay it forward.  Feature others, link outwards, be an active commenter/liker, create treasuries, like interesting listings/shops,etc.  
  • Maintain balance.  If its your business or aspiring business, treat it that way. Have a plan, and dedicate time, energy and resources to achieving your dream BUT have fun taking it in the direction of your dreams. Don't be too hard on yourself, and take the time to enjoy the ride along the way.

Have a great idea to get the creative juices flowing?  Share it with us!  Hosting a creative challenge or link-up? Share that too!  Know a fab resource that we should all check out?  Leave us a comment - we'd love to hear from you! If you want to include a live link in a blogger comment, it is simple - just use the following format as a guide: <a href="">text you want shown for your link</a> You can also reach us on social media, and its a-ok to share your personal creative or crafty link on our Facebook page.  We look forward to visiting!

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