Some artists have the idea of too many ideas to work on and end up confused, exhausted, and only semi-productive, but others find themselves recreating the same thing over and over and want to work on something new. So how do you refill that well? Here are some ideas I’ve gleaned from books, artists, psychologists, and experience over the years. Best of all, most of them are free or very cheap. Try them all and see what works for you:
1. visit a museum and just walk around looking at everything, even (especially?) the works you don’t like
2. go for a walk in a new-to-you place, either a new natural site, or a new neighborhood–just seeing something new can spark ideas and cause your brain to stop racing
3. spend an afternoon with a child, prefereably under age 8 or so.
4. read the news–if you’re at all inspired (angered?) by politics, world events, etc., then you might find something you really need to say
5. read a favorite book–for me, it’s Douglas Adams–whatever sweeps the cobwebs out of your brain and cleans out the cockles. It’s kind of a mental reset button.
6. purposefully try to copy an Old Master–in the process you may learn how your projects diverge and a bit more about your style when you’re imitating someone else’s
7. take a class. Lots of colleges, especially community colleges, have cheap or free classes, short-term or semester-long. Learning anything new can inspire your brain; it doesn’t have to be art-related. Anything can be grist for your creative mill, from chemistry 101 to philosophy to finally learning Japanese.
8. talk to someone you love about their life. You’d be surprised about how often this can inspire you with an idea. A cognate of this is to talk to someone you don’t like, because even the conflict can be inspiring, just be careful that they don’t suck your mental energy dry.
9. find a mentor. This can be a years-long procedure, but is often quite worthwhile. More about finding and keeping one later.
10. stare at the blank canvas (or page or box or whatever) until beads of blood appear on your forehead (props to Gene Fowler). This can be an exercise in increasing futility and frustration and increase your block, but it can also be surprisingly effective. Just when you think you want to give up and hurl your paints out the window, an idea appears. Attaching buttocks to seat of chair has worked for writers for centuries, even when they didn’t “feel like writing,” so it can work for other creative-types, too.
11. go to the mall and eavesdrop on conversations. This is especially effective if you are a social protest artist, as nothing will fire you up and get your bile going like listening to the pabulum and ridiculousness of mall-goers. Just make sure you aren’t poisoned.
If you have more ideas for this list, please let me know, and I’ll add them!