Music Well – Dosia McKay, Composer, Painter, Writer

Reflections on Art and Life

25 Fun Exercises to Trigger the Flow of Creativity

Many people in creative fields struggle from time to time with the inability to tap into the flow of creativity. Call it the writer’s block, lack of inspiration, the departure of the muse, or a dry spell – we all have been there. There is no need to panic or to sit around waiting for an external prompting validating your artistic pathway. It can be as easy as shifting your mental gears by creating an environment in which your creative self can show up for duty.

Below I list 25 simple exercises to trigger the flow of your creativity. Whether you are a painter, a writer, an actor, a choreographer, a filmmaker, or a musician, you will benefit from performing them on regular basis. You can also modify them to fit your art discipline, or to purposefully stray away from it. Nothing is set in stone. What matters is that you begin, and that you pursue your creative instincts and enter “the zone”.

It is beyond the scope of this article, but I hope it is obvious that any serious artist understands the importance of adequate sleep, nutrition, moderation in the TV and internet intake, as well as avoidance of people who belittle your creative endeavors.

With that said, let us begin:

1. During breakfast, sit at a different spot than you usually do, observing the newly found perspective.

2. Notice certain words or phrases you use often and make a conscious effort to refrain from using them when you speak or write. Instead, find new, fresh ways of expressing yourself.

3. Choose an art form you don’t know anything about. Within it, choose a specific technical aspect. Google it out and learn from it something you can apply to your own art discipline.

4. On iTunes or Amazon perform a search for a random combination of letters. Accept the artist suggestion from the search engine and listen to the artist’s music, no matter what the genre.

5. On a piece of paper prepare a simple sketch or a doodle, dividing the page in half. Let one half express the concept of “Always”, and the other of “Never”.

6. Listen to people’s conversations on the sidewalk. Pick three different words from three separate conversations (one each). Write a poem containing all three words.

7. Go to the part of town you have never been to. Follow someone for a few blocks. Let him or her “show you around”.

8. Don’t eat when it’s time to eat. Wait until you are very hungry. Eat your food with pleasure, gratitude, and a full awareness of all flavors and textures.

9. Talk to someone you normally wouldn’t talk to and ask them open-ended questions. Listen intently to what they say, imagining what it would be like to be that person.

10. Carefully study an album of art reproductions – up side down, discovering interesting patterns and color combinations.

11. Buy a simple plastic travel soap dish/box. Never use it for soap, but instead invent a new purpose for it.

12. Imagine you were hired to design an airport. Prepare a list of unique features your design will be famous for.

13. Use different dishes. There is no need to buy new tableware, simply use a glass instead of a cup, or an ornamented spoon instead of a plain one.

14. Listen to the noises of electrical appliances, trains, wind, or animals. Try to notate their rhythmical patterns. If you don’t know musical notation, invent your own.

15. Choose a stranger from your environment. Imagine what it would feel like to deeply care about that person. Then imagine what it would feel like to despise him/her. Switch back to the caring mode and analyze what triggered the extreme emotions.

16. Make a birthday or “just because” card for yourself – completely from scratch. Don’t take shortcuts with doodles or notebook paper. We are talking about a card folded in half with pictures and words.

17. When someone casually asks for your opinion, respond by giving them exactly the opposite of what you feel and be earnest and convincing.

18. Choose two small random cities on two different continents. Research the best means of travel between them and find out how much it would cost.

19. Attend a religious service of a denomination / religion / faith different from yours. Relish in the feeling of strangeness and mystery.

20. Smell the wind from the river, the fruit on the fruit stand, and the flowers in the flower shop. Touch the bark of the trees, the blades of swooshing tall grass, and a patch of moss on the sidewalk.

21. When you travel alone and a stranger asks about the purpose of your trip or your occupation, make up a story on the spot. Go into details.

22. With your iPod set to orchestral music, conduct an imaginary orchestra with a made-up baton or improvise a dance.

23. Hand write a letter to your younger or your older self.

24. Check into a silent monastery. Well, not really. Simply tell your family and friends that you are working on a project and cannot be disturbed. Continue with your usual activities, but give up all communication via phone, internet, or in person. Fast from TV, radio, iPod, etc.

25. Unexpectedly change your mind in the middle of a routine. Get off the train, walk out of the movie theater, or order food you can’t pronounce.

Let me know about your experiments and creative ideas that resulted from these exercises. I am curious to know what worked for you.

©2012 Dosia McKay


One comment on “25 Fun Exercises to Trigger the Flow of Creativity

  1. ellencrawf0rd
    January 29, 2012

    I will have to keep this list handy for the next time that I am feeling uninspired!

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