An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Creative Brainstorming

When I remembered that today was Wednesday and I needed to blog, I was very worried because I didn’t have any idea what to write about. As a person who has to do creative-ish things every day, it sometimes gets hard to avoid creative blocks. The part of my day that’s spent in an office, especially, is challenging because there is a lack of new stimuli and I feel trapped.

So I’ve come up with a couple of things to keep me going in the creative realm. Many of them make me more awkward, but they help so here we go.

1. RESEARCH. If I am starting a new project, I start with research. Whether it’s visual research (which I often use Pinterest for) or just research into what a client wants or has produced in the past, this part of the process can be really inspiring. It’s a great chance to get fired up by the work of others. You can do this step whether you are actively working on a project or not. The more you read and look, the more you store away in your inspiration bank.

Talking through ideas and/or interviewing clients counts as research too. Again, even if you don’t have a project, this can be fun. Just talk through ideas, what-ifs and what you like/don’t like. You never know when an idea might hit you.

2. GET IT OUT. Write things down while you are researching, while you’re walking down the street or when you can’t sleep. Maybe notes in your phone works for you. Maybe the inspiration flows more freely with a paper and pen. Sketch things out if it works better. Try free writing or bubble mapping. There are 101 ways to get whatever is in  your head out, and sometimes one will work better for you than others. Experiment.

The most important thing is to create something. Get in the habit of brainstorming in a physical way that you can see and come back to. If you don’t get it out, you might get stuck in your head and blank.

3. PLAY. Try something more playful while you are thinking through your problems. I am a tactile thinker so things like silly putty and playdoh help me work through my issues. Whether I am mindlessly rolling it in my hands or making little sculptures, play can distract you just enough to let your ideas flow.

In this way, you are being indirectly creative. Sure, you aren’t making anything productive per say, but you are in the process of creating something and it loosens up those ideas. A little bit of a break helps too, and play really takes the pressure off you and your brain for a moment.

4. MOVE. I know this is an old cliche, but moving helps. Change your position or take a walk. If you are trapped in a small office, you can go take a trip to get a drink or visit the restroom. There have been tons of research about how exercise and physical exertion can help with creativity and mood. I’m not much of an exerciser, but  sitting somewhere new or taking a brisk walk almost always helps me sort out my thoughts a bit better. It’s not a magical solution but every bit helps.

Here are some of the ways I brainstorm for creative projects when I feel like the well is all dried up. I even tried some of them while brainstorming for this post. What do you do when your brain seems stuck and you have to stay creative?

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Creative Brainstorming

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Free Time (or general) Productivity

That’s kinda a pretentious title. I apologize.  Let me explain.

I’m not the kind of person who entertains a lot of free time. Free time makes me really anxious. I like to do lots of things, and at school, I fill up my schedule. Even if it’s not all “work,” I keep myself busy. Then, this big old summer thing came along. I just found out that I got an internship, but it doesn’t start til the middle of June. Even then, I’m not full time until JULY 22. So, I’ve been faced with a lot more unstructured time than usual and it’s kinda freaking me out.

I’ve been doing a lot of DIY crafts (including a super awesome book purse that I’ll probably post pictures of soon) and reading, but I keep getting this nagging feeling like I should be working. Though relaxation is valuable, I  don’t want to do nothing. So, I’ve come up with a plan to keep myself from going insane and hopefully induce mad productivity (one can hope). It looks a little bit like this:

1. FIGURE OUT SOME LONG TERM GOALS– By the end of the summer I’d like to: what? I’d like to have finished this novel I started ages ago. I’d like to be blogging several times a week. I’d like to have a healthy eating/ exercising routine that I can carry into the school year. You get what I mean. The long term goals can be even more general. What have you always wanted to do if you had more time? What have you been putting off? They don’t all have to be attainable goals at first either. Brainstorm a lot of goals. You never know when something might become attainable even though it didn’t seem like it a first.

I figure this is one of my last chances to have real “free” time for a while, and so I better put it to use. This works on smaller scale free time too, however. Last summer, I started out just working two days a week. Even when I got to the point where I only had one day a week off, I still used a similar strategy.

2. SCHEDULE YOUR DAYS– This might sound a little obsessive. I don’t think you need to have an hourly schedule (although if that works for you, go for it). Just start adding some consistency to your days. This is hard for me without school or work influencing my life, especially. Set a bed time and a awake time even if they are a little lax. Then set daily goals and think about when you will achieve them. For example, I’ve started getting up and doing a specific exercise routine. Then I shower and eat lunch. Then I work on my project for the day. It’s a pretty  chill schedule, but it is increasingly including goals.

3. STAY ACCOUNTABLE– Find someone who will call you out if you start being a lazy jerk (or just stop fulfilling your goals). Obviously free time has slip ups where you end up doing something worthless for way too long, but that just can’t be the norm. Tell a friend to bother you about your writing goal. Keep track of your eating/exercising habits somewhere relatively public. Post on social media about your goal. Do something so that you don’t give up on day two. This is a very important step for me. I think I’m going to keep a word count calendar on my fridge so my mom can bother me about it. I’ve already started telling my friends about my achievements, not to brag, but so I have someone to ask, “Hey have you worked on that lately?”

Though I like to mix it up every once in awhile, it’s important to finish things. Crossing things off of your long term goal list. Be proud of your accomplishments. All of these things help the whole motivation thing when there are no real deadlines breathing down your neck. I really miss deadlines.

4. PRIORITIZE– Sometimes your schedule’s going to go out the window completely. Don’t fret. Sometimes important things come up. Sometimes you have to go to the dentist (yuck) or clean your room. These things aren’t probably on your long term goal list, but they are pretty important. That’s ok.  STAY CALM.  If you spend a free day worrying about your future, stop it, take a step back, and work on goals. If your goals seem to big, break them up into smaller ones. If you miss your word count and eat crap all day and stop exercising for a whole week, its ok. You can jump back on the wagon. Deep breaths. The end is not nigh. You are not a failure. It is free time after all.

Maybe, unlike me, you don’t freak out when you have free time. Maybe you’re cool with wide expanses and nothing to do. Congratulations. Ignore my list. Maybe you never have free time and therefore thing my list is trivial and a result of my own laziness. I assure you that this is not true. The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is the same set of steps I go through when I’m unbearably and impossibly busy and stressed. It’s just a modification of the same steps. So there. That’s how I try to be productive in my own awkward way. Feel free to share your own tips in comments!

An Awkward Girl’s Guide to Free Time (or general) Productivity