When you’re studying at an alternative liberal arts college, creativity often takes center stage in everything you do – from penning an essay on the philosophical ramifications of the internet, to an analysis of proto-feminist literature. There’s nothing as fulfilling and inspiring as flexing that creative muscle, and exploring the many brilliant facets of your imagination, putting your thoughts to work weaving a narrative, and aligning concepts and ideas in a wonderful tapestry.
But, what happens when that creativity just isn’t flowing? You’re trying to come up with a witty repartee or an inspiring insight, but it’s just not there. So how do you harness your inner creativity when nothing’s flowing?
Start Keeping a Thought Journal
Impulsive creativity is one of the most powerful forms of creativity – a flash-in-the-pan-and-then-it’s-gone kind of an idea. So how do you harness that? Keep a book or a journal with you in your day-to-day routine, and when you have an interesting thought or an idea, jot it down.
While it may not seem like much, if you’re constantly transcribing the thoughts you have while thinking about a particular subject, it’ll be much easier to come back to the journal when you’re stuck and go through all of the things that were running through your brain when you first encountered it. So if you’re stuck halfway through an essay, you can go back to when you were first brainstorming on the topic and see all of the other tangential stuff you wrote down and get inspired all over again.
When it comes down to it, a liberal arts degree is about contrast – experiencing things from all different angles and perspectives – so why should the creative process be any different? If you start to lose your inspiration and find yourself struggling for ideas, approach it in a different way. Look at something in the opposite way, and start arguing for the reverse. You’ll eventually come up with statements that you can now turn to as things to be refuted in your original argument, fuelling your creativity and giving you a fresh angle.
An old trick well known to the artists, philosophers and free-thinkers that graduated from a liberal arts college, free association is a great way to get the ideas flowing and allow your subconscious to do the work. Sometimes we get too caught up in forcing ourselves to be creative, when really what we need to do is stop thinking so hard and let the brain work its magic. Either verbally or by writing it down, start with one idea or topic that you’re stuck on, write it down, and then instantly start writing down or speaking out loud what comes to mind, and follow that train of thought. You’ll end up with a wealth of great ideas and concepts that were there all along, you just had trouble reaching them.
Just Take a Break
The worst thing you can do while trying to harness your creativity is to force it. If the ideas aren’t coming, and nothing you’re trying is working – just take a break and come back to it. Take a walk or talk with a friend. Do something completely different for a while and let your brain recharge. It’ll do no good to just hammer away at it, because often you’ll just end up ditching what you come up with under duress.
So if you find yourself at odds with your inner creative genius, don’t fret – all it might take is a little encouragement and a couple of tricks to coax it out.