The first painting I ever sold came from a Vicodin-induced haze. I have no recollection of creating it. I went into a fit after my wisdom teeth were removed, vacuuming the house for bugs and creating several mixed-media paintings in the span of 24 hours.

The collection was weird, wonderful, and (according to people who saw the work) more inspired than anything I had put together before. I didn’t even intend to sell that painting. Someone saw it in my collection and threw money in my direction. While making art while high is not a particularly new concept, I never revisited that state — as much as I missed the inspiration. Instead, I looked for other ways to hone my creativity without the aid of drugs (medicinal or otherwise).

How to Be More Creative

Over the years, I’ve learned that creativity comes just as much from discipline as from inspiration. Certainly, there are times when beautiful thoughts rush into our brains. Between those moments, I find that I have to focus myself to generate something wonderful.

I’ve started collecting little activities that help me put together little and big ideas to be more creative.

Pick a theme.

Sometimes, I have a million ideas but not much focus. I’ll write them down and see if I can find a trend in my ideas. Then, I combine the best pieces to create a truly strong project.

By picking a theme, I can focus my creativity around a strong message.

Do something little every day for a month.

I love Instagram challenges. They often task you with doing something small every day and documenting it.

This can really break your routine and kick up new ideas.

Revisit a project.

When I am really in a creative rut, I like to revisit old projects. I redo or refine them. The process of remaking channels new energy.

It breaks down some mental barriers and helps with creative inertia.

When I’m really stuck, I try to redo an old project and improve it. Sometimes the act of refining my work kicks off new ideas.

Co-create with someone.

Have you ever read about the game, Exquisite Corpse? Surrealists would build a portrait by folding paper. Each artist would add a section of the body without seeing the rest.

The results are fascinating.

Exquisite Corpse and other co-creation activities force your mind to work around another person’s ideas. This can help reset your thoughts.

I enjoy rolling out a big piece of paper in front of several people with different skill levels and artistic interests. Just doodle together.

It can be fun to see what comes from the collaboration.

You can see how this loosens creative energy.

Document your growth.

Whether you build a portfolio or simply start a social media account, start a visual diary of your creative growth.

Then, as you look back on your work, you can generate new ideas. Inspiration leads to inspiration and tracking gives you a chance to reflect.

Decode a song

Music impacts our brains in wonderful and fresh ways. I’m not particularly musical but I appreciate the creative process. Pick any song that interests you and dig into the rhythm and lyrics.

You can google it to see if there is anything available from the creator. If not, try reaching out on Twitter.

Ponder the meaning- both the original intent and how you received it. After all, this is our poetry.

Read a memoir

Most memoirs follow a hero narrative arc that can be very inspiring. The writer comes up against a challenge and the story reveals their journey.

One of the most creative periods of my life followed when I read three memoirs:

  • Wasted by Mayra Hornbacher
  • Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel
  • Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Jayden

While it may seem that the common thread is mental health, they are actually all writers and artists. Reading about how they used life’s challenges in their work was highly inspiring.

Research a story

Do you ever wonder where creators get their ideas? You don’t even need to ask. It’s easy to trace back a story to its development.

I love picking a movie, book, song or sculpture and looking up interviews from when it launched. You can learn a lot about what inspired them and how they focused that inspiration into creation.

Take a tour

Good tours, and tour guides, are loaded with fresh stories and information. Visit somewhere new and let someone guide you through history.

After, you’ll find some interesting nugget to think about. Wheels turning in your mind can lead to a breakthrough.

Talk to someone

Getting out of your own head offers fresh thoughts. If you can talk to someone new, that’s better.

Ask them about them. Don’t focus on yourself or your work.

You’ll find that it clears some mental fog.

Make a list

I’m a bullet journal fan and I love goals pages. Creatively, I find that keeping a list of project ideas clears my head.

I never do all of them.

But the little birth of putting them on a list gets me going.

Update your portfolio

If you don’t have one, make one. Take good photos of things you have made. Write a description. Include the story behind them.

Mulling over your portfolio can help you see themes and trends in your work.

This can inspire your next project.

Listen to an idol

Find a podcast or interview of someone you admire. Most of our idols are extremely human. Just yesterday, I enjoyed a podcast with Leandra Marine of Manrepeller on GirlBoss. She discussed how she prioritizes content around ” minutes engaged” not “total views” or clicks.

It really made me think about the nature of storytelling, both visual and written.

And then the wheels started spinning again.

Creativity Booster Checklist

What are your favorite creativity prompts? Do you follow an Instagram challenge? Do you like to take a walk or mow the grass to clear your head? Tell me about your creation process. I’d love to learn more about what inspires you.

If you have prompts to boost your creativity, I’d like to add them to my list. Tell me your tips and tricks to stay creative. You can join the conversation by commenting on my Insta or leaving a note in the comments below.