How do creatives create?
The creative process can vary dramatically from one person to the next based on function, individual preference, and the field in which they work — but that doesn’t mean creatives are stuck without an instruction manual. Shutterstock has rounded up our favorite talks, videos, books, and films on the creative process to help artists, designers, photographers, writers, and other creative professionals make 2017 their most productive and fulfilling year yet.
Find Your Inspiration
In 2012, a documentary called From Nothing, Something took on the subject of creativity and inspiration in a fascinating way: By profiling creative thinkers of all kinds, from songwriter Sara Quin of musical duo Tegan & Sara, to chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, Pulitzer-Winning cartoonist Steve Breen, and video-game designer Jason Rohrer. The film is a must-watch for those curious about how the creative process can differ across industries.
Manage Your Expectations
Winston Churchill is reputed to have once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Ira Glass, the host and producer of popular radio program This American Life, would agree. Glass has mastered the art of storytelling, and his message for other creative professionals is this: Don’t expect to do great things from the start. It’s normal to produce work that doesn’t meet your standards and that disappoints you at first. This trend might even continue for years. The more you work, though, the closer you’ll get to your goal, so don’t give up and walk away. “It takes a while,” Glass says. “And you just have to fight your way through that.”
“Inspiration and work ethic, they ride right next to each other.” So says musical artist Jack White. It may be tempting to wait for that elusive muse to drop in, but White’s advice is to put pen to paper and force yourself to be creative. Set deadlines and time limits, because limitless opportunity can actually be detrimental to the creative process. White, who used to work as a furniture re-upholsterer in Detroit, has had greater success approaching his creative projects the way he would any other task-based job: Getting them done, and moving on to the next thing.
Map It Out
Even if you do create your art when inspiration strikes, the process doesn’t have to be an intangible thing. Students at IFA Paris, an international fashion and design school, take a multi-step approach when they design. Mind mapping, research, collage, tracing, sketching, creating a mood wall, draping, flat drawing, pattern construction, and sewing all factor in. Having a map like this to guide you can help you keep your deliverables on track.
Ever wonder where creatives get their newest ideas? Well, they may not be new at all. “Copying is how we learn,” says writer and director Kirby Ferguson in “Everything is a Remix: Part 3,” part of an online video series about creativity. Only by copying can creatives build “a foundation of knowledge and understanding” and go on to make something new. The video cites inventions like the steam engine, the typewriter, and the lightbulb, none of which were entirely new concepts so much as improvements and advancements on existing innovations made by others. As you work, remember the basic elements of creativity: Copy, transform, and combine.
Get Some Clarity
When you get stuck on a project — which you inevitably will — look to author Jessa Crispin’s recently released book, The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to an Inspired Life. It offers tips and tricks for enhancing your creativity along with anecdotes about how famed creatives like David Bowie and Rembrandt spurred their imaginations. The ancient practice of reading tarot cards figures into the book too, not with regard to telling the future, but to “retell the present.”
Understand That Design Has Cultural Impact
Famed graphic designer Milton Glaser already has a legacy: He’s the creator of the “I Love New York” (I ❤ NY) logo, one of the most recognizable images in the world. But Glaser also hopes to leave behind a message for designers: “Design as an activity has social meaning.” In an interview with The New York Times, he explains that designers have an opportunity to positively impact society with their work. That, he reminds us, is more significant than simply designing to sell a product.
Don’t Be Lazy
Photographer and director Corey Rich knows that moments make great pictures; he has experienced once-in-a-lifetime photographic opportunities first-hand. In Exploring the Creative Process: Great Moments Make Great Pictures from Adorama TV, Rich tells the story of getting the ideal shot with a single frame while on a rock-climbing trip in the Utah desert. “Expose, compose, capture, and don’t be lazy,” he tells fellow photographers. “That’s how you make wonderful pictures.”
Color to Enhance Your Mood
The adult-coloring-book trend has really hit its stride in the past year or two; reports show sales increased from $1 million in 2014 to $12 million last year. While many people use coloring books to unwind, they’re also an ideal tool for tapping into your creativity. We know that colors have a psychological effect on consumers, so it stands to reason that coloring can positively influence your mood, which can in turn get your creative juices flowing — especially key if you’re in a slump. Added benefits include improved concentration and a sense of satisfaction at having completed a creative project.
Reduce the Pressure
When Elizabeth Gilbert achieved “freakish success” with her memoire Eat, Pray, Love, she found herself wondering if she’d ever be able to top it. In her timeless and funny TED Talk Your Elusive Genius, Gilbert explores the colossal pressure felt by creative professionals such as writers, and offers suggestions for how to manage the “emotional risks of creativity” and gain some psychological distance from your work. She encourages writers to rethink the idea of inspiration in order to better understand their own individual work process, and ultimately manage the anxiety around it.