Does creativity seem to be a fleeting mood? Is finding ways to be creative proving elusive?Sometimes I wish I could bottle it for the next stretch when I require its powers but they elude me. Well into writing my third book, I’ve experienced days when the words were fluid and easy to catch as if by the bucket, and others when distraction left me high and dry. To combat these lurches, I’ve devised four tactics that have helped me reach a creative mindset. Follow these tips, and you’ll find you can call upon your creativity when you need it.

Beckoning Your Creativity

  • Like children in a fairy tale who stray too far from home, sometimes we just need a trail of breadcrumbs to help us find our way back. Breadcrumbs are reminders that bring us back to the mindset we were in when we halted our work. Try to stop when you’re really into something (a vivid scene in a written work, for example), so you’ll be able to pick up when you return. Write yourself concise notes, focusing on details about where you left off, what problem you’re working to solve, or the next steps. This way, you can dive right back in when you’re fresh, rather than repeating work or trying to remember what to do next. You’ll save time and enjoy better focus when you return.
  • If you haven’t tried this method, I highly recommend it. Start with a timer set for 25 minutes, and work continuously during that period, without interruption or distraction. When the time is up, take a five minute break. Repeat this cycle several times, then take a longer break (15 minutes). This proven method puts our natural rhythms to work for us. What’s the relationship to creativity? With a limited time to work on a task, your mind relaxes about expectations. You’re not taking on creating an entire work; you’re working for 25 minutes. It’s amazing how quickly work can absorb our attention, and how much we can accomplish in these time boxes.
  • It may sound odd, but letting your subconscious mind work on a problem before your give it your full attention can lead to more creative results. It turns out that when given a challenge, our brains begin working on possible solutions, even before we begin our efforts in earnest. So, if you want to optimize creative ideas, let your ideas ferment.
  • Mise en place. If you want to do your best work, put your tools in place first (mise en placeis a French term commonly used in culinary arts to mean “putting in place”). Set a routine for your creative practice, and repeat the routine as fully as possible. Even better, work in a familiar place or with familiar objects nearby. With practice, you’ll begin to associate the routine and setting with the creative state of mind, and the routine itself will provide cues to jumpstart your creativity.