Stuck in a Creative Dry Spell? Try These Tips for Finding Inspiration
From time to time, I’ll get an assignment with little to no creative guidelines, like a logo design for a brand-new company or a blog article on a topic of my choosing. This means it’s basically my job to create something out of nothing. As a marketing creative, these assignments are what I treasure and enjoy the most—and they are also among the most challenging.
It’s not as easy as whipping a perfect concept out of thin air. The execution is the easy part; it’s the coming up with ideas that often stumps me. Through years of getting caught in these creative dry spells, I’ve discovered a few ways to find inspiration and jumpstart your creativity.
Tip #1: Take Inspiration from Your Competitors
Any honest marketing creative will admit to finding inspiration in the competition on at least one or two occasions. I’m not advocating for plagiarism here—far from it. Your ideas should always remain original and true to you. But there’s nothing wrong with seeing what else is out there in your space, finding a few common elements that you like, and incorporating them into an original concept.
For example, I recently got an assignment to create a retro-style logo. That’s very open-ended as far as creative guidance goes, and I would have been lost had I not been able to explore the vast world of retro logos that were already out there. As I browsed through them, I kept an eye out for elements that I connected with, and ultimately combined many different ideas into an original design.
It’s akin to when a movie director studies the greats within their genre to guide a new project. You never want to create something that’s tired and unoriginal, but you do want to take notes from the best of what’s already out there while putting your own creative spin on it.
Tip #2: Take a Real or Virtual Walk
You won’t find much inspiration staring at a blank computer screen. You’re much more likely to find it in color, nature, buildings, and people—things which, thanks to the world wide web, we can access instantly. Though in my opinion, nothing beats going outside for a real walk. Something about experiencing the full range of sensations—the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors—really gets the creative juices flowing.
But I get it: Sometimes you need a taste of life to rev your creative engine, and you’re too tired or pressed for time to get outside. In that case, I encourage you to take advantage of the wondrous world of the internet. Pinterest, National Geographic, and plain old Google Images are three of my favorite places to look for inspiration. It’s amazing what an imaginary stroll in a faraway place can do for your creativity.
You don’t have to confine yourself to geographic locations, either; sometimes I’ll look up a single color or even a word that I like (like “confidence”) and just see what pops up.
Tip #3: Sleep On It
Some days, no matter how hard I try to find inspiration, I just get nowhere creatively. Coming up with strong, original, and well-developed ideas is hard.
That’s why it’s important to start on a creative project as early as possible. This affords you time to “sleep on it,” or to give your mind a break on those days when you’re suffering from a total creative drought. For me, the difference from one day to the next is often night and day. When I get a good night’s sleep and give myself a break from worrying about the project at hand, I almost always return the next day with a newly inspired mind.
Tip #4: Strive for Something You’re Proud Of, Not for Perfection
Perfectionist tendencies are very common, and most of us have a love-hate relationship with our perfectionism: While it may push us to perform better, it also holds us back from happiness and risk-taking. And in the world of a creative, taking risks is paramount. You won’t make anything groundbreaking if you don’t get comfortable with a little risk.
That’s why I encourage marketing creatives not to strive for perfection, especially not on the first try. For one thing, you might never hit your deadlines if you’re trying to achieve something so elusive. For another, it will keep you from pushing the creative boundaries and taking risks with your projects—which, in my experience, tends to inspire the strongest work.
Instead, strive to create something that you’re proud of. Something that you are excited to present to your client or boss. Something that you can explain with passion and confidence, even if it’s less than perfect. This will allow more room for experimentation, risk, and ultimately, reward.
About the Author
Suzette Feller is a Marketing Consultant at Parklife.