March 19, 2015

4 Tips to Channel Your Creativity

See my favorite planning tools post for more info about what's pictured here.
While there are plenty of bloggers who are way more creative than I am, I wanted to write a little bit about the four things that have helped me become more creative. Each one might not be anything that new, but I think the combination of all four is what's helped me the most. Before I share my tips, however, I wanted to start with three things I think it's important to remember when you're trying to channel your creativity.

First: If someone inspires you, ask permission and/or give credit where credit is due. This is probably the most important thing to remember! It's not creative if it's copying someone else, but some ideas are more generic than others. Either way, I always err on the side of caution. Second: It's okay to scrap something that's not working – or make changes to it until it does. I can't tell you how much it will drain your creativity if you don't allow yourself to abandon something that's not working. We've all had ideas that seem promising and then fizzle out. And that's totally okay! I'd rather try something and move on (or make changes to improve it) than remain tied to an idea that didn't pan out the way I planned.

And third: Create something for a reason. I’m not great at being creative just because. I can’t just decide that I want to write a new discussion post or create a new feature. I wish my brain worked that way, but it usually doesn’t! I typically only feel inspired when something serves a purpose. I want a post to meet a need or start a conversation – not just take up space. I like things that develop organically more than things that are forced! And sometimes that requires patience on my part. For me, that often means being okay with not having a discussion post every week or sitting on an idea until it’s just right.

Now that we've got that out of the way, here are my four tips to channel your creativity!



1. Keep a notebook (or note-taking app) nearby. 
For me, the first step is to keep a notebook nearby – whether it’s in my bag, next to my bed or on my desk at work. I like one that's blank inside, and its purpose is solely for me to jot down ideas, outline posts, and take notes on the go. I have something else for scheduling posts because I like to keep them separate. I don’t want to think about my calendar when I’m trying to be creative!

If you prefer being paperless, an app on your phone can work just as well. I just use Notes and/or Wunderlist on my iPhone when I’m on the go, but I know lots of people love Evernote or OneNote. What I love most about my phone, however, is that I can take pictures of things that inspire me. I can take photos of ads I love, fonts that catch my eye, magazine features or columns posing an interesting question… you name it!


2. Just write down everything! 
I write down way more ideas than I actually end up implementing. Part of the creative process is exploring every idea, even if you don’t end up doing anything with it. If you flipped through my notebook, you’d see lots of phrases and unfinished thoughts. I don’t wait until I have an idea completely figured out before I write it down. If I have time, I’ll start fleshing it out. If I don’t have time, at least it’s written down so I won't forget.

And the great thing about having all those ideas compiled in one notebook? Sometimes you’ll think of something that’s close but not quite there. Weeks later, you might realize exactly what’s missing for it to be a great new feature or a thoughtful discussion post. Or maybe you’ll flip back through your past ideas and realize that if you just combine this one with that one you’ve got something great!


3. Look for inspiration in unlikely places. 
I think this one of the hardest things to train your mind to do – at first. But once you start to do it, it’s like you can’t stop! I feel like my brain is constantly on alert now. You can find inspiration anyway, including places you’d never expect! Here are some of the ways I get inspiration:
  • Things I’ve done before – Sometimes I get new ideas from things I’ve already done. For example, I once wrote a post about how I wanted to see more people reading classics. A lot of commenters mentioned that they didn’t know which classics were worth reading, so I started Consider This Classic for bloggers to recommend their favorite classic. The idea for that came straight from the post I’d already written!

  • Things other people have done – Assuming you’re not stealing someone else’s idea (see the very beginning of this post), other blogs can be a great source of inspiration! For example, I looked at other blogs when I wanted to add ratings to my reviews. I needed to figure out what I liked in a rating system, and I used what I saw other people doing to help create my own. 

  • Things I’m reading or seeing – I’ve actually thought of blog-related ideas when I’ve been reading a book or magazine. For example, I wrote a post about loving a book and still being able to recognize its flaws after I finished a beloved book that contains problematic stereotypes. Even watching TV or surfing the web can spark an idea, like when I created a book blogging printable after browsing Pinterest.

  • Things I’m talking about – One of my favorite sources of inspiration is looking at and being involved in conversations on social media. I decided to write a post about whether or not BEA was worth it after discussing that question on Twitter, and I talked about getting organized on Goodreads when friends told me they didn’t know where to start. And this leads in perfectly to my next point… 

4. Get other people involved. 
Finally, I love getting other people involved in the creative process. It’s like a virtual brainstorming session, and those are the best! Whether you bring other people in at the beginning to get it started or at the very end to get their thoughts on the finished product, this can be a great way to take an idea to the next level.

Some of my favorite things I’ve done while blogging have been in partnership with other bloggers. Cassie and I kept discussing our love for adult fiction, so we decided to highlight it together in Favorite Factor. That's a feature that proves my point about re-working an idea if you're not loving it anyway - as we just revamped it last month! Alexa and I talked about our love for fantasy, so we hosted a three-week event to celebrate it. Teaming up with other people not only helps you build relationships with them, but it boosts your creativity.

One Idea – From Start to Finish
About a year or so ago, I knew I wanted to do something related to series on my blog. I’d participated in (and loved) a series challenge the summer before, and I kept trying to think of a way to turn my love for series into a recurring feature.
  • Write Stuff Down – I wrote down “series feature” in my notebook… but what to do next?

  • Look for Inspiration  While reading another blog, I realized that I hated how I couldn’t read a review for the second book in a series because I hadn’t started the first book yet. I wanted to be able to see what they thought of the book, but I was scared of spoilers for the first book. A few days later, I read an entire series. I was too lazy to write a review for every single book, so I sat down to write a series review. Then, I had an idea… What if I put a fun twist on that idea? I spent a while figuring out what format I wanted to use and ended up with the Series Speed Date.

  • Get Others Involved – I ran the idea past one of my blogging friends, and she felt like it needed a little something else. She was the person who suggested adding a rating at the very end!
Well, there you have it – my four tips to help you channel your creativity! I've always loved blogging, but I felt like I really hit my stride this past year. It's been a challenging creative outlet, but in the best way possible.

How do YOU channel your creativity?

7 comments:

  1. I think this is one of the things that I'm still struggling to succeed with - inspiration. I definitely do the notebook idea as well as a note taking app in my phone though. I've been blogging for almost a year but I think I hold myself back in thinking creatively or finding sources of inspiration, b/c of intimidation. BUT, I enjoyed this post and I'm definitely referencing back to it in the future! I really like your mention of an idea serving a use rather than being an idea for the sake of something different. Love this.

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  2. I honestly admire your ability to write such inspiring, coherent posts, H! Because this one with your thoughts on creativity and ideas for how to channel that creativity? It's effing brilliant. I seriously am going to take your tips seriously (particularly the one about drawing inspiration from unexpected sources, and just writing everything down, because I rarely remember to do these things), and try to train myself to make them habits in my day-to-day. And, one more thing, this post couldn't have come at a better time - I'm feeling a little creatively challenged right now, and it helps to see your tips!

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  3. I've been obsessively reading this post and your post about your traveler's journal because I really feel like something needs to change in how I manage things and I'm *hoping* more hand writing and notebook use is going to be the answer. Thank you for sharing your tips and tricks.

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  4. This is such an insightful post, Hannah! I'm also not the most creative blogger out there but I do like to do what I can and, like you said, not just fill up space with my posts.

    I don't exactly have a set routine of channeling creativity because it always comes in little bursts of inspirations and ideas. That being said, I do jot down any ideas that come to me as I draw inspiration from a spectrum of sources.

    I so agree about letting the original idea go if it's not working out. I've so many drafts gathering virtual dust for that reason alone. I shall make a point to revisit them and see where they go today.

    Also, it's important to make a habit of channeling creativity because so many times I get lazy with them and then it goes all poof!

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  5. Oh my gosh, I love this post!! I haven't been feeling very creative lately, especially on the blog, so I've had to take a step back and just do what I can and not "force" it. But it's just so very hard when you're in a sort of block and you don't know how to take it down to let your creative juices flowing again. So, this is wonderful! :)

    I definitely write down all of my ideas! Usually they happen at night when I'm trying to sleep, so I always use my phone's notepad so I don't forget anything. It is SO helpful! And I also love being inspired by other people and that has definitely given me great starting points with post ideas and features before. And revamping something that hasn't been working is also a great idea! Oh, and bringing other bloggers in on a project is one of the most FUN things to do! I started a feature with one of my blogging friends for one of our favorite TV shows and those posts are always so much fun to make.

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  6. Some great tips you mention in this post! I especially like the keeping a notebook close and it's one of the thigns that I do. For me forcing it can actually help as long as I alreayd know a topic. If I already have a topic for a post, just sitting down and writing things usually helps me to write the post. Although I try not to force myself to blog, but if I feel likl blogging just starting a new post seems to help. I sometimes get inspiration from weird palces, last thing I remember how I got inspiration from a weird palce was when commenting on a blog and mentioning something which made me think I could expand that one sentence to a whole blog post and another post idea was born.

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  7. First, I'm obviously WAYYY behind in my Feedly otherwise I would have seen this post and SHOUTED THANK YOU FROM THE ROOFTOPS AGES AGO because on the BB blog today, I'm begging for creative help. And you already answered my call before I cried out. ALL HAIL HANNAH.

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