My creative writing professor once said, “If you are feeling uninspired, read.” I would take it a step further and say, experience. As Stephen King said in his book “On Writing,” “Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” Art supports life. Sometimes, when the creative in you is feeling stuck, the best thing to do is take inspiration from life.
My personal favorite way to do this is to travel alone. This is something all creatives can do, whatever your practice is.
Traveling alone can be a daunting idea for some, but it doesn’t have to be. The best part about traveling alone is that you can make every decision the way you want it to be. The trip can be as lavish or budget-friendly as you wish.
Here are some of my tips for creatives as they plan their solo expeditions:
1. Make it low-pressure.
Travel does not have to be some far-off, untouchable destination, like the aqua waters of Greece or a quaint pastry cafe in Paris. Many of us avoid travel due to the anxiety of planning all the expenses, accommodations and flights. But think about everything already around you within reach that you take for granted. Maybe you live near a big city – go take a weekend off to be a tourist. Maybe get out of your city and head to a lake. Find a campsite in the mountains. Drive to the state line and get a motel at some interstate highway town. Just go somewhere out of your ordinary routine, and bask in the freedom of it. Sometimes the feeling of being free in your physical decisions can help you feel mentally free in your creative projects as well. Putting your mind in a state of relaxation is the best way for your brain to form new connections and to provide fertile ground for creative ideas to spring up.
2. Make it a goal to learn one thing.
Maybe you’re just going to the campsite in the mountains near your house. Learn about all the trees in that area. Learn about the kind of rocks and the climate that the environment thrives in. If you’re in a city, learn about the people groups that populate the area. Make it a creative project exercise.
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Maybe you’re a painter. Catalog your observations in your sketchbook. Let the environment be an inspiration, and don’t discount anything. You never know what might lead to inspiration. Whether or not what you learn ends up being used in your creative work, learning for the sake of learning can expand your mind and helps you see details that you might not have before.
3. Set a practical, quantitative goal.
Seek quantity over quality when producing creative work. If we give ourselves the standard of quality, we get trapped in a perfectionist mindset. If we give ourselves a quantitative goal (say, two paintings, one chapter of a book or three poems), we are focused on that number and are able to approach our work in a relaxed state of mind. This is key!
You may produce good work, or you may not. It is all part of the process, and you must embrace and enjoy it.
4. Journal and connect with yourself.
In “Quiet,” Susan Cain’s famous book about introverts, she talks about how humans are able to best access deep thought when they are by themselves. Take advantage of your time in being alone to be carried along the stream of your thoughts, wherever they lead. Jot them down. Do some meditation work to shake off the inner critic. Write kind things to yourself. Play.
Connect with your inner child, that free-spirited nature inside you that is more concerned with the enjoyment of the process than the outcome. You may be surprised by the results.
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