Creating more Creativity

Trying to be creative is sometimes very frustrating. It’s as if the muse has died out completely, while we sit there waiting for some inspiration. Particularly can it be hard to get in touch with our creative self if we have been neglecting it for some time. It goes into hiding if you don’t massage it on a regular basis and keep it awake. If we leave the creative self hanging out to dry for even shorter periods – even if we have years of experience in the creative field behind us – it gets back to us but short circuiting the creative connection. The muse dies out on us.

The fact is that nothing encourages and develops creativity more than creating – being creative. It doesn’t matter what field you are exploring creatively, be it photography, writing, painting, design, performances, music or any other creative activity. Whatever we do, we need to keep doing it on a regular basis. If we want to develop our creative skills, become better and more profound in what we do, we need to keep creating – all the time. And we need to work creatively even when the result is mediocre and not what we want it to be. If we stop and just wait for inspiration to come, we only stagnate even more. Instead that’s when you have to push yourself through the wall of self-doubt and discouragement. Make mediocre art if that’s what comes out of your creative self. It’s only a temporary state, anyway. At some point the muse kicks in again, and you become inspired and your creative skills start developing again. It’s like playing on the beach. As soon as you start, it’s hard to stop.

Being creative encourages creativity. That’s why I have made it a rule for myself to do at least one personal photo shoot or project each week (I am a photographer after all!). I usually shoot much more, being assigned to do so. And that’s adding to the creative equation, too. But I want to make sure I develop my personal photography as well, and once a week is what I can spare of my time during busy weeks, and when it’s less busy, it still forces me to go out and be creative. It’s been a good way to keep my creative spirit going – and developing.

How do you keep developing your creative skills and staying inspired?

121 thoughts on “Creating more Creativity

  1. I too find that I am more creative when doing something for myself, for my own pleasure. When doing projects for others you always are thinking “will they like this?”. When creating for yourself you don’t have that hanging over your head so allow yourself to be more creative and this is when the learning really comes in. You tend to step outside the safe zone when you don’t worry about whether anyone else will like it. When I am feeling in a slump I usually go through old photos I have taken and work on new approaches to presentation of the photo, Sometimes I like the results and have feelings of elation, other times I don’t and end up feeling like I’ve wasted time that could have been well spent doing something else. At those times I try to look at it as having at least learned what I don’t like!

    1. It’s a good point, that when you don’t do creative work for somebody else, it’s much easier to step out of the box. And, yes, sometimes we feel like the result is quite mediocre, but still that’s also part of the process, and as you say, it’s an opportunity to learn more.

  2. I like shooting along. My thoughts are clear then and I am not distracted by the opinions or conversation of others. Your post offers good advice, thanks for sharing.

  3. Oh yes, can’t stop and wait for inspiration. When I’m not feeling it, I try a different medium, one with few expectations, and that often jump starts and even informs my usual work.

  4. Lovely image and metaphor, Otto, for this subject…as a photographer and writer, I find that one craft plays off the other…if I’m having a hard time writing, I pick up my camera and find it inspires me and if I have no idea what I want to photograph next, I pick up my pen…magic!

    1. As I just wrote in response to Elena’s similar comment, it’s great for any artist to be able to switch between different art forms.

  5. Lately I have had trouble “feeling” and “being” creative. It seems though that the thing that gets me motivated is my walking. When I am out in the fresh air discovering what nature holds for me that day I feel inspired. I often flesh out a whole piece on the walk. Unfortunately, as soon as I take off my sneakers it vanishes into thin air and I have to try and remember. 😉

    1. What about bringing pen and paper (or whatever you use in your creative process) along with you on your walks? And even if you feel the inspiration vanish when you get inside, I am sure by keep going on, the creativity will start to buzz again, although maybe not right away.

  6. years ago i hit an emotional wall that prevented me from painting in color for years. every time i picked up a brush, the colors turned muddy. it took no psychiatrist to tell me that my emotional life was in shambles. my pencil drawings have never been finer than during that time. i was lucky that i could switch to pencil (while burning those horrid paintings!).. i knew when i could paint in color, that my demons would be exorcised, and they were.

    you are so right about staying disciplined to keep that creative spirit alive and well!

    1. Our mind is quite a strong character to deal with at times. I am glad you were able to find a way to express your creativity – and hopefully you were also eventually able to work out your emotionally barriers. 🙂

  7. Always so insightful Otto! Yes, you do have to keep being creative or it seems to atrophy. For the past year or more I can’t find enough hours to make all the “stuff” in my minds eye. But I find sitting quietly and assigning a project to my mind is usually the quickest way to come up with the answer to what a new project will be. Then, whatever it is, get busy and let it find it’s own direction. Often better than the original idea if I let it “breathe” as I go along and let it find its own natural direction. Great post, always gets me thinking about all kinds of things I am not conscious of. 😉 Love the playing on the beach idea and photo, perfect fit.

  8. True. ‘It goes into hiding if you don’t massage it on a regular basis and keep it awake.’ I have experienced this often. Once I start writing or creating I can’t stop. Wonder where the inspiration comes from in those moments. Loved this post for its simplicity and clarity.

  9. Hi Otto — so true about creativity being born from creativity.

    What are you going to shoot as your personal projects? Do you have themes? Or do you just go where the camera takes you?

    When it comes to creative endeavors, I’m a firm believer that I must at least try. Even if I fail. And I have failed at many things. This summer I tried to write a children’s book. And I did. A few times, actually. I now have four completed (written and illustrated) books on my shelf. The first three were learning lessons. Learning to be creative again, after years of only spotty illustrating. Learning to listen to my inner muse, and learning to fail! But I kept trying. And each book was better than the last. I don’t think that would have happened unless I had just gone out and done it. Like you are going to do with your photo projects.

    So many things got in the way. So many doubts. Yet I plunged ahead. I took the time to write the books, took the time to illustrate them, and saw them through to completion. Talking is good, but doing is better. I’m so proud now, of this fourth book. It was a long way coming, but it was a needed chore to restore my creativity. Now — I don’t want to stop! 🙂 I have two more children’s books in the works, and because I’m now devoting constant time (albeit not that much, as I have two young children), even the little bits of time, because I’m making a point to keep them regular, are keeping my creativity alive. It’s a balancing act, as I’m sure you know. But so worth it. You take beautiful pictures, my friend. And you tell beautiful stories. I’m glad you are listening to your creative self, and I hope I, too, will someday put something creative of my self into this world. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. How great that you have been able to make four books – and more are in the coming. Congratulations! How did you publish the books? As for myself I have various projects I work on. Some I have mentioned on this blog, but sometimes I just go out on the street and shoot whatever comes in my way.

      1. It’s inspiring to read about how in touch you are with your creativity.

        I’m in the process right now of reviewing a proof of my first book on Amazon. It’s exciting to finally be close to publishing. After a lot of advice from writer friends (who’ve published both traditionally and self), I decided to go the self-publishing route. Seemed the best fit. Have you ever thought of publishing a book of your photos, travels, inspirations?

        1. Yes, I have thought about publishing a book, but so far it’s been with the thought. Maybe one day… Good luck with you book project. When is it gonna be out?

  10. As usual I relate so closely to your writing here as an artist who experiences these aspects of creating so closely as you describe. I remember something a teacher of mine said “You need to find something in yourself to relate to personally in any work you do”. That may take some imagination in some circumstances.

    1. I believe the teacher you refer to, was absolutely right. Relating personally to whatever you are working on is so important to make it stand out and be important also for others. And I am very glad that my writing is relating to your way of working.

  11. Wise words. As you suggest, creativity needs constant attention in order to thrive. I have struggled with that notion of settling with mediocre work but as time slips by, it is a whole lot easier to let go of my ego and just do it. No matter if it’s perfect or not, creation for its own sake keeps the wheel turning 🙂

    1. Mediocre work isn’t bad if you look at creativity as a process. Even less than satisfactory work will bring further along the road of creativity. Thanks for sharing!

  12. I love the thought of massaging our creative side…ah, heavenly!
    I love to watch young children at play for inspiration and constantly auditioning for different types of roles.
    I enjoyed your thoughts…thanks!

  13. Very inspiring article! I love what you write in the first paragraph. After all I can’t agree more with you. 🙂

    I keep developing my creative skills and staying inspired by reading and practicing and make my own experiments. Learning from my mistakes is only help me to improve myself. 🙂

  14. Show up. If I show up at the studio I start fiddling around – something will start. For me, painting is my major creative outlet, but it takes a lot of time in my head. When the time or the muse isn’t there I make art with another medium every day, like take photographs, write a post, try out a poem. I always have a sketchbook or it may even be my iphone with the ability to take a photograph. I used to think I wasted too much time at the computer working on my blog, but I’ve decided those are hours spent keeping me connected to art.

    1. You are so right. Just start doing whatever you need to do to be creative – and don’t worry about the result. Things will eventually start to take off.

  15. Thanks Otto, for the words that we always need to hear. I agree, one has to constantly keep it going to be creative. My 365 project has kept me on my toes, and the discipline in doing this project has been perfect in my start with photography. I always take my camera with me on my daily walks, and find it amazing that I can always find something to photograph. I’m finding that taking daily photos is a great way to keep the creativity flowing.

  16. Thanks for a great article. I have been following Darwin and Sam’s challenge of “someting from nothing” and finding things at home, called “something from nothing” on For instance take a picture in your kitchen. Then explore a closer view of various objects in a small area of the kitchen. it is quite fun! Also, in his book, “The Art of Seeing”, Freeman Patterson suggests walking so many steps out your door, turn right and walk so many steps then left for so many steps, then stop. This is what you will shoot.He has many exercises in his book and his work is an inspiration itself.

    1. Great ideas, Jane, thank you for sharing. Freeman Patterson’s book has lost of suggestions for how to get out of the box. It’s really recommended reading for anyone interested in photography.

  17. It is almost as if the muse slips away when pursued directly, isn’t it? Recently things were feeling a bit stale in the studio~ a serious case of the “I just can’t go on!!” It took getting that down for me to try experimentation and play…that is kind of sad to have to admit! It worked, though.

  18. This is so true. I experience it with both my writing and photography. There are days when I just feel dry, but I still make myself sit down with my book and write. Some days I break through the barrier and it’s great…others, I just wallow through. But the key is to just do it. I also find it helpful to change up my routine.

  19. I like the soft cloud like edges on your beach photo it looks inviting. I think for me sometimes resting and being very quiet in between moments of creativity is helpful for me. I think it helps me restore the well. I was just saying to Navar yesterday that I can understand why photographers like to travel because arriving to a new place that you’ve never seen can be insprining. I go to local events and some times I find that inspiring. Also being aware of the thread of joy when I’m really enjoying a creative project usually learning somthing new and having to stretch myself a little. I agree with your line “Being creative encourages creativity. ” I think that is very true. Some times with writing I just have to keep writing at times it is easy and at other times it’s like pulling my hair out but I keep going regardless. :+) I juest realized there are also times I take a break from one creative medium and get excited about another like painting or collages or somting like that.

    1. There are many ways to restore our creative well, and one of them is rest and quite. And, yes, going to new place. The danger for a photographer, though, is that he or she gets all caught up only in the exotic of a new place. To create touching photographs it’s important to still capture the universal of being even when you are drowned in new and exciting impression.

  20. You ask about developing creative skills and staying inspired. The two are obviously inter-related but are different.
    My belief is that creative skills are probably best developed by pursuing a particular aspect of an art form and by becoming engrossed in it. The poet Shelley said of his art form that poetry ‘lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world and makes familiar objects as if they were not familiar’. By becoming engrossed we give ourselves time and space to see and experience things anew, to explore different perspectives, examine patterns, textures, the effects of lighting etc. By becoming engrossed we want to discover how the masters of our art form have interpreted and expressed similar subjects. We want to learn.
    Inspiration is rather different and is influenced by personal interests allied with curiosity. For photographers who need to kick start the imagination, Google ‘Photo Challenge’, not for answers but for creative stimulation.

  21. Vakkert bilde, NYDELIG stemning!
    Jeg har det siste året fotografert stort sett hver dag, har alltid med meg kamera. Jeg liker nok aller best å ta portretter. Hjemme i Norge opplever jeg at det er vanskelig å gå ut på gata å fotografere mennesker, så kreativiteten blir mer utfordret der! ; )

    Har akkurat kommet tilbake fra en fantstisk tur til Yunnan! : )

    Ønsker deg en god dag Otto!

    1. Det med at det er vanskeligere å gå ut på gaten i Norge for å fotografere, er nok mest en mental barriere. Vi tror at nordmenn er så private, men vi har stort ikke vanskeligere for å forhold oss til å bli fotografert enn folk flest.

  22. When I feel stuck or begin to listen to the chatter of my monkey mind telling me to shut up, I go on a hike. There is nothing better – for me – than being out in nature, whether it’s a hike up a tree covered slope or a walk on a beach, if I get out there I always come back inspired.

  23. most of the time creativity is in the simplicity, we often go in search of originality without considering that being original is a subjective act, simplicity, I believe, instead, belongs to the pure state of things … or perhaps, nowadays, the mere fact of seeking simplicity is already in itself an original act

  24. Firstly, Otto, let me just say that this is such a magical image. The depth of content and the tones make is really special. The topic of your post is a significant one for me, as I do find it quite an elusive matter, at times. Getting out there in the streets and covering as much ground as possible always helps me, as the next unforgettable moment might be just around the corner. When it doesn’t happen, I don’t usually fret about it because there’s always another day. For me then, it’s just a matter of pushing on when it comes to street photography. As you would know (because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to produce the kind of images you do), looking constantly at everything around me, as if I was seeing for the first time, really helps. I guess this is “beginner’s mind” in the Zen sense of it.

  25. Wonderful and wise advice, Otto. I try to get out and do a little something every day, although some days are easier than others. Love the image with this post. 🙂

  26. A great post. I read something that Tchaikovsky wrote, and I’ll share it here with you: “There is no doubt that even the greatest musical geniuses have sometimes worked without inspiration. This guest does not always respond to the first invitation. we must always work, and any a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way. we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who master their disinclination… I have learnt to master myself, and I am glad I have not followed in the steps of some of my Russian colleagues, who have no self-confidence and are so impatient that at the least difficulty they are read to throw up the sponge. This is why, in spite of great gifts, they accomplish so little, and that in an amateur way.” It’s long but it’s Tchaikovsky!

    Perhaps the best advice I have read since I started to write is something I read about Raymond Chandler: he made sure he sat down at his desk every single day and concentrated, even if he didn’t write anything.

    Discipline plays a part – and a huge one at that 🙂 Thanks Otto!

    1. Ernest Hemingway did the same. Inspiration comes to those who force it to show up! Thanks for the quote by Tchaikovsky. A well form statement about inspiration.

  27. Such an amazing blog as always my friend. So thoughtful and thanks for putting things into perspective. I’m always inspired by music. When I hear music, that’s when ideas come to me. Because I’ve been busy lately, it’s the producing that I’ve been procrastinating about. Perhaps because I’m a little stressed. Do you think that is it? How can you balance stress with creativity?

    1. I use music for inspiration too. As for stress, I often find stress good for the creative process. When I am in a hurry and running out of time, I just keep working without thinking too much about creativity – and that’s often when it shows up for me.

  28. I know what you mean. During the summer months when my weekends are booked with photoshoots my personal library is empty. But ever since I got my iPhone and joined Instagram community I push myself to find the story and snap it with my phone then publish a few everyday. It is a bit of a copout perhaps, but there are days I truly don’t want to pick up my camera at all. I love that you give yourself projects. Good on you.

    1. iPhone and Instagram has inspired the whole world! And I don’t think it’s less valuable than working with a “real” camera. Whatever it takes to take interesting pictures!

  29. I saw that you had stopped and I am glad you did because I was looking for your last post. As you see I have gone back to the street. The personal interview stories had gotten a little hard to listen to. Your words are always so true and they usually inspire me to move on. Five more days and I’m on to Cancun for a week. Beautiful people and a change of scenery always helps.

  30. Hei tilbake … takker for kommentaren. Alltid hyggelig å hilse innom din verden og ikke minst kreative hjørne! Herlige innlegg, også det fra Bergen. Ja, hva kan man vente av den byen. Har to år på rad forsøkt å få til en MC-tur vestover, men ved enhver anledning har regnet stoppet oss. Styrtregn og MC er ikke min greie, hehe

    Ha en fortsatt fin og kreativ helg!


  31. hello, sir Otto… the photo above is simple yet splendid. 🙂 btw, i usually take a walk, look at the pavements, people watch, traffic watch and look at trees and green things. no hard regimen, really 😉 warm regards

  32. Thank you so much for this post…sometimes it a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and maybe switching mediums in order to find that spark again…I seem to go back to creating something other than photos (like quilting or scrapbooking) when the subject matter seems stale. Before one knows it, the fire is burning brightly again!

  33. Hmmm, sometimes I take a break and try to “refill the well.” I go to museums, interesting stores, listen to music I’ve never heard before, try a new recipe, walk in the woods, etc. Backing off from my usual creative activities and trying new things seems to trigger new ideas.

  34. I love the lightening you were able to capture at the beach. Oh trying to get creative for me when I am feeling stagnant is visiting other interesting blogs like yours. But most the time I just see things that interest me and I want to share so I take photos. Then the photos always help me to find words to go with the photos. I have 3 blogs and each is completely different from the other, but all my words in each are created after the photo is in my draft or upon looking a certain photo the words just flow. The photo is always easy for me it is the words that I often have to ponder, also what photo to choose. Then there is always the time needed to even be able to ponder a photo that I want to share now that is my biggest challenge. Time to just ponder or take a photo and just play with it to see how I can enhance or present it better. I love when I can experiment with photos that really gets me my creativity going. May you always find that special creativity in you so you may share your wisdom and beautiful photos.

  35. My problem is I have too many creative ideas and not enough time & energy. Then I get discouraged from not being able to do everything. So for the past year I’ve been making lists and trying to to tackle a project on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on how big the project is.

    1. Squeezed for time is something that encounter most of us at least at times. I think it’s a good idea to prioritise your potential projects and do some of you ideas instead of getting discourage and get nothing done.

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