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One Way to Kickstart Creativity – Change Your Medium

If you’re anything like me (I hope not) you’ve tried about a hundred tricks for spurring creativity. When you want to come up with the next brilliant idea, the next dazzling piece of artwork…and you end up blinking at a screen.

I have to say, a live wire to the temple actually does work pretty consistently. The voices tell me I shouldn’t use it though. At least not often.

Anyway, I’m happy to say that I did find a method of kickstarting creativity. Reliably. Without the chance of brain hemorrhage.

The Change that Stokes the Creative Juices

I have many friends in creative industries. Writers like me. Painters. Cosplayers. Leatherworkers. Even a wacky guy who puts fangs into plushies. (Seriously.)

Two of these friends work as graphic designers. Good ones. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area at all, chances are you’ve seen their work somewhere.

In my conversations with them, I’ve learned something interesting about their creative processes. Like me, they employ a certain technique when beginning a new project. That we all use the same technique, for the same reason, getting the same results, tells me this is a bonafide creative-juice-stoker.

We change mediums from how we do our normal work.

“Mike” is a graphic designer. He works almost exclusively on digital projects (websites, presentations, etc.). He begins this work with pencil sketches on a sketchpad.

“Paul” is also a graphic designer in a specific branding field. He works for a big technology company. He starts many projects by painting! Yes, the blank canvas on the easel, wooden paintbrush, black beret and all.

I’m not sure about the beret, but sometimes he does have hat hair.

(Paul also created the cover for my “Viscount of 2213” Stymph novel. So I’m sure you can agree his work is phenomenal.)

In my own professional capacity, I write content for websites and marketing campaigns. The work shows up in a lot of different channels, almost all online.

What do I do when it’s time to start a new project? I grab a notepad and a pencil, and turn away from my computer. I write the project’s title and/or objective at the top…and commence freewriting!

(That means writing down whatever’s in your head. Relevant or not. Doodling, random thoughts, self-reflective statements like ‘I have no idea what to write about this oh wait…’, and so on.)

We all do this because it leverages the power of a “medium change.” Switching from the normal way we do our work to another. At least at the start.

Doesn’t that take extra time? A little bit. Why do it then? Well, because it works. No, I mean how does it work? Oh! Right. Sorry, the voices argue sometimes.

Think about your workday. Chances are you have a few repeating tasks each week. The same task, the same steps, week after week. It gets a little boring, right?

What happens here is your brain gets used to that pattern. It knows the steps involved, and devotes as little brainpower as possible to doing them. Because it knows that’s all you need.

A medium change jolts the brain out of its stupor. Something as simple as moving from computer to paper, or switching from your desk to a coffee shop, smacks the brain upside its parietal lobe and says, “Hey! Pay attention, we’ve got something new to accomplish!”

The brain loves novelty. It loves to create. When you do this, it wakes up and says, “Oh hey, awesome! Let’s make something fun. Open the Creative Juice floodgates!”

Some methods of “medium change” you might use are:

  1. Start work somewhere other than your normal ‘workspace’ – a conference room, outside, someone else’s desk (preferably when they’re not present), etc.
  2. Switch from online to paper, or vice versa.
  3. Take a walk and talk to yourself about the idea. Record yourself on your phone.
  4. Go to a different room in the house, like the kitchen or hallway. Only bring one notepad and a pen.
Creative Activity
You could even put on a suit and unroll a parchment. Look up ‘hand cramp exercises’ beforehand.
Image courtesy of The Met Collection.

Sound Easy? It is – and it Works!

A medium change doesn’t cost anything, or take more than a minute. Thus it’s easy to try. It works for every type of creative effort as well. Just the act of thinking up a medium change helps wake the brain up. Give it a try!

P.S. – Should I do more “Writing Advice” like this in future newsletters? If you’d like me to, shoot me an email or DM me on Facebook/Instagram (links below).

If you don’t want more Writing Advice, throw a greased weasel into the air twice. I will hear the weasel squeaking and count it as a ‘No’ vote.
(Then please tell us how you managed to grease the weasel and still hang onto it.)

~Chris W., The Wrong Writer

Published inFiction WritingNewsletter Archive

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