the sally sisson blog

March 13, 2011

March Madness: celebrating creativity + the (sometimes maddening) creative process

image from John Kelly's "Procrastination" video

Get inspired

Anyone else out there been in a slump this winter? Here’s a great collection of video clips from 99% to shake the cobwebs from the cranium. Check it out:

10 Awesome Videos on Idea Execution + The Creative Process

Spring forward

This coming week I’ll be covering creativity in my blog and would love folks to contribute thoughts, ideas, doodles, random musings or guest blog posts. Whatever you like.

Battling creative block

Last spring I posted the following three pieces to give myself a kick-start:

Here Comes the Sun: Overcoming creative block (part 1 of many)

Overcoming Creative Block (part 2): Writing, procrastination + keeping a sense of humor

Overcoming Creative Block (part 3): Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity

Tell me:

When it’s cold and gray (or when it’s hard to come up with something creative to draw, design, write or say), where do you look for inspiration? How do you break out of a slump and get back in gear? If you’re stuck in a long and tedious project, how do flex your creative muscles on the side? I’d love to read your comments below. Thanks!

  • Trebor

    I think it's best to shift your surroundings, take a trip, small or big, spend time in nature..go to museums, dance performances, concerts…other creative ventures will inspire your own, will put you in the creative reality. If all else fails, revisit your favorite writers' or artists' work like a bee dropping in on the hive of honey and you will once again know how to get to the flowers you seek.

  • Doug

    Procrastination is such a negative term. I prefer to think of it as getting all of your ducks in a row. Here's the real dear, you awake from hibernation in a cranky mood. Your immediate reaction to EVERYTHing is: “I'm right, the LOSERS that have been grinding their teeth all winter are WRONG!”

    So, because you have been asleep and avoiding the family check book, you stand at the very end of the protective barrier sand say– “So What!”

    “I have been dead for the last couple of months, what is the difference in a few eternal centuries more?”

    I WILL TAKE A STAND! (dammit!)

    Then the first arrow pierces your heart and…

  • Tracy Graves

    When I'm stuck, the world easily descends into a maelstrom of despair. And then, to re-jigger myself, I spend oodles of time looking at other people's work. I try and take the pressure off and create something for myself instead of for a client. I read something utterly escapist and don't worry about whether I'm intellectually furthering myself. And most importantly, I accept the fact that I need to get at least 5 crappy versions of something out of the way, and then something will emerge worth keeping.

  • sallysisson

    Love your point about the 5 crappy versions, Tracy. As someone who suffers from the procrastination-perfectionism syndrome, or whatever it's called, I need to remind myself of that. Every day. Thank you!

  • sallysisson

    Oh man, you've got it bad. Doug, just remember that the trolls under the bridge are your friends, not your enemies. They want to lure you out of your underground bunker and help you see the light of day so that you can WIN against the clowns behind those crowd-sourcing agencies and cookie-cutter website templates.
    Buy some really big wrap-around sunglasses, stay strong and try not to bite anyone's head off in the supermarket. Then again, if you were more mentally stable, you probably wouldn't be such a talented designer and creative director.
    Hang in there!

  • sallysisson

    Love this. Yes, nature. Think I need nature. Fresh air, trees and sunlight. Been fantasizing about camping in Big Sur and building a treehouse in my backyard. (However, I have no carpentry skills.) It's been a long, dismal winter in New England, but sometimes that means you just have to come up with strategies and make time and (in my case) schedule ahead for things like museum trips. Thanks for the inspiration and best of luck in your travels; I look forward to reading your blog – and latest poetry.

  • Pingback: Sally Sisson » 10 Tips on Combating Creative Block()

  • Doug Williams


    Here's one from the director I worked with in NY during my playwriting days.

    She said the best way to beat block was to find famous quotes on the subjects (or themes) you're writing about, and then make them your own. The quotes serve as idea factories that 1) give you another perspective; 2) take you in a direction you'd likely have never found yourself; and 3) reinvigorate the internal creative process by making you think about something familiar in a completely different way.

    I've been doing that for years — in screenplays, novels, speeches, PR/marketing, online writing, et al — and it's never failed me once.

  • Joe Lee

    When in doubt or stuck, I doodle. Doodling to me is active so it literally gets me going. It's my physical technique to kick start a mental stream of consciousness. Since my doodles are not even worthy of being called a sketch, they are uninhibited and uncensored. Also, I use scraps of paper, napkins, recycled printed sheets, anything that has no feeling of preciousness whatsoever, not even post-its or sketchbooks. (Think about how many artists who like to flaunt and show off their “sketchbooks.”) Start here, there, or anywhere — JUST DOODLE IT. As Bucky Fuller once said, “How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else.”