Seconds tick by as I stare pointedly at the blinking cursor on the blank page of my soon-to-be masterpiece. The world around me starts to fade and I feel myself being drawn in to the project at hand, imagining possibilities and carefully considering my approach.
There is nothing like the feeling of finally completing a project I’ve spent days perfecting; finally printing the tangible representation of my hard work, dedication and thoughts.
Arriving at that moment, however, is no easy task.
How I begin a project will vary enormously. If I have ideas or rigid instructions, I will start by typing an outline. Then I will conduct the necessary research and update the plan as I go so that when I am ready to write I will have most of the necessary information.
However, though there are certain guidelines I still must follow, I’ve gotten to the point in my academic career where I have a good amount of freedom to write about my interests. This free reign is both a blessing and curse: it requires me to think more creatively and sometimes makes it more difficult to start assignments.
During these moments, I’ll often start researching different topic possibilities and seeing where the searches and related links sections take me. I’ll ask friends or professors for starting points or look back to previous assignments or readings I’ve completed for inspiration. This works occasionally, but many times I must look to other techniques to stimulate my creativity.
I might close my laptop and take out a pen and paper to free write and brainstorm. I might take a short walk, shower or get some coffee. Or if the deadline isn’t pressing, I might simply go to bed or switch to a different task, returning to the troubling assignment when my mind is clearer.
If none of the above options work, sometimes I’ll take a 20 minute Netflix break to relax and stimulate creative thoughts. I might also browse Pinterest, Tumblr or Twitter for interesting ideas, or watch music videos on YouTube.
Hopefully by the time I’ve tried all of these techniques, I’ve found at least one viable idea.
I’m usually more creative when I’m a) well-rested and energized, b) caffeinated, c) with others discussing possibilities, or d) so tired that my filters lower and I feel freer to brainstorm and produce ideas that might normally be too outlandish for me to develop. Those sometimes outrageous ideas can sometimes be helpful, though, because I can later scale them back and turn them into something great.