Podcast The Art of Creativity

4 Ways to Put Yourself into a Creative Mindset

You’ve probably heard a lot of artists, no matter their medium, say something about needing to be in the right mood or the right frame of mind to be creative. And I can tell you from personal experience that it isn’t always easy to put yourself in that mood! It’s necessary, and for a variety of reasons. If you aren’t “feeling it,” then ideas don’t flow so easily. You may become frustrated more quickly, or you may find yourself making mistakes that you’d consider to be rookie mistakes because your focus just isn’t where it needs to be.

So what’s the solution for getting yourself into a creative mindset? This, of course, like so many things, is a personal choice. However, there are a few ideas that may help you — and even if not, the following list might just help you to come up with your own ways to get yourself into the mood to make art!

  1. Care for Yourself

It’s almost impossible to be at your creative best when you’re tired, cranky or generally feeling unwell. In order to assemble the creative mindset when needed, make sure that you get a good nights’ sleep and eat well, too. Exercise and do all the other things you need to do to make sure that health-wise, you’re the best you can be! Exercise, especially, if you’re up to it, not only gets the heart beating but it gets the mind working, too. Go for a brisk walk or invest in some small piece of equipment that you can use at home for exercise. I know that when I’m tired and I’ve not eaten well, or I’m suffering from some other health issue, my creative mind simply doesn’t flow as well. Half of the creative energy is physical energy!

Self-care can be applied to your surroundings, too. Whenever I find myself working on a creative project, I prefer to have a tidy, uncluttered space to do my work in. Because all that clutter is so distracting, it’s definitely worth my while to spend a few minutes decluttering my desk before I sit down to edit photos.

  1. Remove as Many Distractions as You Can

Distractions are likely the number one hindrance to any creative endeavor, whether you’re a writer, photographer or some other type of creative. The TV interrupts your thoughts as does the constant buzz of your phone. When you really want to get some creative time in, turn off the TV and consider muting your phone. Other people can prove to be a distraction, too, so it may be worth your time to let your family know that you’d like to work quietly for an hour or two so that they aren’t bursting into your workspace and interrupting your train of thought.

Another way to block out distractions is to put on a pair of headphones. Listen to music or something to do with photography (so long as whatever it is that you are listening to doesn’t prove to be a distraction in and of itself). This is helpful not only as a way to lose yourself in your thoughts, but it also serves as a sort of signal — when the headphones go on, you are not to be disturbed.

Distractions can also be problematic when you’re on a photo trip. For many, the temptation is to go out searching for photographs with friends. But, are you really taking all the photos that you can? Or, are you spending more time chatting and less time being creative? You can always go out looking for photos alone, of course, but for many, safety is a concern, especially when it comes to more dangerous hikes or remote locations. If you’re out with photographer friends, then it might be helpful to sit down and talk about the order of the day before you go on your trip. This way, you can designate times for chatter (like car rides or evenings in the hotel room) and times for creativity, when you’re out and about, actively taking pictures.

  1. Music Can Help

Listening to the creativity of others can be another great way to get yourself into the creative mindset. Whether you’re taking photos or editing them, make yourself some playlists that you can listen to that will go along with your work. If you’re tired, then maybe what you need is some energetic music — or blues, if the subject material that you are working with is a bit sad. Create playlists that make you feel the way you need to feel for the project that you’re working on. And, as one last tip — if you’re the type of person who easily stops working in order to sing along, then maybe look into music without lyrics to remove that potential distraction!

  1. Just Get to Work

It’s like that old Nike slogan: “Just Do It.” Sometimes, there isn’t a good way to get yourself into the mood for photography. You’ve listened to music, removed all distractions, done everything you could think to do, but nothing is working.

These are the times when you can either give up… or, you can grab your camera and get to work! Plug away, and you’ll likely find that as you work, as you become absorbed in what you’re doing, your mood will begin to shift to fit whatever it is you’re working on. All you needed was the willpower to get started.

The creative mindset isn’t always an easy thing to come by — and, these particular suggestions may not be the thing that works for you. It’s part of the task of art making, I think, for each of us to sit down and learn about ourselves, learn the things that motivate us and discover the things that trigger the creative parts of our minds. When you’re not feeling up to taking a few photos, try some of these suggestions or find the thing that works to put you in a creative frame of mind.

Will Moneymaker


About the author

Will Moneymaker

Will is a photographer, family historian, a husband of twenty-five years and devoted father of four. The arts have always been a part of his life. Join Will as he shares his thoughts and adventures in photography.