10 Creative Exercises For Artists, Designers and Creatives
Life can get a little boring sometimes.
We eat, we sleep, we work, and hopefully get in a little play every now and then.
Millennials, in particular, are often contractors or freelancers, so even more time has to be put into the grind to find the next source of income.
We all do the best we can, but there’s only so many hours in a day.
It’s still important to take care of ourselves, but we often forget a muscle even if we always make time for the gym, and that’s our mind.
We brush our teeth, we take showers every day, but when’s the last time you polished your frontal lobe with some critical thinking outside your vocation?
Why Is It so Imperative to Flex the Creative Mind?
It gets into a routine during your work day, and areas you haven’t used since you got out of school can atrophy.
The old classroom complaint of When am I ever going to use this? is sometimes very true, as in our adult lives, we tend to be mentally exhausted after a long day’s work, and rarely do algebra or write papers about classical authors if it’s not directly called for in our profession.
The brain itself needs some new forms of stimulation every so often.
You need it for problem solving.
An agile memory can save you time you’d spend searching the internet for that tidbit of info you need for a project, or scouring your apartment for the keys you swore you placed on the desk last night.
People who keep their minds active have had better health and quality of life in later years according to a number of studies.
It’s not all that tough to do a little bit of thinking that can stimulate your mind in big ways.
Here are 10 simple exercises that you can do to get in that work mentally to match your dedication to being your best in other areas of your life.
Some of them can be done with friends/coworkers, some of them can be done during downtime in the uber, while you shower, or simply when that conference call seems like it will never end.
Some of them can be done as ìone and doneî things that you put an hour into and don’t really mess with again, some of them can be done with a few minutes here, a few minutes there, and repeated daily or a few times a week.
Use the letters of the alphabet (in order), and name cities or countries starting with each.
If geography wasn’t your jam, you can basically sub out any type of nouns.
Plants, animals, bands (or musical acts), movies, television shows, it doesn’t matter what the category is so much, whatever your area of expertise or interest is will do just fine.
This can also be done with a companion, or even a group, take turns and whoever gets stumped first has to buy lunch.
You may have to institute an allowed skip or two for certain categories, as you don’t necessarily want the game to end at ìwî too much.
2. The Ministers Cat
One of my kid’s favorite car games is called :The Minister’s catî” and it’s similar to the last exercise, except instead of nouns, this one focuses on adjectives.
A letter is decided on before the round, and the player inserts an adjective into the sentence ìThe minister’s cat is a _ catî, that starts with the letter.
It can get pretty funny when players run out of common words, so it’s great if done with a group that has an appreciation for humor.
This is one of my favorites, because vocabulary isn’t something people generally test themselves on once they graduate school, but it’s very important in a fluid job market to be able to express oneself effectively in a multitude of ways.
3. Character Development
Draw a plain character to use as a template.
Redraw the character with small changes to make them immediately recognizable as something different.
This doesn’t have to be done as Leonardo Da Vinci quality sketches, you can use stick figures and be quite minimalist about it, the point is to say something about the character without having to describe them in words.
Put a hard hat on, and a hammer in hand, and you have a construction worker.
Give them a punky hair cut and a guitar, and they’re a rock star.
This is a quantity over quality exercise, so doodles on napkins at your favorite dining spot will work just fine.
If you were to find it enjoyable enough to do regularly, making a portfolio of them could be a conversation starter or even an outlet for your impeccable sense of satire.
Describe a sensation or thing perceived by one sense in a way that is perceived by a different sense.
Draw your Beethoven’s 9th symphony, write a song or poem that embodies the taste of cinnamon rolls, or do an interpretive dance describing the way your significant other smelled on their first date.
Don’t just draw the band, or describe the taste, make the observer feel the way you felt. Not that you have to share it, though.
It’s perfectly fine if it never sees the light of day, so long as you put a good deal of thought into it and end up with something that you are pleased by.
6 ñ Reorganize a functioning space so that the items that belong there are categorized in an unusual way, while still being functional.
Instead of putting all the tools on your desk, put ones you use in a routine in drawers in the order you use them. Rearrange everything by color.
Play tetris in a drawer so that everything fits just right, and use the extra drawer to remove some of the lesser used items from your work space. Don’t work in an office?
This can also be done in a kitchen, garage, even a construction company vehicle that often acts as the office.
Move the pots and pans closer to the stove or the prep area.
Move things around in a toolbox until tools for your car projects are separate from tools you use on home improvement matters, and the tools that aren’t exclusive to one or the other are together.
This not only makes you think about organizing things, but could lead to inspiration from working in an area that looks new to you, breaking up the routine.
Recycle your next throwaway items in a way that doesn’t include tossing them in a bin.
Take that water bottle, clean it out, and use it again.
Don’t just put more water in it, cut the top off and use it to replace your old toothbrush cup in your washroom.
Put a hole in the cap, fill it with paint, glue a sponge to the top, and make some art.
You might be surprised at what you come up with, and the reactions your friends have when they see you making something cool out of something they threw away.
If you have kids, an empty paper towel roll can become a crown by unrolling it and taping some ends together.
Obviously think of safety when you do this, don’t use broken glass without ensuring it won’t cut anyone, don’t use food waste in a way that’s neglectful enough to get yourself sick (though a compost pile is fabulous if you have the space).
7. Creative Reasoning
When you’re out in the world, look around you, and spot something unusual.
A man wearing a thick coat and shorts or sandals.
A car missing a mirror.
A dog trotting happily down the way with a single shoe in his mouth.
Whatever it is, make up a reason why it’s happening.
The man didn’t have any pants because his lady caught him in a fib, and took the scissors to them.
The car missing a mirror was used by an undercover government agent and lost some parts in an epic car chase scene that’d fit right into an action movie.
The dog just came from the house of the man in the thick coat and sandals, who is looking for his (possibly former) best friend so that he can finish getting dressed before dinner.
The world around us has some crazy things, use it, and make it a little bit crazier!
8. Company Builder
Design a company that does something you’ve always wanted to do, but don’t have the expertise necessary for.
Always wanted to run your own bakery?
Think of a name, make a logo, you can even go as far as opening up your map app and finding a good spot downtown.
It doesn’t have to be a product based business, it could be a carpentry outfit or esports team.
Part of the challenge is thinking of all the things you’d need to look the part as well.
A carpentry company is going to have the logo on a fleet of trucks, the esports team will have jerseys and stream overlays, the bakery would have uniforms and probably decorative packaging.
If logo design and graphic arts aren’t your thing, write some copy for a webpage or email list that will tell the world why they need what it is that you’re selling.
Come up with a product or service list, and price everything in a way that you feel would be competitive.
9. Random Word Story
Use a random word generator, and using the result, write a story, song, or poem using the word as many times as possible with decent grammar and correct usage. Alternatively, draw a picture using word art that signifies the word in your mind. If you’d like, you could even use more than one word, and create a title using all the words, and go into a project from there. The important thing is to take what you’re given, and make something out of it that has a little of your flair, even though it may be a weird group of words that had nothing in common until they popped onto your screen.
1 ñ Think of a minor event that probably has little or no significance at the time.
Flushing a toilet, closing a door, stepping on a bug.
From there, using your improv skills, think of one consequence (positive or negative) that could come from that action.
In the case of the toilet, the noise could scare your cat. Closing a door creates a draft.
Stepping on a bug could lead to a spider that would have caught the critter getting hungry and moving its’ web into your car.
Then, keep going and think of a consequence of that consequence.
Carry on until you can’t anymore, hopefully because an answer was so funny that you completely lost your train of thought.
This one (like any improv) is almost always better with a group, and you can learn a lot of things about people from the places their thoughts go in an exercise like this.
These exercises are only a small taste of what one could do to get their creative juices flowing, there are a ton of things one could do to get brain buff.
I hope you try these exercises out and at least get a few good laughs or a new perspective on something you’ve never really thought about before.
If you find them too easy, try adding more constraints.
For #10, only use cities on your continent.
With #5, use all the items in a room of your choice, or only use items that you can’t normally recycle.
In the case of #1, you could designate an end point for the story and lead it to a particular point with your shenanigans.
There’s no one exercise that’s going to lead to a huge spike in mental acuity, but every little bit helps, and the important thing in any workout is reps and consistency.
Never stop growing your mind, it’s literally the thing that makes a person who they are.