Episode #18 – Creativity Boosters to Expand Your Creative Practice

Some days, we dive right into our creative practice and our work flows along seamlessly. Other days, it doesn’t quite work like that and we need a little boost. And then there are days when we feel like filling our creative well. We just need a little creative boost. In this episode, I discuss thirteen different boosters to help you expand your creative capacity and practice.

Fueling our creative practice is key to keeping our practice going and fun and inspired. These boosters are practices taht I use regularly, not every day, or even every week, but when I need them. Dip in. Try some out and reflect on your own life to discover what strategies you’ve got in your own toolbox that you might not even be aware of.

Click here to download a PDF with them all listed as well as a bonus quick write that has been proven to prime your brain for greater creativity and imaginative thinking.

Here are a few of artist Sheila Gardner’s practice pieces that I found at the estate sale:

In this solo episode, I discuss:

  • The four categories of creativity boosters
  • 13 different creativity boosters
  • how to use them to expand your own creative practice
  • a brief breathing practice/meditation

Links Mentioned in the Show

Download a PDF with all the boosters listed + a bonus quick write

Episode 17 – on your creative Mindset with Dr. Deborah Fryer

Episode 5 – on making sure you get enough sleep to amp up your creativity

Episode 12 – on making time for your creativity and making it a habit

Episode 2 – on the Artist Date

Blog post with ideas for adding more PLAY to your life

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Hello, you're listening to Episode 18 of the dear creativity let's play podcast. I'm Amy Isiman, and this week is all about creativity boosters for creatives. I think we have our tried and true strategies that we go to. But there's so many more. As I was brainstorming, the list for this episode and prepping for this episode. There were things that I used to rely on that I'd forgotten about ones that I didn't even really realize, but they function to boost my creativity.

This episode is for you. If you're kind of feeling stuck like you want some new ideas, or if you just kind of want to amp up your creativity if not even if you're stuck you're just like, oh I want I want a new way of looking at this I want a new way to, you know, add some ideas or to amp up some of the inspiration that I'm getting. Then this episode's for you as well.

This past weekend, I had to tackle the next chapter of my novel, I'd been stewing over it and feeling kind of stuck. And I knew what needed to happen next, but I wasn't quite sure how to get there like I wasn't sure where I was in the plot, and how I needed to get to the next big plot point. And it's frustrating when you want to work and write and create and you know where you want to go, but the threads, just aren't coming together. This also happens when you start a project, get to a certain point, check it, start over, get to roughly the same point hate it. start over. Have you ever been in that cycle. I certainly know I have I have piles of partially finished quilt of, you know, stories different things that I just I got to a point and it was like this just is I'm not feeling this anymore and then you know shiny object you start the next thing. And there's a point kind of like, you know, a speed bump or like Mount Everest, in a project that. Yeah, it feels more like a mountain than just a speed bump. And I know this is where terms like UFO for an unfinished object project or WIP for work in progress, come from because we all have as creatives lots of ideas and projects and things and rather than kind of diving in and being like okay well how can I, how can I make this thing this project work and amp up my creativity and my ideas for this,


Instead, we're like, Oh, well let's just start a new thing. So this episode really is about some creativity boosters to derive your ideas. And we all hit those bumps in our creative work where we need a little creative boost, or we just want to play and get some new ideas. So how do how do we get there? how do we get past the creative speed bumps? or how do we just really boost our creativity?


And the first step is to really own that you are in fact, creative, because you can't be anything else as a human, Deborah fryer and I talked about this in depth in Episode 17, own it, you are creative, and you can find a solution to either the speed bump or you can just boost your creativity. So, this weekend I did manage to get past my, oh my god what happens next problem.


And as I was thinking about how I did that, I realized as I said an intro that I do have some tried and true strategies that I regularly use to boost my creative Mojo.


So if you're feeling like you need a bit of a creative boost Listen here to this episode I'm going to go through I think there's 13, different creative creativity boosters. And then you can download the PDF that I put together for you. That's at amyisaman.com/boosters which has all of these listed as well as a bonus creative quick write that literally is scientifically proven like researched to fire up your creativity and prime those creative muscles. So, dip into that and have have fun with this.


You don't need to try all of these strategies choose one or two, give them a whirl see what happens and I encourage you to kind of reflect on your life might think well what what has worked for me in the past and try that again. And and approach it with a bit more intention. So these all of these creative boosters are ones that I use that work for me. And I've broken them down into four main areas there to get quiet losers, they get moving creativity boosters, they get engaged with your route work. And the find inspiration boosters.


So let's start with the finding inspiration boosters.


Creativity booster number one is to get creative in another area. Creativity, feeds, creativity, I've written numerous blog posts on this through the years. If you are stuck with a creative project or not sure where you want to go next with it, whether that's a story a painting or planning out where you want to put the flowers in your garden, do something creative in a totally different arena. For example, if you're feeling like your photos aren't capturing what you want them to try painting, try writing a story, bake a cake. And that's that's what I do for me if I'm stuck with a story also quilt bake. If it's summer I'll get in the garden. I'll write in a different format like a blog post or a newsletter and that'll kind of somehow just unlock that other area. It allows your brain to rest and solve the problem. While you're not focused on it.

It's sort of like creativity cross training. So when you think of an athlete, in order to be a better basketball player. They have to be good at all the different elements of basketball so jumping they have to be physically strong. They have to have great endurance and cardio, and they build all of those skills, not only by playing basketball but by lifting weights by running by doing drills by shooting I practicing, and then it all comes together. So think about your creative life that way like oh well what else can I do Can I can I create an another arena, which will strengthen your creativity and ideas in this in another area.

Creativity booster number two is what I dove deep into on episode number two right when I started the podcast, because I think it's so important. And this is the artist's date. Julia Cameron in her seminal work The Artist's Way on creativity encourages creatives to go on artists date regularly. And this is just going out finding inspiration, spending time alone. Not working on your to do list just enjoying life in an inspirational way.

Some of my favorite artists are fabric or hobby stores or antique shops, not even necessarily to buy but just to kind of browse and look around and see visual inspiration, you might go to a museum, you could go on a walk and and beautiful new area you'd like to explore. Basically, go anywhere do something that feels inspiring to you. And I guarantee that we'll be as creative muscles. There are tons of ways to find inspiration out in the world but you just have to kind of schedule that time in and go do it. So those are the two find inspiration, boosters. The second category of creativity boosters involves stillness. And these are the getting quiet, to create. These are the getting quiet to boost your creativity. Sometimes our world is so busy and pulling us in so many directions and providing so much content for us to consume that we never quiet ourselves and get into a space where we can find our own ideas and pull all the put all that information that we've learned and inspired ourselves with into our own work in a new way.


And this sets us up for creativity boosters number three which is meditation. Tried and True. And there are tons of different ways to meditate, there are thousands of books written on how to meditate. And I think it can feel more complicated and hard than it really is.


You can do guided meditations which you can find on YouTube or you can purchase or you can just sit.

And that's my favorite types of meditation or either guided meditations, or a breath driven meditation where I focus on my breath like a Buddhist style meditation mind mindfulness meditation.

A few years ago, my sister I went to a Buddhist retreat center in Marin County and California and participated in a silent meditation retreat.

I am a talker. And we both somehow totally missed that this was a silent event. I'm not sure why we thought a meditation retreat would involve lots of chitter chatter. But we didn't realize literally until like the night before that we were going to have to be silent for like five days. Also no phone. After the first welcome couple hours was done, we entered a state of silent mindfulness. We ate, we walked we cleaned everything silently, and mindful of what we were doing. And I about lost it after the first two days I will admit it. I cheated a little bit with my sister. But after we got past that first kind of hump, it got really peaceful, just being quiet, just paying attention every breath during the sitting sessions, pulling myself back when my mind went totally haywire one breath at a time. I don't meditate every day. And often I do what one of my mentors calls Beditating. When you first wake up, you keep your eyes closed and stay in that still really dreamy theta brainwave state, and all kinds of goodness will bubble up in those moments. But what I found at this meditation retreat was that quieting my mind in a very intentional way and focusing on my breath, really did boost creativity I'll probably do an episode on meditation here. It doesn't, you don't have to go to a retreat, you don't have to spend five days in total mindful silence for me that's sort of what it took to learn what this whole thing about meditation was. All it takes is sitting down and you can sit in a chair, you can sit in easy poses just Indian style, I have little meditation bent bent I sit on.

And then just breathe. That's all. Allow for the silence and the inspiration to happen, focus on your breathing in focus on your breathing out. And when you find yourself off you know planning your grocery list or dinner or whatever. Think of your thoughts as clouds and your exhale to sort of blows them away until the sky is clear and blue and silent, and you just focus on your breath. So as I said I don't meditate, every day but I do find it a super valuable practice to take five to 15 to 30 minutes just to sit and focus on breath.

One thing I do do every day though is creativity booster number four, and that's breath work. And this is a super easy way for me to bring a mindful meditation practice into my life, throughout my day to calm myself down and this practice really goes hand in hand with meditation. Basically it's breathing deeply and oxygenating your brain. So we tend to breathe shallowly, especially when we're stressed. And I've learned to do breath work and rely on breath work because I've suffered with migraines off and on for the past like 15 years, and I find that deep breathing can help tremendously with that which is calming my mind and getting my brain some oxygen. So I can do the creative work I would do. And I've the breathing practices that I do regularly. The first one is merely deep breathing. So breathe in, as deeply as you can see your belly extends outward and your diaphragm moves you fill up all your lungs with air, and you breathe out, and you repeat. Just deep breath in, feel it in your belly, feel the air go all the way down into your lungs. Breathe out. That's it. That's super easy. If you exercise if you're doing cardio if you're running your body does this automatically right. The next breath that I do pretty much every day is counted breath.

So I'll do this sometimes just even when I'm just like walking around the house like go and get a new cup of coffee or whatever, basically it's just breathing into account of like, in 123456, hold for three out 123456 hold for three until you can breathe into a count of four hold for to breathe in for a count of three hold four, or breathe in for kind of six hold for three. Breathe in for kind of eight hold for four so whatever you breathe in and out for that hold for like half of that time. And I'll usually do it for a few minutes at a time sometimes I'll do it when I'm driving.

It's super calming. I don't know if it's just the cadence sort of counting holding my breath and getting that oxygen in my body, but super calming for me, and helps get my brain into a creative zone and calming me down. And the final breathing technique I do is more of a visualization that I might do when I start actually meditating or more formal meditation. So for this one sit up straight and put your feet on the ground, or settings those with a button the ground. So let's let's do this one. So, sit down. I guess if you're driving this might be hard but imagine roots coming out your feet or your bottom if you're sitting on your bottom and deep into the ground so you're like rooted into the ground. Imagine yourself being really rooted into the ground. And then breathe in a super deep breath and imagine that air coming up through those roots up into your body. And as you breathe in it comes up, up, up.

And when you think you've breathed in as much as you can sip in more, sipping a little more, you can always take in more air. It's really amazing be totally open to receiving what the universe can give you. And as you breathe in imagine the air moving up your whole body like a tube and out, and through the crown of your head. And then when you exhale, imagine that air your exhale falling down around you like a beautiful waterfall, where it lands on the ground next to you and goes back deep into the earth, where you begin your inhale again. Breathing that air back up through those roots into your body where it's rolling, all the way up through your body up through the top of your head. Sipping more. Sipping more.

And then exhale and have it come down around you like a beautiful waterfall. This is a super common way for me to breathe and there's something about that circular motion of the air. The breath coming up through the ground, and then out the top of my head and back down. That is just calming for me to focus on. And when I was at the meditation retreat I did that quite a bit and it was great for keeping the monkey mind, it just really focused on my breath, and you'll find when you quiet yourself ideas will come. Download ideas, they'll just start coming in.

Okay, moving on. If sitting still. Meditation breathing is super hard for you don't struggle with it. Instead, grab your journal, your journal for creativity booster number five deep soul writing. And this is very much a meditation, but it's slightly more active. Some call this journaling, or morning pages or artists pages but I call it deep soul writing, which mentor Janet Connor who wrote, Writing Down Your Soul calls them and this is about taking your journaling practice deeper and really connecting with your intuition so do some breathing before you start writing in your journal, get yourself in a calm space and then just start writing, ask questions on the page connect with your deeper self, ask questions about your projects your creativity what what you want to create what you want to bring to life and explore it on the page, and this is one of the best ways to get new ideas and to feel into old ones, and to also really make connections in different areas of your life which is creativity right like connecting ideas that you've already got in new novel ways.

The final creativity booster in stillness category is Sleep. So in Episode Five. I talked with sleep consultant Brittney Stefanik. And we dove into the value of a good night's sleep and what lack of sleep can do to your brain and your overall health. And let me tell you that sleep deprivation is not good for your creativity, your brain function or physical health. Rather than improving your productivity and creativity, it actually is one of the worst things you can do. I was shocked. I learned so much in Episode Five with Brittney.

If you're struggling to get at least seven eight hours a night and you're having issues with your creative practice listening to that episode and then you can contact Brittney over at sleeper teachers, calm. She can help you out as she works with adults who struggle with insomnia and sleeping and getting those hours in. So yeah just sleep and and that will boost your creativity. Okay, so those are all the still ones we've done inspirational creativity boosters and sort of the still creativity boosters.

The next category of creativity boosters all have to do with getting engaged in your project in a new or deeper way. So creativity Booster seven is to make your creative practice a habit. Commit your work and show up at the same time, the same place every day, train your brain. Let your brain know that it will be doing this work every day or every other day at this spot and your creative brain will start to show up for you to. This is like working out. We might struggle to get the running shoes on, but once we do out on the trails It feels so good your body responds. If you're not a runner, and you're thinking no that sounds like hell, think of anything that's easier to do because it's a habit, something you don't have to think about you just do it your creative brain will respond, it will become easier with practice like any muscle that you exercise regularly right. Episode 12, a podcast with Michael Bennett was all about intentionally creating your day and really planning in your creative play joy time. So you do make it a habit that it becomes easier and then it becomes your life becomes more joyful and more creative and then it becomes easier.

It's really a cyclical thing that takes some effort and intention, but it's well worth it in terms of the payoff. As I said was straight up happiness fun and joy and diving into your creative work.

Okay, Creativity Booster Number eight is to break a product down and look all the little pieces of it and see what other ideas come up. This strategy is actually what got me through the challenging chapter, I was working on this past weekend that I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast. I finally sat down, I made a quick chart of the main plot lines in my current novel, like all the ideas that I needed to tie up at the end because I was trying to get from point A, and I knew I wanted to go but I didn't quite know how to get there. But as I was making this list I was like, oh yeah that happened oh yeah that happened. I had a ton of ideas about how some of them could be tied together. It merely took looking at the work that I was doing in a different way I didn't look at like what I had just written and, you know, then what happens in the story I looked at the whole picture and pulled out some threads. And it gave me a different view of the story. And some creative ideas.

This can work with visual arts too so don't look at the whole thing look at the pieces. What do different sections need to become whole? How might they fit together differently? Or conversely look at the whole thing if all you've been looking at is a little pieces. So, when I'm putting together a quilt, that's the value of a design wall right? You can put all little pieces on the wall and see oh these might fit together in a different way.

Or you can look at the whole thing and kind of break it down from there. So, look at the whole project or look at the little pieces and start seeing how things might fit together in a different way in it.


And that is really inspiring.


Another strategy to engage in your project in a new way is actually to talk to it and this is creativity booster number nine. This might sound a little wacky whoo and weird but hear me out, totally works. I've done this one on paper, like in my journals. I've done this out loud in my car, I've gone on walks or runs and done this, my neighbors probably think I am completely whacked I am talking to myself all the time when I am out walking, but I will literally talk to a character in a novel and ask, what do you need? What do you want? who are you? and I'll get answers.

I've done this in the car and I've had to pull over to write stuff down because that stuff will be coming through, so quickly. And I know this sounds crazy, but it works it's almost like you're relying on a different part of your brain to give you the ideas like the the creative part of your brain and saying okay help me out here but you're giving it a name like with a character.

And you can do this with any project that feels incomplete or a project that you haven't gotten deep enough with just ask it what it needs.

You can do and it's not just a story, ask your project what it needs. Where do you need to go. How do we grow this how do I make this work. And as I said if talking out loud feels weird to you. Then grab your journal and have a conversation on the page with your project. And I'm kind of curious if anyone out there does this too. And I was a little hesitant to share the strategy. But I decided to because it, it works. It really does work. I was actually talking to a friend she makes little. She was making some notes, some little crafting little gnomes and we were talking about this and she said, I know I start working on them and then they just tell me what to how to, how to paint their faces and how to put their hats. They look so tell me what their personality is. And so that was one of the reasons I shared this I thought okay, other people's art talks to them too.


So, talk back,


is what is what this creativity booster is about. But now we're going to head back to a creativity boost that's a little more mainstream, this is number 10, change your location, or actually where you're creating. And this used to be a tried and true strategy a tried and true strategy of mine, I totally forgotten about it until I started brainstorming ideas for this episode. So I live in a rural area in Nevada near some really beautiful mountains and there's a trailhead quite near my house I can actually see the head out of my front windows up kinda, it's about a quarter mile up the mountain. And I will often bike to this and the summer, high two and it's on a it's on a dirt road the dirt road, up to the trailhead, and up at the trailhead there's a picnic table of creeks and trees and gorgeous view of the valley below. And this spot for whatever reason, is it creativity hotspot for me I can go up there my clipboard and a pen and just write. I've gone up there in the spring and summer in a fold up chair that you know will take camping, or I'll sit at the picnic table or if it's cold. I'll sit in the car, and just write.

I don't know what it is but just that's like getting out of my regular area boosts my creativity. I did this a lot and this is why. I'd forgotten about this when I was writing my first novel, because from the trailhead from mountainside you can actually see where the South Fork of the humble river cuts through the hills on the other side of the valley and this actually marks part of the route that the Donner Party took over on the California trail, they like cut off if they veered off the traditional trail onto what was supposed to be a cut off a shortcut, it was not that was their problem was not a cut off. And I could see that section, literally of they're not shortcut. And my first novel overlanders daughter has one of the narratives in there is about a young woman coming across on the Oregon Trail. And so I could literally see from the trail had a section of the country that was very similar to the section of the country that my own characters had traveled


will see retiring.


Now, I know you might not be able to travel to a spot, you know, five minutes from your house it's a key location in your novel if you're a writer.

But think about a spot, whether it's in your own home, a space you don't normally work in a coffee shop somewhere outside, a park. Just somewhere different and new that you could go to to do some brainstorming some writing some sketching we've kind of fill your well and see if that can tap into some new and creative ideas and get your project going jumpstart your work.

The next creativity booster 11 is to study and practice your craft.

This one feels like learning and not really necessarily like boosting your creativity, but it's huge. before growing and expanding on what you can do, or even what you know is possible. You might read a book or peruse pictures of whatever it is that you want to create you could take an online course or an in person course that allows you to play with and learn some new techniques, great lesson in this last week at an estate sale. So a friend invited me to this estate sale of a woman who had passed away. And, unbeknownst to me this state sale was for an artist. Her name was Sheila Gardner and she's an incredible watercolor artist who has art in major galleries, all across the country I had no idea where I was going, and she lived here. But there was a bin of her practice pieces, and these, these practice pieces they weren't signed, well actually some of them I think were there were stunning and I purchased a few they were just a couple bucks. I'll put some pictures of them in the show notes, and they were her play pieces, you could see her playing with different strokes or color or different styles and it didn't necessarily buy those some of them are great little watercolors. And when you looked at these practice pieces next to some of the completed pieces they were also selling.

You could see where she was playing with color and light and value and it was so interesting to see some of this and that, the progression of her work in her practice. So, study, learn new things, play with it, don't be afraid to play make crappy work with crappy stories, that's kind of where the fun is learn what your style is. And this leads me to the final category of creativity boosters, which is all about getting moving and getting out of your head.

So creativity booster number 12 just that

get active go for a run, go for a walk, go to the gym. Get on your bike, whatever it is, increase the oxygen to your brain and have fun. I often get some of my very best ideas when I'm outside on a walk. It's almost like a moving meditation ideas just come, I can talk to the characters, I can get inspiration outside. It's just easier to get out of my head somehow and let ideas flow. And it's healthy

And creativity booster Number 13 does the same thing but with play. And I know you're adult. And you might think I don't play, but play is just as important to creativity joy, holding as eating is. And no, that's not an exaggeration play is key to boosting your creativity your mental health your spiritual well being and your creative muscles it's so important and it's fun, it's the best.

It gets you out of your head. Your Brain, Brain stops focusing on the problem at hand and somehow, your brain will manage to solve, whatever problem you're working on without you knowing it, and finding ways to play doesn't have to be hard. I have a slinky on my desk, but I play with.

Or you can go back and get a ball and play a game, do a puzzle, go buy a yo yo, see if you can still do some of the tricks you mastered in the fourth grade. I have a blog post that I'll link to in the show notes with a whole bunch of play ideas that you can, that you can try but really just think about that, what do I want to do just for fun just have fun there Solji search and then until physical benefits of play, and am now your creativity is one of them. And if lays it all out or you're unsure how to play anymore, like it, whether that's your own child, a grandchild, a neighborhood child, find a child, that you know, get on the ground, and let them lead and let your imagination go.

Build something with Legos, build a fort, and protect it from the imaginary dragons, it doesn't matter but I guarantee you'll laugh, you'll let go, you'll relax, and you'll completely amp up your creativity. The key here is to let the child lead. Don't be in charge. Let them, remind you what it feels like to play. And what happens and let's try this play as fun creating as fun. They feed one another. Just like creativity feeds creativity with creativity booster number one play feeds it as well.

Okay, I think that's it. I'm sure there are an infinite number of creativity boosters that I did not include in this episode, and I'm sure you've probably got your own strategies I would love to hear them if you do. So head on over to the show notes at amyisaman.com/podcast/episode18, and leave a comment or join me over on Facebook and share your favorite creativity booster. And remember, I've put all of these creativity boosters, in a handy dandy little list for you that you can grab at amyisaman.com/boosters. There's also a bonus click right on that PDF that will prime your brain for some creative thinking and ideas so be sure to check that out.

Have a super great week. I'll be back next Wednesday with another episode. And if you have been enjoying the podcast I'd love it if you hop on over and give it a rating and review that just helps more people to find it.

And if you're creating. Be sure to share your creations on Instagram and tag me @amyisamancreative or use the #dearcreativity hashtag and I'll check it out and share it on my stories. Have an awesome week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


  1. Jamie Metz on March 12, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    I so enjoyed this podcast. You use so many examples that helped me stay with the creativity booster idea that you were sharing. And your post and website are visually beautiful which adds to the appeal of hearing your thoughts on creativity.

    • Amy Isaman on March 16, 2020 at 6:07 pm

      Thank you Jamie!! This was an interesting episode because I feel like EVERYONE is inherently creative but we still have to acknowledge and work with it in order to grow and expand those skills.

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