How to be Creative!

How to be Creative!

Hi! Maybe not a blog you would expect from me right now, but a lot of you have been asking if I can dedicate some blogs to game development. So I thought, why not start right now, there is no perfect moment, and I’m not going to wait till COVID-19 passes… Maybe right now is the right time! 

Many of us are currently working from home, and it’s business as usual, but it’s not usual. The current pandemic has an impact on all of us, even if you’re used to working from home. Being creative can be a challenge in general, but during these trying times become even more a struggle. 

I want to provide you with some practical tips that I learned over the years that everyone can use either professional or just for your hobby in any creative field during this time and in the future. Don’t think creativity is for artists only, solving a problem, coming up with a new idea, often requires a creative mindset. The tips below can be used in any order, there’s no right or wrong here:

1. Learn to fail! 
Maybe not something you want to hear, but to be creative, this is very important! When you come up with an idea, don’t think it will be perfect, instead try it out if it doesn’t work, try the next idea, and repeat. Yes, it might feel counterproductive and might even feel like a waste of time, but I always tell the people I work with that it’s part of the process. Without spending that time, you might never have found the solution or feature that becomes the core of your game or app. Food for thought!

2. Have fun! 
Be playful with your ideas. Go crazy, try things to find new opportunities to generate more ideas. Enjoy the journey.

3. Don’t overthink. 
It’s easy to overthink an idea, trying to answer the questions you can’t answer yet. It usually starts with “What if?”. And to link it to my work: “What if the player on a level doesn’t go to the left but to the right?”. Interesting question and something we will find out when we try it. It might create even a new opportunity; maybe the right option is a lot more fun. So try it!

4. Set a goal! 
What are you trying to achieve? Even if you’re not sure yet, just a very rough goal is fine too. As long there is something measurable. It’s easy to get off track when being in a creative mindset, and it can become quite demotivating if you never be able to finish something.

5. Be aware of tunnel vision. 
Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in small details that for the ‘big picture’ don’t make much difference; it’s not always easy to spot it when that happens, but setting a goal, tip 4 can help with this.

6. Teamwork makes the dream work! 
Might sound cliché, but so true. Coming up with everything on your own can be very draining. Also, working with other people make it easier to stay on track and is a lot more fun. You can find solutions and generate new ideas together. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to find yourself a team. Ask a family member or friend for input, anyone that can help you to be and stay creative.

7. Be aware of distractions. 
During our trying times, this is very relevant. Don’t get me wrong; the pandemic is horrible, but it’s a big distraction to be creative. Being aware of this can help to put the virus less on the foreground and leave more room for creative thinking. I start my mornings with meditation and breathing exercises to clear my head and start the day fresh and focused. Of course, during the day it still can become challenging to stay creative, I’m dealing with that too during this time. Just try the best you can, and you will see that you can do more than you might think!

8. Don’t be too hard on yourself. 
Yes, this also a self-reminder. I work with a lot of creative people, and really, everyone struggles with this no matter how skilled you are. Sometimes the creativity is not there, and everything you work on turns into a turd. If that happens, it’s best to take some distance, take a shower, go for a walk, play a game whatever works for you to rest your mind. Sometimes in a few hours, you’re back in that creative mindset. Unfortunately, sometimes it can take longer, and if you’re working against a deadline, that can be challenging and might lose valuable time… If that happens and you have the luxury. Work on the things that require less creativity. Sending emails, doing repetitive work that needs to be finished anyway. Or push through! Sometimes there is no other option.

9. Be curious! 
Creative sparks can come from anywhere. It can be a painting you saw, a story you read, or just by talking with others. There is no set time to be creative, so be always ready to grab the opportunity when it arises.

10. Think less. 
There was a time in my life when I woke up in the morning, and the first thought I had was: “Today… I have to be creative!” That didn’t work; I wasn’t able to come up with new ideas or solve problems. Simply because I was forcing myself to be creative, but by doing that I was blocking myself from being creative. These days I don’t think about it so much anymore, except for this blog. Just go with the flow, let it happen.

11. Rest enough! 
Make sure to sleep enough hours and take time to relax your mind. Being creative can be very draining and requires a certain mindset. So take the time you need to refill your creativity.

12. Find your creativity. 
Everyone is different, that’s why I recommended at the start to use these tips in any order. Some tips might apply to you, and some don’t. For me, it’s essential to stay inspired, and to do so, I watch tv shows, movies, play games, obviously not all on one day but spacing it out. Also, I have a subscription to Pinterest boards with daily architecture drops, which I receive in my email.

13. Be aware of burnout. 
A burnout is horrible, and I know how much damage it can do to people, including myself. For people in the creative field, this can become an absolute killer. It’s not always clear what triggers a burnout, but perfectionism can play a big part in it. When something is no longer fun to work on, but starts draining you is the point where it’s good to take some distance and rest more.

14. Be realistic of your capabilities. 
A lot of us struggle with impostor syndrome, and it can kill all creativity. “I’m not good enough..”, “Everything I make sucks!” So many of us are struggling with this. Especially when you work on something new, and you have to figure everything out. Social media and comparing yourself to other people can make you lose sight of your own capabilities. On social media, people usually post only their best work, but they also had to learn it first and make all the mistakes to become more skilled. Instead of putting yourself down, try to turn the negative into positive and learn from other people, admire their capabilities, and use it to grow. Don’t let it stop you!    

Let me know if any of these tips are useful for you or if you have any tips that help you to be creative, which leads to my bonus tip. Never stop learning!

Thank you for reading!    

Jeroen van Werkhoven Twitter Instagram

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