Creative prompts are one of the best ways to get back to work.
If you’ve never worked with creative prompts before, you’re likely scratching your head and wondering if I’ve finally gone off the rails. And while I appreciate your concern – really, I do – the fact of the matter is that we all get stuck sometimes and just cannot think of what to ____________ (write, draw, paint, you name it) next. Some people call it writer’s block, ok mostly its writers who call it that, while others use the term creative block.
So what is a prompt and how does it work, you might be wondering… do those actually work, you may be trying to figure out if you’ve seen them but never used them, and “why would someone use a creative prompt?”, could be on your mind if you’ve never had a block before. Or maybe you’re just a big liar or you don’t even create things. I’m not judging. Really.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty here.
There are many ways to participate in a prompts project; nearly every type of creative style has them, and there are plenty of ways to join online prompt groups that fit the style and type of work you produce. Some of the more popular prompts – at least in my circles – are:
- #the100daysproject – sign up and create something applicable every day for 100 days
- #februllage – create a new collage every day in February based on the word prompts
- #pariscollagecollective – create a new collage weekly based on an image that all participants use as a base
- #thepainteddiaries – a year long commitment to create new art daily, small projects in a series of sketchbooks
- NaNoWriMo – National November Writing Month – this one has the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November, and boy has it grown in the past several years
You probably get the impression that my prompts are all art related, and that’s true, but there are plenty of creative prompt series for nearly anything, if you know where to look.
So that brings up the next point that I want to make – how do you figure out where to look? As always, I say start with the search bar and work your way out from there. I did a quick search for “creative prompts” in my ever trusty Google search bar (of course you can use other search engines, if that’s your thing) and the auto-fill alone was chock a block full of ideas – creative writing, drawing, painting, and so many more.
Another search is “design challenge” – these are really great ways to not only get ideas to use as a springboard to get you moving again, there are plenty of communities that support these endeavors. So you can post your work, usually with a hashtag on Instagram or other social sites, or in topic specific forums, social media groups, or the like.
So it doesn’t really matter what you are into as a hobby (or a job), if you’re stuck in a rut, there’s a way to push yourself to get out of it.
Do I have to finish all the prompts?
Only if you want to, is my rule. I will often start a series and then decide I’m bored with it, don’t have enough time to do it, or just didn’t really gel with the idea or the group. The dropoff rate on these things is huge – for instance, with #februllage, which is the collage daily in February, after the first few days of the month there is a drastic reduction in the number of new posts, and by the end of the month, it’s only the real stalwarts that are keeping up with the pace.
You may also want to set some limits on how you approach the work in the creative prompts you are using; I personally set up a bit more structure for some of them – if it’s a daily submission then I allot a specific amount of time to doing the piece – say, no more than 20 minutes, and if I’m not done, then I have to either post what I have or else make a decision to keep working.
Another way I approach the prompts process is to decide how I’m going to execute. Again, with the daily prompts, maybe I’ll decide that I’m only going to use Procreate on iPad Pro for them, and I have to work around the limitations imposed by the software. This is a great way to figure out how to use the software more effectively.
The Swap Factor
If you’re working on multiple devices to create finished pieces, you may also find yourself running into a wall when it comes to sharing the work among the various devices and program variations – Photoshop on a laptop is a very different experience to any of the PS versions available for iPad or phones. And swapping between Android and iOS on phones can lead to some interesting roadblocks in how things are handled.
The bottom line here is that using creative prompts as a means to inspire you, force your hand when it comes to procrastination, or to learn to work ‘down and dirty’ to get the job done, is really what it’s all about. If you have to produce a work each day, you aren’t going to be able to spend a lot of time tweaking. That’s not to say that you can’t go back to the work later and extend it, edit it, change it up. Of course this requires you to actually save your original files, and that is something that more than one person failed to do with the initial work product (don’t judge!) at least a few times.
So get off your duff and start creating regularly! It’s a great exercise for your brain and you’ll be happy that you did it!