Sometimes, when we get stuck in a creative rut, it's often the simplest advice that can help. Below are quotes from some of history's greatest painters, writers, entrepreneurs, scientists, etc. guaranteed to give you a sharp shift in your thinking.
If you find one that catches your attention, considering copying it out and keeping it in a place where you can see it daily.
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” - Pablo Picasso
“When I say artist I mean the one who is building things … some with a brush – some with a shovel – some choose a pen.” - Jackson Pollock
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” - Vincent Van Gogh
“Art doesn’t have to be pretty. It has to be meaningful.” - Duane Hanson
“I am interested in art as a means of living a life; not as a means of making a living.” - Robert Henri
”Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” - Steven Pressfield
“Art is the act of navigating without a map.” - Seth Godin
“Don’t try to be different. Just be good. To be good is different enough.” - Arthur Freed
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” - Oscar Wilde
“Be yourself — not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.” - Henry David Thoreau
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” - Steve Jobs
“Sometimes you gotta create what you want to be part of.” - Geri Weitzman
“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” - Ray Bradbury
“I invent nothing, I rediscover.” - Auguste Rodin
“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” - Marc Chagall
“Find something only you can say” - James Dickey
“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” - Stephen King
“Work like hell! I had 122 rejection slips before I sold a story.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald
“An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.” - Charles Horton Cooley
“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.” - Friedrich Nietzsche
“Truly creative people care a little about what they have done, and a lot about what they are doing. Their driving focus is the life force that surges in them now.” - Alan Cohen
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” - Maya Angelou
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” - Walt Disney
“People often remark that I’m pretty lucky. Luck is only important in so far as getting the change to sell yourself at the right moment. After that, you’ve got to have talent and know how to use it.” - Frank Sinatra
"It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” - Albert Einstein
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” - Muhammad Ali
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” - Stephen King
“It is not enough to be busy… The question is: what are we busy about?” - Henry David Thoreau
“Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” - Coco Chanel
“Focus on being productive instead of busy.” - Tim Ferriss
“Lost time is never found again.” - Benjamin Franklin
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” - Benjamin Franklin
“You don’t need a new plan for next year. You need a commitment.” - Seth Godin
“You see, in life, lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know. Knowing is not enough! You must take action.” - Tony Robbins
“There is no substitute for hard work.” - Thomas Edison
“The only way around is through.” - Robert Frost
“The way we measure productivity is flawed. People checking their BlackBerry over dinner is not the measure of productivity.” - Timothy Ferriss
“To make something great you must do the making.” - Ryan Holiday
“The more nervous and scared you are, the better it bodes for the project.” - Ryan Holiday
“If coming up with ten ideas sounds too hard, then come up with twenty.” - James Altucher
“You can’t find your passion if you don’t push through pain.” - Jeff Goins
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” - Paulo Coelho
“Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.” - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“You have to do stuff that average people don't understand because those are the only good things.” - Andy Warhol
The well-known phrase, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time,” by John Lydgate, (a medieval monk and poet), is particularly relevant in the world of creativity.
Not everybody will like your work. And why should they?
For example, think of a bestselling book that you dislike. It has many readers and fans, but you don’t like it. So what? You don’t need to attack it, or vocalise your dislike of it. Let others hate it and waste their energy on criticising it, just love the work you love.
Or think of a popular band with millions of fans around the world that you dislike. Ask yourself why you don’t like them and what it is about their work that doesn’t interest you.
Not everyone will like your work and that’s the way it should be.
Trying to make an impression on others is not your task. What your job is, is to create.
If you intentionally try to make your work likeable you’re going to severely restrict yourself, sticking to a formula and not expanding your horizons or growing artistically.
Making your work likeable will lead to dumbing yourself down, that is, making something simpler and easier for people to understand, particularly in order to make it more popular.
Even some of the greatest artists have had their detractors.
Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star Newspaper because his editor thought he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
Vincent van Gogh received hardly any acclaim during his lifetime, only ever selling one painting for a small fee to a friend. His paintings have since been sold for up to $82.5 million.
Socrates was labeled as an “immoral corrupter of youth” and his innovative ideas lead to his eventual death sentence.
Be yourself and be faithful to your values and ideals.
Excerpt from 'You Can Create! 24 Ways to Unlock Your Creative Potential'.
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Take Time to Reflect on Your Creative Ability
Often, when we work on a creative project, we can easily fall into the “this isn’t" or the "I'm not good enough" phase. We can suffer from Imposter Syndrome, and begin to wonder if we’re actually cut out to be creative at all.
When this happens, think back to your earlier creative work and achievements.
If you’ve ever painted a picture, written a song, started a business, whatever, it can be easy to forget that there once was a time when those things didn't exist in the world until you made them.
The struggle they brought at the time has long ebbed though, almost as if they were never out of existence.
When you’re feeling uncreative and struggling to come up with new ideas or doubting whether you can carry on with your work, take time to reflect on the things which you have already accomplished, both the small things and the big things.
Don’t analyse the creative process, don't think about how you made them, don't think about why you like them or what you dislike about them, simply appreciate that you made them exist.
Recognise and compliment yourself that they are yours, that you gave birth to the fundamental idea that brought them into being.
Elon Musk (born 1971) is the South African-born Canadian-American founder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX; co-founder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla Inc.; co-chairman of OpenAI, and founder and CEO of Neuralink.
"Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough."
"Persistence is very important. You should not give up unless you are forced to give up."
"It's OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket."
“You want to be extra rigorous about making the best possible thing you can. Find everything that’s wrong with it and fix it. Seek negative feedback, particularly from friends.”
"People work better when they know what the goal is and why. It is important that people look forward to coming to work in the morning and enjoy working."
"Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week. [This] improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40 hour workweeks and you're putting in 100 hour workweeks, then even if you're doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve."
"I think most of the important stuff on the Internet has been built. There will be continued innovation, for sure, but the great problems of the Internet have essentially been solved."
"When Henry Ford made cheap, reliable cars, people said, 'Nah, what's wrong with a horse?' That was a huge bet he made, and it worked."
“If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.”
"Don't delude yourself into thinking something's working when it's not, or you're gonna get fixated on a bad solution."
"Creativity takes courage.” — Henri Matisse
1. Set Goals
Writing down your goals is the first step in achieving them.
It has been proven that people who record their goals have a greater chance of achieving them than those who don’t. As the motivational speaker Tony Robbins has said, “If you talk about it, it’s a dream, if you envision it, it’s possible, but if you schedule it, it’s real.”
Just as you should write down your goals for yourselves, announcing your plans to friends and family, e.g., on social media, gets you into the feeling that you cannot let people down. It doesn’t matter what you want to create, tell everyone about it and get creating! It will make you feel like you have something to deliver to them.Announcing your plans solidifies them and makes them concrete.
2. Start Anywhere
Taking a blank page, raw materials, picking up an instrument, and finding a starting point is what stumps many a potentially creative person. They start their project but quickly run out of steam and come to a halt, not knowing how to progress.
Beginning a project is daunting and the end can seem far away.
So why not start at the end?
Or in the middle?
If you’re thinking of writing a song, rather than start with your intro, why not write the chorus first, or the last verse? If you’re thinking of writing a novel, rather than start by writing ‘Chapter 1’ on the top of your blank page, try writing ‘Epilogue’ instead.
Remember, creativity is a process. It is a series of actions that result in an end.
Or a middle or a beginning.
If you want to know where and when you should work, ultimately that’s up to you. Just remember to be consistent in your schedule.
Routine is important because art requires dedication and persistence.
It is a common misconception that creativity happens as an “Eureka!” moment and that the artist is suddenly struck by inspiration and produces a finished masterpiece.
Waiting for inspiration will do you no good, you have to get to work regardless of whether you’re inspired or not.
Life will always get in the way. Life can be distracting, but that’s just the way it is.
Rather than complain about the distractions from work commitments, family, children, chores, etc., try identifying your non-essential time, i.e., the time you waste.
So don’t sit around writing for inspiration — knowing you have to work can be inspiration in itself.
4. Take Note
Notebooks are a great way to capture your ideas on the move and when you least expect them. Trying to store ideas in your memory will lead to problems.
Your memory can fade, but writing doesn’t.
An idea can strike at the oddest and most inconvenient of times, so mark it by recording it.Writing in your notebook regularly will leave you with a collection and wealth of ideas of which, some will be great and others won’t. Eventually, you’ll have collection of seeds and a thread of ideas that you can cultivate into anything of your choosing.
Your notebooks or sketchbooks will become a storage farm of your ideas. Your ideas have to be nurtured.
Your ideas don’t need to be fancy, or neat and tidy, they just need to exist.
5. Restrict Yourself
Have you ever tried to begin a project and were so overwhelmed by the amount of tools, ideas and resources at your disposal that you just gave up?
Ideas and tools are simple. Trying to attach and combine too many of them at the same time is dangerous -they can clutter the thought process.
There are many possibilities in art, but having too many to choose from can lead to problems.
Remember, it’s not your tools or ideas that are important, it’s how you use them.
Try limiting yourself to just a few.
Try creating a work of art everyday for a week, a month or a year, and share it with the world. Constantly having to create something new will allow you to get into the practice of constraining both your time, tools and your judgemental thought.
Constraining yourself will help you focus your attention.
6. Make Mistakes
Mistakes and errors are a part of the creative process. Difficulties and frustration are just a natural part of creating a work of art. No work was created perfectly in one draft.
We do though, as in all aspects of our life, tend to learn from mistakes, knowing how to handle the situation differently the next time the same problem occurs.
It’s how you learn from your mistakes, not the mistakes themselves, that matters.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and don’t reject them entirely.
You may find that something you didn’t intend to do works better than what you originally had in mind.
Why not try creating something intentionally bad?Write a terrible poem, make an object that doesn’t serve its purpose, write a song that sucks. You can be guaranteed that your next effort will be many times better!
Off-days and bad works are part of the process.
Don’t let them get you down.
7. Just Do It
Naturally, we won’t always want to work, even if we enjoy what we do.
Frustration, disappointment and boredom are all part of the creative process. With practice though, it becomes easier, and you’ll eventually find that once you start you won’t want to stop!
You have to be determined to do something rather just wanting to do something.
Just wanting to do something results in nothing.
You just have to do it.
Finding even just a few minutes a day to create or sketch or jot down ideas is better than going to bed at night and regretting that you didn’t do anything that day to get your work off the ground, let alone finish it.
Talking about doing work won’t achieve anything, neither will dreaming about.
Action is required to produce.
8. Ask Questions
A major part and requirement of being an artist is asking questions. Asking questions about the works of others and of your own work means you are aware of art in a critical sense.
Asking questions helps you to develop as an artist.
Try reading the first page from a book that you haven’t read before and imagine how the story continues. Then, carry on reading and question why the author did it his way rather than yours. You can try this with music, film, products, etc.
Ask yourself from time to time why you are making the decisions you are making and if there is more than one answer to your question.
Question the work of others.
Why did the maker create it this way, what were his or her intentions and did they succeed in their task? Question its purpose, look or sound.
Ask yourself what’s missing in the world and fill that void with your own work.
9. Don’t Obsess
Sometimes, you can get so wrapped up the details of your work and in trying to make it perfect, that you lose sight of the original vision and prevent yourself from finishing the piece.
If you find yourself struggling to finish, ask yourself if there is anything more that that particular work needs.
If you can no longer add to or take anything away from your work, it may be time to declare it finished.
Perfection is mostly about completion.
Being the best shouldn’t be your goal. Your goal should be getting better at what you already do.
Make art, but sometimes you’ll have to accept that it may be out of your control.
If you don’t believe in your work, how can you expect others to?
Every great artist doubts themselves from time to time, but the only way to remedy this is to keep on going.
If you constantly give up on your work and yourself, you will fall into the habit of giving up.
And giving up often means that you won’t acquire the skills needed to finish your work.
There will be many times along your creative route where will you doubt what you are doing, and this is natural, because creativity is a process. Creativity is about joining the dots, (albeit very slowly and arduously at times).
People have art that they both like and dislike, but what should matter to you as an artist is that you are happy with your own work.
Opinions are subjective.
After finishing a work, step away from it for a while, put it in a drawer or somewhere you can’t see, feel or hear it. Revisit it a week or two later and you’ll find you’ll be less attached to it and more able to judge it for the work that it is from a more objective viewpoint. You will be able to give it a more honest assessment.
Don’t compare yourself to other people, make work that you like.
Be confident in all that you create.
Your work is unique to you.
After all, it was you who made it.
Adapted from the book You Can Create! 24 Ways to Unlock Your Creative Potential and originally published at ThoughtCatalog.com