Late winter is a grind. As the weather fluxuates between muddy gray-green and icy blue-white, I find my attention wavering. My creativity and energy just get sapped this time of year. Being in a creative field, I don’t have the option of clocking out and chugging along, but garnering inspiration can be difficult. If you, like me, find yourself losing drive and focus, take a look at some of these helpful activities I use to refill my creative brain:
Note Taking and Journaling
Many of us creative types carry a small notebook with us wherever we go, and if you don’t, try it! We never know when an idea will strike...how often have you walked down the street, come up with a brilliant idea, and then forget about it later? My best ideas don’t often come when I’m in the studio or at my desk, and keeping a small notebook with me lets me quickly jot my ideas down for later.
Another great use of a journal or notebook is the practice of freewriting. The goal of freewriting is to just...write. You want to try not to filter yourself and keep the pen moving at all times. This gets the brain warmed up, and sometimes I’ve found some very interesting phrases or words within my somewhat nonsensical writing. These words or phrases may even help you come up with interesting titles or choreographic ideas!
Notebooks aren’t only just for writing...you can doodle in them too! Similar to freewriting, when I’m feeling uninspired, I pull out my journal and go to town. Now, I’ve never been much of a doodler in the past (I stopped doodling when I entered high school) but have since picked the practice back up. When I’m burnt out, doodling sometimes leads to good ideas or, at least, is a nice way to pass the time. I’ve even used doodles as spatial patterning in some of my choreographic endeavors.
This is a given, and is so intrinsically linked to what I do every day I forget that it is something not everyone gets the chance to practice enough. Improvisation is the root of choreography, and the two practices are interwoven in a number of complex ways...many a smart dancer and choreographer have tried to deconstruct this relationship, but one thing is clear: improv helps.
Tied to this is improvisation with other people! More bodies give you more to work with, and you may find yourself being forced to move in ways that are against your norm, and that is always a good thing. More movement equals more tools in your pocket. Plus, improvisation with others requires on-the-spot negotiation, which makes you more malleable, mobile, and aware.
Seeing Live Work
Last month I talked about this in greater detail, but viewing contemporary work is extremely important. We all get inspiration from each other, and it’s always helpful to see what everyone else is doing in your field so that you are up-to-date. It’s the same as any field; doctors go to conferences, professors attend lectures, and we as dancers need to go see live dance.
For the record, this also applies to other artistic showings...I’ve gleaned inspiration from attending friends’ art shows and music shows. But dance needs the most support and can support us the most in return.
Training is important, but not just to keep up technique. Class is also a wonderful way to groove with others and allows you the freedom to try on other people’s movement, take from it what you can, and also express yourself as an individual. Taking class also affords you the ability to network. In this career, networking is the best tool you can have. The more people you know, the more opportunities will present themselves to you.
I have found that taking regular classes is the most consistent and sure way to remain attached to my dancing roots. When we feel uninspired, taking it back to the basics is a good place to start.
If you feel you are in a funk and even dance classes aren’t helping, cross-training is a great way to get different parts of your brain firing. Yoga, Pilates, swimming, or any other physical activity keeps you moving and engaged. Furthermore, cross training also makes you stronger and more dynamic in your dancing. It can help with alignment, endurance, and breath, "Incorporating yoga into my cross training routine has not only improved my management of past injuries and support of injury prevention, but it has also improved how I feel about my body,” Elyse Morckel, TMP company member and certified yoga instructor says, “I am not so quick to criticize myself or judge myself harshly. I am able to better listen to the needs of my body, and know how to address them, both on and off my mat."
Now, not all of us can just pick up our bags and fly to Europe for a few weeks, but travel can be as small as taking a trip to a cafe in a part of town you don’t normally frequent, or driving out to the country to visit your friend. Getting yourself out of the house and involved in something you don’t do every day breaks up rote routine, and can get your creative juices flowing. Being exposed to new environments, people, or activities are great places to draw inspiration from.
So there you have it, tips, tricks, and activities to keep the creative juices flowing. Remember that all of these suggestions are here to help you, so don’t stress out! At the end of the day, the best way to restock our creativity is rest and observation. Don’t forget to take a breather once in a while and check in with your surroundings. Even when you feel like the funk is never ending, sooner or later your creativity will return, and you will be all the better for it.