Even the most creative people in the world struggle with creativity at some point in their lives. It can be in the form of failure, with their ideas not succeeding, or it can simply be a genuine lack of ideas.
As Brene Brown, author of Braving the Wilderness once said, “There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period”. It has to happen for greater, better ideas to emerge. It’s a part of the process!
So, first thing’s first, if you’re stuck in a rut and you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for your video game, take a moment to breathe. You’re not alone. All creatives suffer from self-doubt, failed ventures, and an equivalent of writer’s block.
After you’re done accepting this reassuring reality that this is, in fact, normal and perfectly acceptable, it’s time to discuss solutions.
1) Walk Away & Do Something Else You’re Passionate About
Unsurprisingly, being a game developer means you’re already a creative. As such, you probably have plenty of hobbies that you’re passionate about. Maybe photography, video editing, graphic design, or writing short stories, to name a few of the common ones.
The funny thing about unleashing creative potential is that the creativity is always there, waiting to be used. Just because video game ideas aren’t flowing doesn’t mean ideas for other creative projects are suffering. So if you’re having trouble making a game, hit the pause button and go take a few pictures for Instagram or something.
Preoccupying your mind and using that creativity on something else is often the catalyst needed to get back on track!
2) Pick Up The Paintbrush
Did you know painting fosters creative growth? There’s something so relaxing about just being one with a paintbrush, swirling paint onto a canvas, that makes people ease up a bit. It improves your mood, it helps you release stress, and in turn, it helps creative thoughts to flow easily.
There’s a reason Bob Ross was so chill.
So next time you’re having issues with game characters, or plots, try painting some happy, little trees. Go crazy!
3) Doodle On Scraps of Paper, Or In A Sketchbook
There’s something about absentmindedly doodling that makes creative thought flow like none other. You get lost in the image you’re drawing, and it provides a distraction. It’s completely different than the usual workflow/errand run routine of the day. That welcome change of pace allows you to loosen up and focus on something other than your time, deadlines and budgets.
Need some ideas about what to draw? Use these exercises!
4) Take A Much Needed Nap
Sometimes our minds need an extra bit of time off. Blame it on stress, overly busy schedules, or whatever else you’d like, but some of us need more sleep!
And that’s a good thing. It keeps you looking younger for longer, improves memory, curbs inflammation, and yes, promotes creativity. It’s not rocket science, a well-rested mind can think more clearly!
5) Fix Yourself A Healthy Snack
You are what you eat. We’ve heard it before, but it’s astonishing how many people simply don’t realize how true it is! If you eat poorly, your body will react poorly. But eating clean helps you feel better, more energized, and yes, much more creative!
In fact, there are brain foods that specifically help improve your brain function. For instance, it’s been proven that plant-based diets, such as the vegan diet, or even the vegetarian diet, can be more beneficial in this area (and others). The nutritional value is higher than that of processed foods, or those filled with refined sugars.
Another example is cold water fish, known for being high in Omega 3 fatty acids. This is what promotes a healthy brain by improving the “circuits that brain transmissions travel along.”
6) Go Ahead, Bake Something!
You measure, you mix, you bake and then you cool before piping that delicious icing on top. Maybe a sprinkle of powdered sugar, or some berries? How about a side of nicecream?
When you bake, you’re having to be logical (mixing dry ingredients separately from wet ones, judging consistency of batter, etc.), and creative (how will you decorate the pastry/cake?). You need to be right on target with measurements, but you also need to make sure you don’t let all your hard work go to waste by poorly decorating the cake.
All this brain activity may leave you exhausted, but that just means it got a workout!
7) Sift Through Your Old Drawings, Notes, Stories, Etc.
Unless you’re an alien, chances are you still have some old sketches and scribbles hidden in a box somewhere. Maybe it’s old stuff, from back in your teenage years, or from when you first began your game development career. Whatever the case, sifting through it is like discovering a wealth of ideas.
Think about it: when you’re younger, with less experience, you’re wilder with your ideas. You don’t have anything to lose, just a lot to gain. It’s that spirit and sense of not being able to fail that let you be super creative!
Even if you don’t end up selecting an idea you jotted down once upon a time, it can at least spark something better.
8) Take The Week Off
In the same vein of getting up and doing something else, taking the week off is sometimes… well, necessary! Everyone needs a break from time to time. When you return, you’re refreshed and reinvigorated with a new perspective. Maybe you saw something on your travels that got the wheels in your head turning.
Maybe you didn’t go on vacation at all, but you hit pause on game development. That’s fine too! In the time away, it’s possible you’ll find inspiration through your other hobbies, loved ones, movies, etc. The world is your oyster!
9) Lose Yourself In The Music
According to Rebecca Adams, a writer for the Huffington Post:
“Obviously, it’s tricky to measure how a song can lead to increased creativity, but it’s clear that music can inspire higher brain functioning — provided you like the particular piece of music playing, that is. As long as music can get you in a positive mood and increase your arousal levels, you just might reap immediate cognitive benefits.”
Music can help you relax, improve your mood, and unleash your creative potential, but you have to like the song! As long as you do, projects get done. That explains why most of us can’t work unless we have music playing in the background!
10) Take A Creative Class With A Friend Or Partner
Since the dawn of time, we’ve fed off of each other. No, not in that way!
Consider any group of people you know well. When one person comes up with a genius idea, there’s always someone else who keeps it going. Maybe they come up with a joke, or an idea for a skit. Perhaps a concept for a YouTube video. It can be anything really.
As such, it’s safe to say that we’re inspired by those around us. And when one person opens a door, those around him/her can open doors of their own as well.
For instance, say a couple goes to an art workshop together, or a cooking class. The chances are high that both of them will get more out of the class because they’re there together. If they were to take the class separately, they’d be consumed by their own thoughts, and wouldn’t have that energy and creativity challenge from the other person.
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