Priming Yourself For Creativity (In Theory And Practice)

Well, for today, I thought that I’d take a quick look at one of the more basic preventative techniques that can be used to reduce the chances of writer’s block or artist’s block happening when you start writing or drawing. I’ll be using art-related examples in this article (since I tend to use this technique a lot more with art), but it can apply to writing too. I’ll also give you an example of how it works in practice too.

The technique itself is fairly simple and it’s basically a good version of the psychological technique of “Priming“. This is a rather sneaky trick used by illusionists, salespeople, advertisers etc.. and it revolves around how seeing, reading or hearing things can subtly influence a person’s subsequent thoughts.

So, before you start painting, think of something relevant to your project and/or something that you find cool. If you’re starting a new creative work then the “something cool” part is essential, since fascination is a major part of this technique.

Once you’ve found your subject matter, go online and do an image search for the subject in question. Don’t spend too long looking at any individual image (and read this article if you’re worried that doing this might lead to accidental plagiarism), but look at what they have in common with each other – in terms of things like colour schemes, perspective etc…. The goal here is to learn general information and to “prime” yourself.

So, look at lots of pictures until you start to feel “in the mood” for making original works of this type. Listen to any relevant music too if this helps. Although this method isn’t exactly foolproof at preventing uninspiration, it can work quite a bit of the time. Plus, it’s also something of a relaxing ritual than can help you to get into the mood for creativity too.

But, how does it work in practice? Well, the day before I wrote this article, I was getting ready to make one of my daily paintings for January. Although I already had a vague idea of what I wanted to paint since I’d been listening to a lot of heavy metal (well, slightly more than usual) the day before, I still needed to really get in the mood for it.

So, I started listening to this really cool music video I’d discovered the day before and I also looked at as many heavy metal album covers as I could.

Looking at these album covers reminded me of the main features of this art genre – namely the kind of gloomy lighting and bold colours I already use in most of my paintings, dramatic visual storytelling, elements from the horror genre (eg: skeletons, monsters etc..) etc…

So, with these general features in mind and an absolutely awesome heavy metal song playing in the background, I started my painting and…

…. It failed. The composition wasn’t quite right, the “scary monster” didn’t look that good and the whole picture just didn’t fill me with enthusiasm. I abandoned it halfway through making it. Here it is:

Yes, this technique doesn’t always work the first time. But…

But, despite this setback, my earlier “priming” meant that I was still in the mood for making heavy metal art. So, I still had the enthusiasm to try again. But, I realised that “monsters” was a complete non-starter. So, I remembered one of the other “cool” elements of this genre – the 1980s! So, I thought that I’d make a painting of a 1980s-style heavy metal guitarist.

Plus, since I was starting to run out of time, I also decided to introduce elements from another “cool” genre when drawing and painting the background. Since I’ve “primed” myself to make cyberpunk art more times than I can remember, it’s easy to get inspired when it comes to this type of art. And, after a while, I’d made a painting that I was quite proud of. Here’s a preview:

This is a reduced-size preview, the full-size painting will be posted here on the 26th January.

So, yes, this technique doesn’t always work the first time, but it can certainly work!


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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