We have a whole new year ahead of us: a clean slate to get stuff done, tackle those creative pursuits, and make a better life. For us, that means exploring new creative projects and stretching ourselves a bit more. That said, we’re all living hectic lives. There’s no cabin in the woods and endless time off to finish your novel. There’s no team of assistants to curate and update your portfolio. Whether you’re a writer, photographer, composer, blogger, filmmaker, chef—what you have is the urge to create, but you may not always have the inspiration or direction. If you need a little jumpstart, we have 12 creative challenges and exercises to help you on your way this year. Some take 5 minutes; some might take a month. But all can help nudge you toward more creative action.
This can be anything: a meditation (compassion) or an action (paint, craft). Try to create four different things inspired by that theme over the course of a month. You can experiment within the same medium or try to create four entirely different things. It’s up to you.
Those word-of-the-day features aren’t just to help you expand your vocabulary. Use that word as a prompt to create something—a poem, a line drawing, whatever.
This is a fun personal project. If you’re a writer, come up with chapter titles based on each title. If you’re a designer, illustrate sample covers. If you’re a chef, think of what ingredients would represent you.
For some reason, even the littlest things can seem daunting: using a new app to track your ideas, fooling around with a new Photoshop tool. But the Internet can teach you anything. Take a few minutes to stretch yourself and learn a little something that can help you in your endeavor.
You can write freehand, record your thoughts, or draw the images that come to your mind. The key is to dictate what you’re thinking about, not try to control what you’re thinking. This can serve as source material for later or help you work through something you’re stuck on.
Look at the clock. What time is it? 1:37 p.m.? Use those numbers to give yourself a spur-of-the-moment assignment: Write 1 sentence using 3 words and 7 syllables. Photograph 1 object from 3 angles and experiment with 7 different filters.
Stuck on that final chapter? Need to revamp your website? Choose one month to power through. It’s long enough to get a project off the ground. It’s short enough that it won’t seem endless. (For more inspiration, check out these 30 challenges for 30 days. And if you want to be more ambitious, check out these 20 365-day projects.)
Recreate an element of a happy memory in artistic form. Did it happen at the beach? Create a color palette inspired by the ocean. Any fragment of a memory can be turned into something. (See how Beyonce inspires these color palettes.)
No, don’t just something in your queue already. Look for something totally different than what you normally watch—think people, places, and things outside your everyday interests. It’ll inspire you to do or try something different. (Dior and I is a great choice, featuring a passionate creative tackling a challenge.)
Pull any random book off your shelf and open it to any passage; use the character, emotion, words, or emotion as a jumping off point for your own inspiration.
You may be used to working with a variety of tools: Word, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, several cameras. But what can you do when you limit yourself to one tweet, one camera lens, one colored pencil. You might be surprised how much you can do with so little.
If your favorite musician/filmmaker/author commissioned you to create something based on their work, what would you make? There’s your assignment.
Good luck on your creative adventures!