What Should I Create When I Don’t Know What to Create?

Photo: Rachael Gorjestani


Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the question “What do you do when you don’t know what to create?

Reading Austin Kleon‘s little books has been very helpful, and here’s my summary of how he answers that question:
  1. Start Copying
    Nothing is completely original and all creative work builds on what came before. When you’re stuck, he suggests starting by copying. This doesn’t mean plagiarism, but rather using others’ work as inspiration to find your own style.
  2. Use Your Hands
    Engage in manual activities unrelated to your creative field. This can include drawing, crafting, or even gardening. The goal is to get out of your head and let your hands guide you.
  3. Keep a Swipe File
    Collect ideas, quotes, images, and anything else that inspires you. When you’re at a loss for what to create, revisit this collection for inspiration.
  4. Write the Book You Want to Read
    Create the art you want to see, write the story you want to read. If it doesn’t exist yet, perhaps you should be the one to make it.
  5. Take a Walk
    Kleon is a big advocate of walking to stimulate creativity. A change of scenery and physical movement can help clear your mind and generate new ideas.
  6. Do Something Boring
    Engage in mundane tasks like washing dishes or organizing your workspace. Often, ideas come when your mind is not actively trying to come up with them.
  7. Make Lists
    Create lists of anything — things you like, hate, wish you knew more about, etc. These lists can be springboards for new projects or pieces.
  8. Limitations and Constraints
    Give yourself creative constraints. Limit your tools, set a timer, or confine your work to a particular format. These limitations can foster creativity by forcing you to think differently.
  9. Work Every Day
    Establish a daily routine for your creative work. Even if you don’t feel like creating, the habit of showing up can help spark inspiration.
  10. Share Your Work and Get Feedback
    Sometimes, sharing your in-progress work and getting feedback can provide new perspectives and ideas you hadn’t considered.
I highly recommend Kleon’s trilogy of books on this, no matter what you create. Read more about them here.