We all get stuck sometimes. That painting won't come together, the next part of that story won't flow. We can't get anything new started. What should we do?!
No, really. Copy something you like. Draw the Mona Lisa in crayon, rewrite "The Raven" using other words. Copy, but add a twist.
Why? Because it gets you moving, it stirs up your creativity. You connect with something creative that you like and you engage with it, and this helps your own creativity get up and moving. And it often happens that once you get the brush/ pen/guitar pick/camera moving, your own thoughts and ideas start coming through loud and clear again.
How do you do this so you don't end up just copying and never getting to your own work? First, I don't think that will happen. We're creatives, so eventually our own voices are going to make themselves heard. But to help avoid delaying the message, try this:
- Use elements of the original in something brand new of your own (like a fan fiction story, for example).
- Examine the original for things it would be easy to change--colors, genders, number of people in a story or objects in a painting, time period, location, etc.
- Pick one thing from your list and start making that change. If you started your copy before thinking about changes, just start adding the changes from where you are. No need to start over.
- Pick another thing from the list and start making that change.
- Think about other works you like and see if you can incorporate elements of one or more of those into your copycat work. It doesn't have to be something in the same genre or even the same medium. A sketch of a favorite book character in the background of your Mona Lisa? Of course! "The Raven" flying off to a music store and playing a violin? Why not? Mix and match--it's a fun game and very freeing. Be as silly as you can!
- Take your favorite elements from your play time and try them out in whatever you were feeling stuck on. (It's okay if you can't find anything that will work--just take a look to see if there's something there.)
Will this exercise always directly help your current work? No, not directly. It will always help shake things up, change things around, get things moving. Sometimes you'll find something that helps move your current piece along. Sometimes you'll find that you just had a good time, and that's worth plenty all on its own.