I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, and probably long before. Ask anyone who knew me as a child, they’ll tell you they remember me as the girl who drew whales on everything. At this young age, that was all I drew and as I got older and more exposed to popular culture, what I was drawing became more diverse. I would draw the characters from the television shows I was watching, and this new expanse in knowledge of characters inspired me to create my own characters and backstories for them. At this point in my life, I had no interest in being an artist of any sort. All I wanted to do was be one of those whale trainers at SeaWorld (well, okay…I still kind of do).

Flash forward to today, and I’m sitting in an amazing office creating and assisting in the creation of designs that will eventually be on buses, billboards, and out in the public eye. I love every second of designing; It’s a challenge and it’s fun. That being said, loving it for eight hours or more a day every day is draining and can suck the creative life right out of you, whether in an academic setting or a professional setting. I had always heard that this could happen, but never really been warned about it. And certainly nobody told me how exhausting it could be.

Being creative is a way of life. Designers and other creative types can’t just turn off our professions when we leave the office like doctors or lawyers. It is a method of communication and expression for us. If that creativity gets stifled or blocked in our personal lives, it can get frustrating and upsetting, and that negative energy has to affect our creativity in the professional space. Janae talked about how to boost creativity in the office, I’m here to tell you about how to get the juices flowing out of it so the ideas that happen in the office are that much greater.

Don’t restrict yourself.

Just because I am making a career out of design, doesn’t mean that’s what I should always be doing. Try a different “area of study.” I don’t limit myself to designing. I apply my creative juices into other forms or art. For example: I draw. I write fiction and poetry. I take photos. I play the piano and sing until my lungs give out. If I’m not designing something, you’ll likely find me doing one of these other activities.

The more activities you do, the more things you’ll find that will inspire you in one of these areas. Moments of nostalgia inspire my drawings (i.e. although embarrassing, you can find me drawing the trains from Thomas the Tank Engine as people). Certain sounds will inspire me to write poetry. To make it clear: the more activities you do, the more likely you’ll find something to inspire you in one of these areas.

Expose Yourself.

There are so many places where inspiration can be found in pop culture and here are just a few places you could find a spark.

If you like to read, read a book. There are hardly any visual aids and yet so much detail to pull from. You may just find a protagonist in a book you want to design or a scene you want to illustrate.

Watching TV and Movies. The visuals for these have already been fleshed out, but don’t let that stop you. If you thought Gallifrey from Doctor Who looked awesome and now you want to paint the Gallifreyan landscape, have at it. If you think there’s an adventure to be had in the Avengers universe or a crime to be solved in the world of Sherlock Holmes, give it life. Draw it. Write it out. There are tons of websites for the purpose of posting and consuming the fan-created content of worlds that have already been visualized but are always in need of more.

Play games. Get actively involved in a world. Rescue the princess or defend the world from zombies. See through the eyes of a character first hand. Again, you may just find yourself writing a fan fiction, making a comic or satire, or redesigning the covers for the Resident Evil series (as I’m doing this summer).

Surf the net. Janae mentioned this as well, but it’s important. With so many social media sites available, finding inspiration online is easier than ever. There’s tons of DIY projects on Pinterest, access to other designer’s works for inspiration on their websites, blogs, and Tumblrs, and enough political debate and drama on Facebook to make you start your own campaign. With this much access, don’t be afraid to find something new to try, whether a recipe or style of design. With a simple click of a button and Google search, you could also find other ways to get out of your creative funk.

Go outside. Another thing mentioned by Janae, but it’s so true! You’ll never hear that ominous low train whistle over the hum of the air conditioner. Go for a walk with a friend, have a chat, soak up some vitamin D. Nature has so much to offer us that will stimulate the senses.

Be ridiculous. Sometimes it’s okay to just let go of all of your intuition and be crazy. Create something out of your usual realm. If something ridiculous comes up in a conversation, draw that. Don’t be afraid to draw, oh I don’t know, a ferret in a space suit attending an interplanetary party…or take after Kandinsky and be an abstract expressionist.

Don’t Overdo Yourself.

As a response to this post by Kyle Bragger, it is important to not overdo it in the office. Many countries in the European Union have realized that shorter weeks result in more productivity from its employees. Obviously, we’re not in the EU, but that doesn’t mean that you have to drive yourself crazy and be overloaded. Stand up, get some water, stretch your legs and straighten your back…and I think that a really important aspect that was brought up in Bragger’s post was the notion of only having no more than an hour or two of intense work at a time. That will help keep your stress levels down (and yourself sane!)

These are just a few ways I’ve found over the years that have helped me get out of a funk. Explore your all of your passions Find something that inspires you, and soar with it. With better work in your personal time you’ll be less stressed about how you’re functioning creatively in the office.