For many students, being handed an assignment sheet with the word creative at the top instantly instills panic. Creative assignments can seem daunting, but the truth is most people engage in their work in a creative manner and don’t even know it. But if seeing the word creative on an assignment sheet makes you cringe, have no fear! You are more than capable of completing creative projects. Here are some tips and tricks that may help you confidently complete these assignments. 

  1. Give Yourself Plenty of Time

I know that every professor says this for every assignment, but with creative projects, time truly is so valuable. Creativity is often something that you can’t rush because it comes from the overflow of ideas and ideas take time to form. Giving yourself plenty of time doesn’t mean you necessarily have to start working on the creative project right away, but you should keep the project and its requirements in the back of your mind so you can pull inspiration for the project from events happening around you. Give your brain the time and space it needs to cultivate ideas for the project. And don’t fret when ideas don’t come to you immediately. That’s the beauty of starting to think about the project early! The earlier you begin to brainstorm, the higher the likelihood that you eventually come to an idea that you like.

2. Write Down Ideas As They Come to You

Speaking of ideas, it’s important to write down ideas for the project as they come to you. If you don’t write down your ideas as they come, you’re very likely to forget them. And this becomes incredibly frustrating when you sit down to start working on the project, remember that you had an idea that you were excited about trying, and then can’t remember the actual idea. 

As a creative writing minor, most of my creative assignments involve writing short stories. When I know that I have a short story due date coming up, I write down a reminder in my calendar two weeks in advance to start thinking about ideas for the story. This reminder helps me keep the project at the forefront of my mind which keeps me alert to story inspiration in my own thoughts and in the world around me. When I see or think of something that could potentially spark a short story, I write the idea down in a specific writing journal. Sometimes I’ll also try to sketch a quick image of the scene that inspired me to write to capture that feeling when I actually sit down to write. 

3. Remember: No Idea is a Bad Idea! 

One of the most intimidating parts of writing down ideas for a creative project is feeling like your ideas are not good enough for the successful completion of the project. In all honesty, in their beginning stages, the ideas probably aren’t fleshed out enough to fuel your entire project. But that doesn’t mean that they are bad ideas! The whole process of brainstorming exists to help you conceptualize what direction you want to go with your project and it’s hard to determine what direction you do want your project to go if you don’t know where you don’t want the project to go. Ideas that you end up scraping are just as useful as ideas that you end up using. They all help you get closer to the finished project. I would also advise you to not delete or erase the ideas you don’t end up using in your project. You may want to go back to them and include them later.

If you’re not even sure what ideas to write down, here is the principle that I usually work off of when brainstorming for a creative project. I write down anything I see or think that makes me feel something. It doesn’t have to be a specific feeling, just a feeling. Because oftentimes, the things that make us feel something are the things that we’re passionate about exploring and expressing.

4. Run Your Ideas by Someone Else

In my creative writing experience, there are few things that are as helpful as running my ideas for a story by other people. When we’re brainstorming ideas for our projects it’s easy to get lost in our ideas and forget that other people do not know the context behind the idea. The idea behind the project can be miscommunicated or not brought to its fullest potential if the context of the idea is not understood. For example, there have been many times when I’ve shared my idea for a story with a friend or classmate and they’ve said, “That doesn’t quite make sense yet.” Friends and classmates bring a fresh perspective to our work and can help us understand how to make it better.

5. Figure Out What Your Creativity Looks Like

Creativity is such a unique process because no two people will engage in it in the same way. This is a lesson that has been very hard for me to learn. As a perfectionist, I want my work to fit exactly the mold that it is supposed to. When I started creative writing, I would get stuck in writer’s block for days because I felt like I needed to produce writing that was just like my peers and professors. But that’s exactly the opposite of what creativity is supposed to be. Creativity is about your personal expression based on your unique experiences in the world. It’s not supposed to fit a mold. In fact, it often intentionally breaks the mold to make a statement.

That being said, it’s important that you figure out what creativity looks like for you. For me, creativity often looks like writing short stories. So if I was given the opportunity to do a creative assignment instead of a formal assignment, I’d probably choose to write something creative. However, for other people, creativity can look like painting, dancing, making a video, creating a social media page or website, creating a board game, or creating a video game. Creativity does not and should not look the same for everyone. Spend some time thinking about the things you enjoy doing as these can often have a creative adaptation. 

Another way to determine what your creativity looks like is to identify skills  you’d like to grow in professionally and choose a project that will allow you to work on these skills. For example, I would like to learn more about photography, so next time I am assigned a creative project I may try and incorporate photography into the project.

6. Go For It 

The last piece of advice I would give to anyone trying to figure out how to even begin the creative project they’ve been assigned is this: go for it. When working on projects that are out of our comfort zones it’s easy to just think about them and never actually start them. I’ve been there. If I allow myself to freak out over a creative project, I end up not starting it until the last minute and often don’t end with a project that I’m necessarily proud of. But if I jump in with two feet and start with enough time, I’m usually able to end with a project I’m proud of. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and start a creative project even if you’re not sure where it’s going yet. That’s part of the process! Sometimes you just have to go for it and see where the project goes. It will all come together in the end.

Written by: Jordan Sims