Designer Ayse Birsel explains why fiddling around with a bunch of pens and paperclips for 10 minutes each morning can get your creative juices flowing.
“Every morning I wake up and think of what I need to do, and I’m afraid,” Ayse Birsel confesses. “What if I don’t come up with a good idea? The only remedy to that is to start doing it.”
But Birsel, who’s the cofounder and creative director of design studio Birsel + Seck and the author of Design the Life You Love, knows it isn’t easy pushing past that fear in order to get started on something. “It’s the kind of thing I forget every night and have to remember every morning. I put myself under pressure to come up with this great idea, and it never comes like that–sometimes it takes 10 minutes, sometimes it takes an hour, or a whole month–but this exercise is a way to get over that fear.” To help, Birsel takes a cue from illustrator Keri Smith, who has shared an exercise in which she scavenges objects from her home and the floor of her studio, then rearranges them in order to jumpstart her creativity.
In Birsel’s riff on Smith’s prompt, you don’t need a spacious art studio with a whimsically cluttered floor–you just need a desk with a few ordinary items on it.
HOW IT WORKS
Ready to get started? “Find seven things on your desk at your studio, office, or home and make something with them. You could make a sculpture, a freeze-frame, a tool, a composition–whatever comes to you,” Birsel explains. “Try to pick random objects, different materials, and varying sizes, and don’t think, just do! You’ll improvise as you go.”
The trick is not to spend more than 10 minutes fiddling with your desktop objects–that’s enough time to experiment with some interesting combinations without beginning to second-guess yourself. In one of Birsel’s own recent attempts, she says, “I put together a Japanese toy (which I keep on my desk to entertain myself), my must-have Post-It notes, smiley-face stickers, earphones, some tape, and a thin wooden African figurine. Without really planning, I started putting these random objects together playfully and ended up creating a romance scene!”
Birsel recommends doing this 10-minute exercise every day. “Come up with different mixes and matches of the same seven objects each day for one week, then change the items the following week–and the week after that, and the one after that,” she suggests. “If you created a sculpture, place it on a stool to highlight it. If you made a composition, place it on different backgrounds and post it on your social media.”
The main idea, she says, is to “take inspiration from your surroundings, nature, people, stories, and your imagination. And don’t forget to have fun! That’s a key component of creativity.” But don’t worry about the outcome, says Birsel. “It doesn’t have to be a new Picasso. It can just be a funky little thing. The goal is to get yourself “thinking about the same things differently. Once you’re in that space, you can move toward thinking about something else differently.”
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