How do you challenge yourself creatively? Do you have a go to for getting over a creative block? On social media there are all kinds of challenges for enhancing creativity. The thing about those pre-made options, they just don’t fit me, my schedule, or my process… and probably don’t fit yours either. So this post offers a way to do-it-yourself, with information collected and categorized to help you make a challenge that works for you in timing, interest and content with lots of ideas to stretch your creative muscles. For me, making my own challenge is about photography and photo manipulation, but all visual artists can use this information to help break a dry spell, a creative block or just to do something different to change things up!
There are many different kinds of prompts… some prompts are very specific, some general. Some prompts work with multiple categories, some ideas are open to interpretation and broader ideas rather than specific concepts or subject matter… while working on this post and compiling the lists, I thought of photos already in my files that fit specific prompts and even that got my creative sparks flying.
Timing that works for you.
Start by setting your own time frame. You can set up any time-frame that works for you and your schedule. These ideas are adjustable and you can and should create a schedule that fits into your life… If the timing you choose interferes with your specific needs… the prompts won’t help you be more productive or creative. Some of the prompts are not necessarily going to be found on the exact day of the prompt. Calendar related prompts are absolutely all about timing. Be flexible.
One a day for 7 days [one week]: This works well for a single idea, but is also fine for 7 different prompts . As an example, you could choose to focus on the sky for 7 days or a different picture, painting or drawing each day from the broader topic of nature.
30 days /1 month of prompts: choose a different prompt each day for a month, or use a broad theme for the month and change the prompt each week or use a combination of one theme each week and change the basic prompt each day. Also keep in mind the holidays and any special occasions in the month you are planning. You can actually create a whole year at one time as some of the prompts you like can be used over and over and a you’ll get a wide variety of results.
First week of photos for my bird challenge
The first time I did a month of prompts I choose wild critters, which were plentiful where I walked daily. Week 1: birds (this attempt ended up being robins specifically (photos above), with several in my own yard), week 2: rabbits, week 3: squirrels, week 4: prairie dogs.
52 weeks: one prompt per week for a year: Set a specific number of pictures to create during each week. You might not hit the number, but it will give you a goal and something to work towards. This one can be daunting to set up at the beginning of this project, but even the process of putting together these challenges can motivate you out of a slump.
For the 30 day trial, I started with that first month’s prompt of critters and expanded it to a 3 month summer calendar, then took it all the way out to a year. I did one week of a different animal, varying the animal and adding farm, pets, etc., to fill one week in all 12 months… I went for nature as a second theme and made a focus of skies, trees, water, snow, etc. including 12, one for each month. You get the idea.
No time limits might suit your lifestyle: make yourself a list and check off the prompts as you take/make pictures that fit or pick a prompt and see how many different ways you can express the prompt in a visual manner. This options let’s you vary the amount of time you reserve, but do schedule time… don’t let the challenge fade away.
In my latest version of 52 weeks of prompts, I’m trying something different. I made a month of 4 general themes and am repeating it for the 52 weeks: My themes for the year are: Color – different color for one week each month, taking into account the seasons. Texture, Props, and Concepts are the other prompts I’m trying for the next round, then I plan on making changes to focus on the areas I didn’t complete and starting over with the those challenges and rotating both the 52 week plans. Should keep me busy!
Expanding the prompts
Change Your Perspective
Changing how you look at a subject will give you a new perspective on a familiar thing. Use one object or one prompt and take it from different perspectives. Consider low and high angles, up & down, above & below, close up or far away. Find the negative space, get close & zoom in, or back up – far away. Changing your perspective is a good option if you choose a single idea for a week of images.
Learn new techniques and practice
Depending on your photography equipment, choosing a technique to concentrate on can be very inspirational. These techniques can also be created in post production with apps like Photoshop and of course are already a part of the artists’ toolkit. out of focus • blur on purpose • long exposure • boken • slow shutter
Color as a prompt
Most lists have one or more colors included, some paired the color with the word ‘something’ or ‘favorite.’ Others put the color with an object “yellow flower” or the abstract “crush on red’. You could choose to use color groups or shades of a color as a prompt, or be more generic and add “colorful” or ‘pop of color’ to your list. So I’ll just recommend adding all the colors of the rainbow to your prompts… in whatever way works for you!
Basic colors: listed in alphabetical order:
black • blue • brown • cyan • gold • green • grey • lavender • magenta • navy • orange • pink • purple • red • violet • white • yellow
A more thorough color list is included in the DIY Creativity Kit, with a calendar page, a 52 weeks planner and lists of ideas to start your personal challenge and set your goals.
For more information on color visit:
My informational blog post all about how color effects emotions and choices: The power of your color choices right here on this blog.
Grafix – this site lists color shades and color groups in sets of 20 and includes the corresponding hex codes. Plus they offer posters for a small fee.
Find your color – this handy website allows you to search by name or hex code
Defining your prompts
Words have different meanings and when you come across those, you get to choose what it means to you. These were on a list that was found in my research: toast: is it a piece of bread or 2 glasses clicking together? Mum: mother or flower? Plus there are words that do not describe an object, but feelings or concepts. How would you illustrate the concept of practice?
Concepts: listed in alphabetical order
abstract • aftermath • belief • belonging • change • chaos • details • emotion • moody • fresh • gracious • important • peace • simple • watch
A more thorough list of concepts are included in the DIY Creativity pack, with a calendar page, a 52 weeks planner and lists of ideas to start your personal challenge and set your goals.
Commonality among lists
Every list I referenced had some version of personal choice: wild card: your choice, something that makes you smile: your everyday, whatever you want.
Another common technique in the reference materials was adding an adjective. These were the most common: something • favorite • special • hazy • pure
To find the pre-made challenges you can search Pinterest. Use terms like: challenges, prompts or themes, then add: art, creative, drawing, art, photography, or sketchbook.
Get the Creative Challenge Kit here. The Kit includes sample pages, a printable calendar page, a printable 52 week planner and lists of themes and ideas to start your personal challenge and set your creative goals.