You're creative. You can think outside the box. You can come up with great ideas. When you're inspired. But how about when you need to? It's not always easy to be creative on demand. But with a few tips and tricks, you can get your mind working and thinking creatively.

Just Start

Whether it's an art project, a writing endeavor, or brainstorming for a party you're planning, try just sitting down and doing it. You may start out bland, boring, uncreative at all. But once you get "into the mood," your mind will settle into a groove and start processing the project, manipulating it, tweaking it. And you'll find your work improving.

You don't have to start with the project you have to work on. Try starting with a draft or rough idea. Or do something completely unrelated. Once your juices are flowing, shift your attention to the project at hand.

If you have trouble getting started, try telling yourself you'll only work for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes. You may surprise yourself and be drawn into your project and keep going.

Write It Down

Whether or not it's a writing project, writing down your thoughts and ideas about the project can help you think about it abstractly. Start with what you already know. It may be straight facts or details you've already worked out. If it helps, try mind mapping: start with a bubble around an idea, then branch off to another idea, and another. It will look like a spiderweb on your paper. As you follow the chain of ideas, your mind will make associations and connections you wouldn't normally think of, and that can lead to new inspirations.

Writing it down gets you to not only think about the project as you're writing, but also think about it once you're done writing. You have something to look at after the fact, and that can send you off in new directions or get you excited as you review it.

Do Something Mindless

Oftentimes when our minds are left to wander, they come up with new ideas and inspirations. That's why we get brilliant ideas in the shower or as we're lying in bed trying to sleep. Our minds aren't focused on anything, so they can float along, thinking about whatever gets their attention.

Try doing a task you can do by rote: wash dishes, dust, file, mow the lawn. Something that keeps your body busy but your mind free. As you're working, think about your project, or even think about something unrelated. As your mind wanders, you may find yourself thinking creatively.

Look For Inspiration

If your goal is a work of art, head to an art gallery or museum. If your goal is a piece of writing, try reading a story, article, or novel. Planning a party? Go to a party store. Writing advertising copy? Flip through a magazine or turn on the TV and analyze the ads.

Check out the work of others and critique it. What would you do differently? What do you admire? How would you tackle the project? If it helps, try recreating what they did.

Head Outside

Nature can be very inspiring. Take a walk, take a hike, go for a bicycle ride. Breathe in the scents. Take in the sights. Hear the crunch of leaves under your feet. Feel the wind blow through your hair. Describe to yourself what you feel. Let yourself get whimsical, even corny.

Be a Kid

Children have great imaginations. Act as if you're five and have nothing important to think about. Try playing, coloring, or just being silly. Make up stories. Create entire imaginary worlds. Play in the sand. Wiggle your toes. Blow bubbles. Contemplate the mysteries of the universe.

No matter what works for your, embrace your creativity. The more often you use it, the easier it will get to tap it when you need it.