First thing you must do is throw your disciplined mind out the window.
Then just set it aside for a while.
Then start with a blank screen.
You can do amazing things from this simple blank transparent screen. I opened this new document in 800X600 pixels for ease of uploading to the internet.
From this blank 'canvas' you can do all sorts of things.
You can use gradients and distort them layer, warp, twist, swirl, and come up with a beautiful colorful design and never need any tools than those that are found in Photoshop or Elements.
This was done strictly in one editing program without any plug ins or filters...
I used gradients, rectangle marquee tool, elliptical marquee tool, distort filter, levels, hue and saturation, drop shadows, inner and outer glows, and image transformations as in skew, distort, and perspective.
I then used the pen tool to create a 'path'. I wanted the 'beam' of light to appear as if it flowed through the 'creation'.
It is simply done with an eraser tool in Elements 5 [there is a work around to create a mask in Elements, which I'll discuss at a later date].
In Photoshop 7.0 or CS versions, you can simply mask the layer and paint out the unwanted portions out with a brush.
But here are some other options I've found very useful and free. I'll feature some free programs and some not so free programs that can be used to create graphics without using a photograph.
Here is the first in a series of items that I've found free and useful for creativity.
I use them when I need distortions that I'm not always able to find in the Adobe PS programs.
One of my favorite free plug in sites is called Mehdi Plugins.
They are easy to install and fun to use. My favorite Plug-ins are those called Melt 1.1., Kaleidoscope 2.1, and Projection. These 'filters' as I call them allow you to manipulate your creations.
I often do this on separate layers and can always 'undo' if I dislike the results.
Sample of Melt 1.1 combined with Kaleidoscope:
I hope this was useful. I'll be doing some more write ups on free programs I've found that work quite easily and are a quick study.