Let’s face it, no one feels creative or “in the zone” one hundred percent of the time. On some days, you’re a regular freakin’ Hemingway penning a thousand words without even pausing to think or consider, and on other days you break a sweat writing one sentence.
We all get creatively constipated every now and again. Maybe you’re having a crappy day or there are just too many distractions. Or maybe the subject matter blows but you’ve got a deadline to meet.
Hey, I’ve been there.
And don’t think for one second that creativity is only for the “artsy fartsy” types with their berets and unkempt beards. Creativity is a requirement in every aspect of our lives, and especially in business. It’s critical for problem-solving, innovating and taking the brand forward.
But what if the juices just won’t flow? What if the taps are dryer than an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm?
Well, you could just go take a nap and hope that some award-winning idea comes to you in a dream (I’m not even joking. This has literally happened to me!), or you could try one of these proven tactics for overcoming a creative block.
Go for a walk in nature
I know this probably sounds much too “new age” for you esteemed captains of industry, but don’t worry, I won’t be asking you to grow your hair into dreadlocks and slap on a tie-dye shirt just yet.
But just getting your blood flowing and breathing something other than stale cigarette air is not as insane as it sounds. And I’ve got actual science backing me up on this one, so hear me out.
Light exercise such as walking leads to increased blood flow, which, in turn, leads to more oxygen reaching the brain. In addition, being in a tranquil setting free from distractions is a good way to relax, and relaxation is conducive to creativity.
Yes, you read right. It turns out that the chaotic tangle of intersecting lines, circles and polygons that you draw every time you’re on the phone actually serves a purpose other than inadvertently summoning Cthulhu.
Doodling helps with focus and memory, and gets the brain into the right “mode” to produce creative ideas and content.
Go unplugged for a while
Electronics are great, but boy are they ever distracting. From cellphones and tablets to your iPod and, of course, the sweet siren song of the Internet, it’s very easy to trade a serious brainstorming session for some serious Candy Crush.
Switch off any electronic devices that are potential sources of distraction for at least an hour, and make 10 minutes of Snapchat time your reward for going cold turkey for a full 60 minutes.
Try free writing
This is actually a technique that some therapists use to help patients identify deep-seated emotional issues, but free writing can also help you tap into your creativity and overcome blocks.
Free writing involves putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as the case may be) and literally writing down what comes into your head. I like to set a timer for twenty-five minutes, and I only allow myself to stop writing once those twenty-five minutes have elapsed.
Pet an animal
I don’t mean just petting some random (and possibly rabid) animal roaming the streets. I mean one of your own, preferably.
The benefits of pet ownership to psychological and emotional health have been well-documented, but recent studies have revealed that the presence of pets can actually improve collaboration and spark creativity.
Focus on a different project
I’ve found that, when I spend too much time racking my brain with regards to one project, it intensifies the block. When this happens, I like to take a break and focus on a different job – typically a much smaller task – just to free up the juices (and also to remind myself that I haven’t suddenly lost my ability to write just because I’m stuck on a single task).
In the same way that couples sometimes need some time apart, it can be a good idea to take a breather from a specific job and “cheating” on it with another task very often helps with overcoming a creative block.