Getting Over Creative Hurdles

Lauren

Lauren Ellis
01.21.15

You are working hard, making progress. Then suddenly, the inspiration is gone. Your creativity has run dry; your muse is out to lunch.

Creative blocks happen. Sometimes, depending on your mood or the time of day, they happen more often than deadlines allow. If I spend 15 minutes clearing my mind, that can help me get through the block without wasting time, staring frustrated at the computer screen.

Here is my list of ways I like to get away, so to speak, all of which can be done at any time of the day for 10 to 20 minutes. All you have to do is just get up from your chair and do it.

Get away

The first, best move for me is to get away from the computer screen. When you have been working hard at a problem for too long, it becomes increasingly difficult to see any solutions. Stop staring at the problems, change your scenery, and let your mind wander on other, tangible things:

  • Get away from all screens
  • Do dishes (or chores). (14-year-old Philo Farnsworth was plowing a potato field when it suddenly just came to him how electrical television could work. You never know when inspiration will hit.)
  • Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea quietly
  • Go to a bar for a drink (but bring a notebook)
  • Come up a list of adjectives on a whiteboard that describe what you are trying to accomplish
  • Go on a drive
  • Play an instrument or sing

Get physical

Get some blood flowing to your brain! You have been sitting, frustrated, perhaps in tears, for a while. Get up and start moving your body. Nikola Tesla came up with the idea of alternating currents simply when he was out for a walk.

"Exercising on a regular basis may thus act as a cognitive enhancer promoting creativity in inexpensive and healthy ways," said study researcher Lorenza Colzato, a cognitive psychology at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

You are so busy in the day, but 15 minutes of physical movement can make a world of difference for your creative process. Here are some quick ways to get moving:

  • Go on a walk
  • Go on a run
  • Go on a bike ride
  • Practice yoga, pilates, tai chi, etc.
  • Stretch
  • Shadowbox
  • Dance
  • Throw a ball, frisbee, etc

Relax

No one will argue that lack of sleep is a good thing. Maybe your brain just needs a break. Take a step back and focus on resting your mind and body:

  • Take a power nap
  • Take a shower
  • Read a book
  • Get a massage (this might take longer than 15 minutes, but would you really complain?)
  • Practice visualization (something Einstein did regularly)
  • Meditate

Free your inner child

I like to fight creativity with creativity, as do others who are far more accomplished than me. Leonardo Da Vinci would occasionally throw a paint-filled sponge against the wall to contemplate what the random splatters might represent.

  • Draw your emotional state
  • Doodle something without restricting yourself
  • Finger paint
  • Play with LEGOs
  • Built a blanket fort
  • Play with your pet
  • Build paper airplanes
  • Set up a Nerf gun shooting range
  • Write a short story or blog post

Look to Others

You have been staring at this problem for a while, but there are people around you that have a fresh mind and new insight. Don't be afraid to look to others for advice.

  • Make a list of inspirations to you and study how they got over creative blocks
  • Ask a friend what they think of the problem and possible solutions
  • Listen to a Ted Talk
  • Brainstorm with coworkers
  • Have someone sit with you and work on the design
  • Ask questions without fearing the answers

Find whatever works best for you and practice it. It can help save a lot of headaches and speed up your creative process.


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