Putting ink to paper or paint to canvas can be an excruciating struggle. It almost undoubtedly forces you to question your creativity. But this anguishing experience isn’t exclusive to art and artists.
Quite the contrary, since we apply creative thinking to our work on a daily basis. Those inventive ideas and streams of thought need to flow almost constantly if we plan to reach peak performance.
We all hit a slog at some point. If you want to become master at overcoming creative blockades, there are at least three tips that could help.
1. Just: do!
The first and most important piece of advice every experienced creative thinker will give you is to ‘just work’. If this infuriates you because it is too vague and broad as advice, then you still haven’t hit that moment of desperation when the inspiration stubbornly refuses to come.
The truth is, inspiration seldom comes unless you begin to work. Even if you have a tiny spark of an idea – whether it’s a concept for a novel or an essay, a solution for the functioning of your IT team, or a catchy hook of a tune – the cohesive tissue that turns the entire project into a whole forms only when you put your hands and your brains into practice.
You will bump against countless obstacles along the way, and the inspiration for solutions will only come if you work your way to them and past them. In other words, ‘simply doing’ is the most straightforward, most elegant, and the most truthful advice you’ll ever get for overcoming a creative rut.
2. Get out of your comfort zone
Our work usually requires spending time in a particular enclosed space. Even if this is not true, we are still often surrounded with the same equipment and colleagues that typically put us in a specific frame of mind.
If a stale mise en scène has bored you to the point of being mind-numbed, and you simply can’t catch that elusive spark of inspiration, it might be a good idea to mix things up a bit. Get out of your comfort zone, both literally and mentally.
For example, you can take a time out and set up a campsite in the wilderness to find inspiration in nature-encompassed solitude. You can look for it at the local lake area where people mingle in the summer and swim your heart out in search of a project solution.
As a writer, I’m a good example of someone who has to apply creative thinking to their work. Every now and then I require a change of pace and surroundings to get out of a ditch. Some of my best work had poured out of my fingertips and onto a laptop keyboard when I decided to sit in a cafe that I never visited before or in a park that I rarely frequent.
3. Pen and paper
You don’t have to be an expert writer or a fantastic sketch artist to appreciate the intrinsic value of having a pen and paper within arm’s reach. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to limit yourself to writing or sketching exclusively; instead, you can take a fresh batch of paper and start doodling whatever comes to your mind if you feel that you’ve hit a creative slump.
For starters, remove yourself from the area where you typically work, sit somewhere comfortable, and then put pen to paper. Your work might require you to rely on mind-mapping, creating overlapping bubbles of statistical info or practices.
It’s also perfectly valid to string words together in longhand or make a sketch of a scene you’re about to do in significantly greater detail. If it helps get the juices flowing, you can simultaneously perform another action while doodling, like eating something nutritious for your brain or listening to a podcast.
Pen and paper are still some of the most reliable tools that allow you to run wild with your imagination to overcome creative blockades. In a way, they give you the reins for mindful exploration, which is especially helpful if you’re struggling with anxiety.
Essentially, it’s all about the mechanics of thinking. You need to get into the habit of forcing yourself to push through the creative rut. In 99% of cases, each and every one of us can do it by simply beginning a work session without direction or plan.
The inspiration will come as your synapses begin to turn, and you’d better not doubt it. Simply ‘doing’ instead of waiting for an explosion of inspiration to hit is a key difference between a professional and an amateur. Every person that has to apply creative thinking to their work, no matter what sort of work it is, will tell you this is an absolute truth.