Sooner or later everyone who works in a creative field, no matter how inherently talented they may be, will be struck by creative block. What gives some individuals an advantage is that they're better able to deal with the situation, and with these tips, you will be well prepared to overcome the problem of creative block.
1. Avoid forcing ideas
Nothing will shut a creative mind down faster than attempting to overcome this problem by force. Creativity comes from inspiration, and the best conditions to be inspired will be when your mind is relaxed and open.
2. Consider meditation
Don't be too quick to dismiss this ancient technique for opening the mind to creative input. A lot of very successful people attribute at least some of their success to frequent meditation. If you think about it objectively, meditation makes sense.
The idea behind meditation is basically to empty your mind and not allow your own thoughts to distract you. This can take a lot of practice to get perfect, but it gets easier the more you do it. If you successfully empty your mind and still your thoughts, and nature abhors a vacuum, there's an opportunity for creative imagery to pour in, and that's when you might find your inspiration.
3. Think about something else for a while
Sitting there with your head in your hands trying to focus on the task isn't really going to get you anywhere if you can't focus. Sometimes getting up from the desk and going for a walk or doing something completely different is all you need to clear your head and get the creative juices flowing again.
This is the process that advertising guru Joseph Sugarman described as incubation. It's based on the fact that your mind is always working even when you think it isn't. This is the same basis on which meditation works. By not allowing your conscious rational mind to interfere, you allow your subconscious creative mind more free rein to produce something wonderful for you. Just be careful not to take this concept too far. There's a large gulf between incubation and procrastination.
4. Keep a notebook
Inspirational ideas can strike at any time, so using a notebook to jot down your ideas on the spot will help you avoid forgetting those moments of inspiration. An alternative might be to use the audio recording feature of your cell phone, but that requires a lot of storage space and can be difficult to search back through.
5. Keep a dream journal
Often our dreams can be a fantastic source of inspiration, if only we could remember them! If you have a dream journal, you can keep that inspiration perpetually. You even find it becomes more easy to remember your dreams once you get in the habit of journaling their contents.
6. Brain storm
You can do this alone or in a group. A brain storming session allows for free thinking, which is just what you need when your mind is all jammed up. To keep it simple you can use paper, but a whiteboard is even better.
Start with the main theme or concept, and from there just write the first word or idea that comes to mind, repeating in a chain reaction without trying to analyze or judge any of it until the process is complete.
Once you have completed the brain storming session, you may find certain words stand out from the others and provide the inspiration you need.
7. Play the “What if” game
This one is really simple. You just make a list of questions that start with “What if” that somehow relate to the theme of what you are trying to create, and then try to answer the questions. It can actually be fun to include other people in the process of coming up with the list of questions. Following this process, some ideas may suggest themselves as good ones to proceed from.
8. Get away from your distractions
You may find the problem is not yourself, but something in your work environment that is distracting you and preventing you from coming up with those creative ideas. Sometimes the best way is just to get out of the office and find a distraction-free environment where you can think clearly.
9. Ask a friend
There's an old saying that “a problem shared is a problem halved”. That's the optimistic view, anyway. Sometimes all you need is to see things from another perspective, without your own thoughts getting in the way.
Be careful not to become too dependent on this technique. You still want to be able to come up with your own ideas without help.
By the way, the ideas your friend suggests don't have to be good ones. Sometimes hearing a terrible suggestion from somebody else will cause you to think of a much better idea, which is really the whole point of what you're trying to achieve.
10. Do something you hate doing
This isn't the most fun suggestion on the list, but you'd be amazed how effective it can be. By engaging in an activity you don't like doing – pulling weeds, for example – you'll find your heart really isn't in it. Under these circumstances, it's natural for the mind to wander to a better place, and there you may just find the answer to your problem.
In a way this is the opposite to the incubation method. In that method, you're encouraged to do activities that you find pleasant, and that works for most people. Unsurprisingly, it is a better option to take if it does work for you.
Then there's this method, which is all about doing things you find unpleasant. In both methods, you are distracting the conscious mind with activity. The way the subconscious mind works is still something of an enigma, but one thing that is clear is that it does work. You just have to find the right way to make it work.
Outlined above are ten methods for jump starting your creativity and getting past a creative block. There is no single method that works best or that will work every time, but all of these tools can be effective in the right circumstances. Use as many or as few as you need, and you should find it easier to find the inspiration you are seeking.
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