Maybe you’re a graphic designer. Or you’re part of the creative workforce. Or perhaps you simply create on the side. Either way, if you find yourself producing innovative work on the regular, then you’ve definitely come face to face with the dreaded creative block.
So what do you do when you’re hard pressed to come up with anything clever and a deadline is looming? You might squirm, distract yourself with email, or drink an entire bottle of chardonnay hoping for divine inspiration (à la Michelangelo) but that won’t solve the problem. Better to learn some strategies that will help you over the hurdle and get your creative juices flowing again.
1. Nature nurtures (your creative side)
Many of us live in cities and suburbs where it might be unrealistic to visit the “great outdoors” on a regular basis. But even if you can’t get to the beach, or the lake, or the mountains it still helps to get out to a park—or out for a walk for some fresh air, and a fresh change of perspective. Evidence points to nature being exceptionally helpful in freeing your creative mind. Green space has a calming effect on your brain, and this helps encourage creative ideas because your brain isn’t distracted by the fast pace of city life. In fact, the effect is increased when you avoid distractions like your smart phone and text messages. Which leads me to topic #2…
2. Kill the Internet!… If only for a few hours.
Increasing evidence points to how smartphones, social media, and the internet have created more distractions in our lives, making it harder to concentrate on one task at a time and “killing our creativity.”
Filling your idle time with work emails and getting caught up on texts may feel productive, but the loss of free time can be detrimental to your imagination. Your brain needs time to unwind and be absent-minded in order to formulate fresh ideas. So, if you’re finding it difficult to follow through on the task at hand, do your best to avoid filling that time with status updates, or seeing what new Instagram posts are in your feed. Letting a wandering mind ruminate over an idea is key to sparking the creativity you seek.
3. Lie down. And try not to fall asleep.
The creative workforce does a lot of their work while sitting. Or increasingly at standing desks— or even while pedaling! But one doctor’s study has shown that many of our creative ideas actually come to us when we’re lying down. The study tested subject’s abilities to solve anagrams, those tricky word puzzles whose answer usually “reveals” itself to the observer in an “an ‘A-ha!’ or Eureka moment.” This notion may resonate with you, too, if you’ve ever come up with the solution to a tricky creative problem while in bed.
So, you may want to try lying down for a change in perspective when dealing with a creative block. Or, if you don’t want to be the oddball at the office lying under your desk, I suggest keeping your journal, drawing pad, Wacom tablet, musical instrument, or other preferred creative idea generator by your bed, ready for when creativity strikes!
4. Be a kid again!
I know you have a job, and deadlines, and a hectic be-everywhere-all-at-once schedule, but it truly helps to turn off the logic of day-to-day thinking once in awhile and play! Playing helps free your creative mind from the reason and rigor of right-brain thought. When you play you’re often suspending critical judgement, and you’re able to approach ideas from a new, novel perspective. In fact, companies like Google and 3M have also embraced the idea of whimsy in the workplace by creating offices that resemble classrooms and game rooms. So what things can you do to let your inner kid out? Get out your old legos, or sit on the floor (for a childlike perspective) and doodle. Try learning a new instrument. Or a new language! Join an intramural sports team… Whatever it is, remember that the pleasure of the experience is important. So really, do what’s fun!
5. Free your mind, man…
However you choose to label it (mindfulness, attention, zoning out…) meditation can have numerous benefits to creativity. Studies have shown that meditation helps dismantle “cognitive rigidity,” or the inability to see ideas from different perspectives. And the attention necessary for meditation helps foster a mind that is more flexible when approaching new ideas. Studies also show that a little goes a long way. The effects of 10 minutes of meditation can last for hours. Additionally, meditation can boost mood, and reduce stress! A UCLA study even found that the brains of meditators showed less age-related atrophy (or wasting away) than non-meditators.
Finding your stressed out mind going blank lately? Maybe it’s time to step away and take 10.
The pressure to be perfect can be huge, especially when you have clients to please. And the feeling can constrict your creative flow. So it’s important to remember to give yourself the freedom to create for the sake of creating.
Remind yourself why you love doing what you do by creating work for no one in particular, and with no set goal in mind! Allowing your brain to create freely and without criticism can foster your imagination, similar to play-time and meditation.
Need ideas for fun and creative tasks? Make a flip book! Color in a coloring book (inside or outside of the lines). Write silly stories about inanimate objects… Just remember, no rules and anything goes!