How to unstuck from creative block
Writer’s block. Artist’s block.
The dreaded words that describe a creative block. It is the time where one is unable to generate ideas or lack inspiration for days, weeks or even months. And it is the bane of people who work in creative professions.
No one can escape from this dreaded creative block. Even the genius writers and artists experience this.
What causes this creative rut? Well, there are various factors. It could be due to changes in the external environment, monotony in life, or internal factors like self-doubt.
But like everything in life, it is possible to overcome it with effort and determination. And here are some ideas on what to do to unstuck from creative block.
Creativity is all about using our imagination to create things. Imagine that our imagination is like an engine or a machine. What keeps an engine or a machine up and running?
Fuel. What fuels the imagination?
Knowledge. What is the best way to obtain knowledge? Reading.
Knowledge fuels our imagination and knowledge can be gained through reading.
Reading is the best workout for the brain. It heightens the overall brain function as it increases information connectivity and memory power. The act of reading increases creativity as it stimulates the right hemisphere of our brain (it is also known as the analogue brain).
The knowledge we gain from reading broadens our perspectives and in turn, brings novel possibilities or ideas.
What is one of the best book genres to read to gain creativity? Literary fiction.
Many people will disagree on this as they feel that reading fiction is a waste of time. Fiction stories are made up stories and readers will not benefit from it.
That is not the case. Fiction builds vocabulary and allows plenty of room for interpretation by readers and this activity boost creativity.
For example, the writer describes a situation with details of the environment and the involved character(s). But does it mean that whoever reads it will have the same interpretation of the situation? No, each reader will interpret or imagine it differently. This is due to the individual’s background and interpretation of the world.
Besides creativity, reading fiction is also known to reduce stress and increase focus (will you not agree that you will keep reading to know the ending of an engaging story?).
You can start by reading short stories if you find it hard to focus for a long time. With time, your reading speed and attention span will increase.
Fact: Inspiration and idea can come from anywhere, even from the unlikeliest source.
Explore and challenge yourself
The human mind becomes stagnant when it lacks stimuli. And for some, a fixed routine might be a creativity killer.
It sounds contradicting as many experts promote how morning routine helps in productivity. Yet routines can have the opposite effects on creativity. This is because we are placing restrictions or limitations on ourselves.
Rigidity kills creativity.
What is the key point here? We should allow space to do something new or different even in our daily routines. This will bring the mind back to its full creative capacity.
We have the innate desires to experience novelty and change. And such desires can be satiated with exploration and new challenges.
You can start your exploration journey at the comfort of your home. Explore what is available in the big World Wide Web. Do not be afraid to explore the unknown.
Challenging yourself by doing something new or different is one of the best ways to boost your creative confidence. You are pushing out of your comfort zone. This uncertainty is one way to challenge and push your limits to be better than before.
Explore and participate in new creative endeavours. They may lead you to a path that you never thought possible?
Engage in physical activities
It is a stressful experience if you are stuck in a creative rut for a long period, especially when your livelihood depends on it.
To combat this, one can engage in different forms of physical exercise. One form of underrated yet very effective exercise is walking.
Many top thinkers like Aristotle, Nietzsche and Beethoven integrated walking as part of their daily routines. It proved to be one of their most effective creativity hacks as ideas or inspiration came to them after having their long walks.
Why is this so effective? This is because walking improves cognitive thinking. As evidenced in a study made by Stanford University, walking can boost creative output by a whopping 60%.
Give this method a try by scheduling daily or weekly strolls. You do not have to walk for hours to achieve the needed creative boost. A short stroll is effective too. This also can be done indoors by walking on a treadmill.
Play with other people’s ideas/work
Regardless of which creative field you are in, nothing is original. People have done it before you. But does it mean that you are not capable of creating something new?
You can and this can be done by copy or expand or imitate or play with existing creative work.
You can make it your own by moulding your life experiences and style into them. That is what sets your work apart from the original work.
Take a break and do nothing
If the above methods fail to make you feel inspired, the next best thing to counter it is to do nothing, absolutely nothing.
This method may seem counterproductive and even unnerving. This is because we were taught on the importance of being productive and use our time to do or learn something to generate ideas or inspirations. And living in a frenetic-paced society with persistent FOMO feeling does not help to ease the stress and worries.
But doing nothing helps you in the long run. Your brain is like a muscle and it needs to recover from mental exertion. Doing this will also give you time and space to think and reflect.
Hence, do not deprive your brain of the much-needed downtime. Take a break from whatever you are doing now if you feel mentally tired or uninspired. Relax your mind by doing nothing. Savour the quiet moments. Be an observer of your running thoughts and let them wander.
Eventually, the ideas or inspiration will come and take root in your mind.
First published in Medium