Every creative goes through slump periods. You know, those times when you need to get your work done, you’re possibly even staring down the barrel of a tight deadline, yet your creative juices are failing to fire.
You’ve probably heard advice such as “there’s no such thing as writer’s block, it’s an excuse. Just pick up your pen and write!” But this is hardly helpful if you’ve been sitting there, pen in hand, while the words either won’t come out or, in your mind, they sound terrible. Whatever your creative craft is, sometimes “just do it” is not enough.
When things just aren’t happening for you, what are you to do? We’ve put together a few places or strategies you can use that just might crank up the creativity…
1. Just Relax
No, I’m not saying forget the deadline and go to the beach, but what I am saying is that sometimes you need to hit the “reset” button on your brain to see better creative productivity.
I’m not even saying take the afternoon off – a reset can often be achieved in a relatively short period of time. The idea is that you often need to stop stressing about the work in order to get it done (particularly if you’ve reached unhealthy levels of stress: research shows that some pressure can enhance creativity, but only under the right circumstances. When deadlines are too short, there tends to be less creativity involved in order to meet them).
Here are some suggestions:
Manage your mindset
Are you out of bed? Dressed? Showered? Generally in a state where you could just as easily leave the house and meet a client? If you work from home, you may see working in your PJs as a required perk, but sometimes all you’re really doing is setting up your mindset for a casual atmosphere, not necessarily conducive to work.
If you haven’t showered yet, it actually may be a good idea to go and do so. Did you know that it has been proven that we do often have some of our best ideas in the shower?
Buffer shared a post explaining the science behind your shower ideas. Basically, any activity that helps you to feel relaxed and generally great can trigger the production of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine helps to fire up your brain activity, including your creative power.
Distraction is the other benefit of taking a shower:
“Especially if you have thought long and hard all day about a problem, jumping into the shower can turn into what scientists call the “incubation period” for your ideas. The subconscious mind has been working extremely hard to solve the problems you face and now that you let your mind wander, it can surface and plant those ideas into your conscious mind.” – Buffer.
Get some sleep
Ok, if your deadline is really imminent, sleep may not be an option right now, but if you have a little time to play with and are sleep-deprived, it can be a good idea for you to catch some shut-eye, even if it’s a brief, yet beneficial, power nap.
As Creative Something explains, lacking sleep can help kill your creativity because your brain is simply not getting the necessary repair and downtime it needs. Did you know Paul McCartney composed “Yesterday” in his sleep? Getting some zzz’s could do your creativity a lot of good.
So relax, hopefully by taking your mind of things for a bit, your subconscious will work out a solution.
2. Get Outdoors
You’ve probably heard of the benefits a good walk can bring to your creativity. Exercise stimulates that dopamine, which as previously mentioned sparks up your brain. However, this advice to “get outdoors” is two-fold: go hiking, biking, walking or swimming, but leave the tech behind.
What, you say? How will I track my steps, monitor my pace or post outdoor selfies to social media? Well, you are looking for creative inspiration, right? Studies show that days spent intentionally away from technology, produced participants who scored 50% higher on creativity tests, as outlined in this Wilderness Society blog.
“According to the study’s authors, immersion in nature can restore certain brain functions that are taxed by technology, including:
- Attention span
- Problem solving
- Multi-tasking “
Why is it that a technology break can bring such benefits? Researchers aren’t yet certain and are looking to further their studies. Perhaps there is some truth to the idea that too much screen time turns your brain to mush…
3. Use Your Nose
There is some science behind the affects scents can have on mood and cognitive function. Psychology Today references some studies that have found lemon and jasmine scents can enhance cognitive performance.
Cinnamon and vanilla are associated with better cognitive function, while jasmine may improve your sleep quality. Diffuse some essential oils in the space where you’re working and see if it makes a difference.
4. Have Constraints
Sounds a bit like the opposite to relaxing, but hear this one out. Buffer wrote a great piece on the psychology of limitations, even though constraints intuitively sound like a barrier to creativity.
For example, Hemingway is credited with writing a powerful six word story after betting friends that he could write a story in six words. That story he is credited with is:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
There are various examples of top creative people using constraints to their advantage, so you may find that this is a valid option for you.
Ideas to constrain yourself include:
- Having a set time for yourself to get something done.
- Focusing on one task at a time.
- Chunking down tasks toward a bigger goal.
- Limiting the materials you use.
Sometimes it seems there is a case for “too much” freedom in creativity. It can lead you down a path where you consider a whole lot of “what ifs” but don’t get a lot done. Try putting some kinds of boundaries around your work to narrow your focus a bit.
5. Get Out and Meet People
The “artist cave” is not always the best place to remain, especially if you’re stuck for inspiration. Changing locations can be of benefit, but so can simply talking to others. Everyone has a story, ideas and experiences. Sometimes your best bet for some creative inspiration is to meet different people and learn from them.
Try meeting different kinds of people rather than sticking to your usual “type.” Who has an interesting background or unconventional story? Get coffee and get talking.
Need some ideas for meeting people?
- Join your local Chamber of Commerce, SCORE or Young Professionals group.
- Find networking groups for creatives.
- Join a mastermind.
- Join a co-working space.
- Serve on a committee or association.
- Volunteer in your community.
- Look for relevant conferences or training events to attend.
Keeping a journal of the interesting anecdotes you pick up along the way can help. Browse through later on when you’re looking for something to fire up your brain!
All humans have some capacity for creativity but we all experience those times where we feel “blocked.”
Rather than sitting at your desk, tapping your pen or staring into space, take action to change the situation in a way that can spark your creativity.
Go out and meet people, relax, take a walk, take a “screen break”, take a shower, try aromatherapy or put some constraints around your work to narrow your focus. These are some proven ways to find creative inspiration and get your groove back.