Whether it’s writer’s block or just a general creative block, we all get stuck at times. At the time we feel like we’ll never be inspired again. But, of course, that’s not true.
Sometimes when I’m in problem-solving mode, I keep at the problem for “just one more minute” — which often ends up turning into hours. Or, if I need to write or design something, I’ll stare at the screen, hoping something will magically pop into my head. Needless to say, it usually doesn’t, at least not when I’m forcing it.
So how do we get out of that mire and feel inspired to come up with our next greatest masterpiece (big or small)? Following are some tips to help get the creative juices flowing:
1. Give yourself a break.
We’ll talk more, in a minute, about physical breaks, but for starters, I just mean acknowledge that by mentally “stepping away” you’ll actually be doing yourself more good, in the long run, than banging your head on your desk for hours. Just as taking a couple days off from work, when you’re sick, to recover is a better long-term solution than dragging yourself to the office and prolonging your illness (not to mention making others sick), taking a short break from what you’re trying to accomplish will allow you to be more productive, overall.
2. Go for a walk.
If you happen to work near a park or some form of nature, that’s ideal. But even if you’re smack dab in the middle of downtown, go for a brief stroll. Give yourself five minutes, if that’s all you can afford, but fifteen is best.
Don’t think about what it is you’re stuck on. Just take in all the sights and sounds of the environment. Breathe in the (hopefully fresh) air and allow yourself to get rejuvenated.
3. Randomly surf.
This Internet thing, it’s got a lot of interesting stuff on it. Look through photos, websites, articles, whatever sparks some interest. We’re not looking for something for you to copy, just to see what others have done and possibly plant some seeds.
4. Flip through magazines.
Similarly, looking through photos, ads, articles, layout in magazines can give you some ideas.
5. Listen to music.
Whether it’s classic, rock, or hip hop, have some tunes playing in the background or on headphones, if others are around. If it’s an option, for a song or two, turn up the volume and sing along.
Many big companies, like Google, have foosball tables and the like, for this exact purpose — to give your conscious mind a break. Even if you don’t work in such an environment, find someone to play a quick game of backgammon with. Or play Scrabble online. Whatever your thing is. Fully immerse yourself in the fun.
7. Go for lunch.
I usually take my lunch break around 1:00. However, if it’s 12:15 and I’m hitting a wall, I’ll take an early (by my standards) lunch. By the time I get back to work, I’ve dusted off all the mental cobwebs.
8. Go on vacation.
Okay, this one doesn’t always work on the spur of the moment. But make sure you plan at least one holiday away from home per year. Make it something as relaxing and enjoyable and different from your “normal” as possible. This might mean surfing in Hawaii or studying the architecture in Rome. Whatever it is, fully immerse yourself in the experience. Don’t bring or even think about work while you’re away. Make sure you’ve told all your colleagues and clients in advance and have back-up people in place to take on any urgent work while you’re gone so that you have nothing to worry about.
Not only will you feel refreshed when you get back home, but you’ll have plenty of experiences stocked away in your brain to draw from for future inspiration.
These are only a few of the many ways you can overcome being stuck creatively. You’ll notice the overarching theme is simply to not force yourself to create, but to remove yourself, psychologically and physically from the rut and allow yourself to let the new creative juices flow naturally.