If you read my last post ‘The Curse of the Creative Mind‘ you know that there are times when it seems almost impossible to break through a creative slump. I’ve had days where I couldn’t make heads or tails of the project I was working on, and you’ll have those days too. Even though we can’t stop those days from happening, there are things we can do to help ourselves break through creative blocks.
1. Go for a Walk
I know this sounds simple, but I’ve done some of my best thinking while taking a break and just walking around my neighborhood. When you exercise your body releases chemicals called endorphins, which interact with your brain to alleviate pain, reduce stress levels, and generally promote a happier mood. Going for a walk every day can significantly reduce the amount of time in between creative bursts, making it easier for you to break through the inevitable slumps.
This is one that I’ve always been skeptical of, but when used properly I do think it can be of great benefit to you. The whole problem with a creative block is that you’re allowing yourself to get in your own way. Nothing is stopping us from being creative except for the intangible parts of our personality. Meditation allows you to wipe the slate clean (albeit for just a few moments) and during that moment of clarity and relaxation you can sometimes find the answer you’re looking for.
One of my favorite things to do is write down what I’m thinking or feeling. I don’t keep a journal, but I’m constantly opening up a text editor and simply just pouring my heart out onto the screen. I rarely save these documents, but by simply putting my feelings into words I find that it helps me clear some of the mental cobwebs and focus more on the task at hand. Try sitting down and writing something every single day. Whether you write poetry, short stories, or simply what you had for breakfast, you’ll be amazed at what eventually starts to pour out of your brain.
Sleep is the aphrodisiac of the creative mind, and so making sure you’re getting plenty of it should be a priority. I know there will be times where sleep won’t come easy, but finding a 2-3 hour window here and there to recharge your batteries can do wonders for you when you’re in a slump.
5. Talk it Out
There’s no shame in admitting that you need a little help. Whether you talk to your friends, family, or a professional, getting things off your chest can do a lot to help with creative obstacles. I am lucky to have an amazing wife that is always willing to listen to me, but I also regularly talk with my counselor to work out some of the deeper issues. Where I’m from there’s a stigma attached to talking about your feelings, and it took me a while to get over that, but now I fully embrace the power of “couch time”.
6. Watch a Movie
Movies are filled with creative inspiration. Look for films that are outside the scope of what you normally watch for entertainment though. This will keep you interested and guessing, as most of us tend to become accustomed to the formulaic nature of our favorite film genre. We want to stimulate the brain, not lull it to sleep.
7. Clean Your Room
Whether it’s your office, your bedroom, or just your kitchen, break out the cleaner and get to work! Decluttering and cleaning out the spaces around you can have the same effect on your mind. I’ll often fly into a cleaning frenzy when I’m creatively stifled. There’s something very liberating about rearranging your furniture too. Try moving the position of your desk, adjusting your monitor setup, or even hanging a new painting on the wall.
8. Break Your Own Boundaries
Finding something new to keep yourself occupied is a great way to relieve everyday stresses. Try something you’ve never tried before. For me that might mean taking a cooking class or attending Yoga. Try to go as far outside your comfort zone as you can.
9. Build Something
Working with your hands is a great way to give your mind a break. Put together some Ikea furniture or start building model airplanes. These activities shouldn’t be mindless, but they should be easy to follow and require a lot of leg work.
10. Acknowledge it, and Just Let it Out
Emotions are the biggest roadblock in the creative process. Acknowledging your emotions out loud and simply letting yourself have time to be emotional is more therapeutic than you think. Many people will tell you to take your mind off of it at all costs, but I think there is something to be said for simply wallowing in your own pool of emotions for a few moments. The key is to limit the wallowing to just a few moments. Set a deadline, enjoy the time, and when it’s over jump into one of these other steps immediately.
Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to break yourself out of a creative slump, but hopefully some of these things will at the very least make the situation more tolerable for you. Just remember not to overthink the situation. Listen to your mind and body, as they are the compass that will lead you out of this in the most efficient way.