The page stares at you. Blank. Foreboding. Accusatory: "talent, you think you have talent? You can't even fill one measly page!" The words are harsh and untrue. But we're better than that, we won't rise to the siren's song. We've got exactly what it takes to fill that page or screen, and so many more. And when we're feeling a little stuck, we know there are tactics we can use immediately to get those creative juices flowing freely again:
- You know all that noise in your head that rises to the surface every time you try and get productive: the sudden desire to make a grocery list, your latest weird dream, that argument with your mom last night, waves of emotions, questioning why you know all the Teletubby names by heart, etc. Yeah, that. It's distracting. So why not get it all out, in one fell swoop? That's the purpose of morning pages, an idea coined and packaged by Julia Cameron in her book "The Artist's Way." The gist of it, in her own words: "three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning." The best part, they don't have to make sense, you just write what's on your mind, your writing doesn't have to be legible, you don't show them to anyone, and after three pages you stop. Simple. Kinda like meditation in some ways - clearing your mind so it's open to other things :)
Think like Einstein
- Your IQ isn't 160 or above, your hair lies flat and tame and you're not the owner of quirky daydreams? No worries. When we say think like Einstein, we mean embrace combinatory play. Combina-what-now? Combinatory play. Simply put, it's "considering two or more seemingly unrelated topics, activities, disciplines and putting them together in such a way that something new and different emerges." For example, Einstein was an avid violin player and was rarely seen without his darling "Lina" (short for violin, some say). When he found himself stuck on a problem, he was often seen stepping away to play Lina or the piano, then sleeping on it. Giving his brain that space to play and experience new neural pathways helped him get unstuck and be more creative. Instead of beating your head against a wall when something has you stuck, walk away and do something completely unrelated. More often than not, freeing your mind to explore other options will reap rewards.
- Lol, don't mind us, we just felt like being different ;) Ambulate simply means to walk or move about. So, we're suggesting that just walking will help break your creative block? Yep. That's exactly what we're saying. And no need to take our word for it, go try it for yourself. Lots of creatives swear by it. Greek philosophers, writers, composers, and more. So get out there, get your heart pumping, the oxygen flowing and those neurons firing more excitedly. And if walking's not your thing, just get moving in whatever way makes you happiest. It will likely have a similar effect.
Change Your Perspective
- Ever had a brilliant (or sadistic, it's equally debatable) art teacher position a life model with their back to you, and ask that you draw what the person looks like from the front? If you have: we feel you. If you haven't: you should give it a try. Once you get over the initial frustration, the exercise gets you to think differently. Instead of focusing on volume and outlines, you'll likely start looking at where and how things connect, piecing together what you can based on one protruding elbow or a hint of an ankle. Looking at the body that way, you can start applying the concept to other things, which opens up an entire world of possibilities. Next time you're stuck in a creative rut, turn your reference image upside down, go micro view and look at the pores in the skin instead of the entire face, think of top view instead of dead-on, write from the perspective of the dog in the scene, instead of the human, flip the story to be a film noir scene not a comedy, or start from the end and work backwards. Switch it up and see what comes of it.
Inject the Unexpected
- You know those chef shows where the contestants are told ahead of time of the theme or dish, but given a secret ingredient at the last minute that they need to incorporate? The idea is simple, but puts a whole different spin on things. So when stuck, why not try a variation of that? Add some randomness to your own work or practice when you're at a loss for creativity: scribble blindly, then open your eyes and create something from what you see, take something commonplace like a coffee stain and turn it into something unexpected, pick up three different books, grab a word or sentence at random from each and construct a story around it. Essentially, dare to play.
*Bonus tip: Start!
When you feel your creativity lagging, it's easy to give up before even trying. Instead, face that blank page boldly! Once you put pencil to paper, mouse to screen, fingers to keyboard, you've already overcome the hardest obstacle. So start :)
These are just a few ideas to get you going. There are likely hundreds of different ways to unblock creativity. If you have any good ones, share them with us. We'd love to hear from you!