All of us posses the ability to create and be creative. However, forming and extracting creative ideas out of our minds can often be extremely difficult. This can be particularly challenging for individuals who work professionally in the creative field and are demanded to output a continuous stream of ideas on a daily basis.
I’ve been through this cycle countless times. The ideas are flowing like a raging river, then BAM… I’m slamming head first into The Creative Block Dam once again. Damn! No matter who you are, artist, writer, musician, blogger, I know you can relate.
In fact, I’m hitting that dam right this moment, staring endlessly at this blinking cursor trying to pull those next few words out of my head to keep this article flowing…
For times when this blockage happens, I rely on my seven proven ways to unplug the mental commode and get the creative shit flowing again. I’ll share these practices with you today.
Let’s dive in.
1. Maintain a flexible daily routine
I’m very routined in many aspects of my life. The self-imposed structure helps to set my busy life on auto-pilot, eliminating needless decision making, therefore leaving space in my mind for creative thinking.
However, at times it does tend to bring about monotony and boredom. When this happens, I purposely disrupt the routine with tiny acts of randomness.
I might sit in a different seat on the bus during my commute, eat at a different cafeteria during lunch, take a different route during my daily walks, try a new stretch or bust out an extra few reps during my workout. These tiny tweaks can provide a refreshing new perspective to an otherwise repetitive daily flow.
I’ve been weight training consistently since 2002. In the past few years my workouts have included calisthenics, hiking and jogging with my wife. Exercise is amazing and is easily among the top contributing factors to my successes. For me it’s not just a way to look and feel great, it’s a form of physical and psychological training to go at and succeed in life.
To make exercise even more fun, I’ll find opportunities to hit it full force with a shovel and a pile of dirt. At my day-job I am greatly known for my ability and desire to move heavy furniture. Doing some extreme manual labor away from the computer screen is a guaranteed way to get the creative juices flowing.
3. Get quality sleep
This one makes me chuckle. Had I given this advice to my 20 something year old self, the younger me would have said “I’m a night owl. I’m more creative at night. I don’t need sleep to function”. That’s such BS! But, back then I didn’t know any better.
Not getting good sleep is like driving a car without intervaled oil changes. The car may drive for some extended period of time, but it will gradually decrease in performance until it eventually breaks down completely. Then, you’re faced with bigger consequences and a shortened life-span.
Sleep is still not my favorite activity and I always see it as a waste of time. But, since it’s part of my design as a human being I do my best to embrace it for long-term positive outcomes. The goal every night is to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, at roughly the same time, with no electronics 30 minutes before bed.
4. Dumb down the smart devices
If you’re reading this, you probably have a smartphone, and likely one or more other portable devices meant to help you become more productive. How often do you use these to browse endless amounts of useless media throughout the day? The reality is, the devices meant to help you are actually killing your time and forming unhealthy habits.
I have several rules to keep myself in check within this area. No social media on the phone (or anywhere else if possible). Personal email only during mornings and evenings. YouTube videos only while on the toilet (TED Talks are the best for this pastime). Absolutely no games!
The result is less mental clutter and tons of time saved for actual productivity.
5. Take cold showers
If you want a good mental wake-up, set your caffeine cravings aside and take a cold shower instead. By cold I mean ice cold, with no hint of warm water!
There are many benefits to taking cold showers. I believe they’re great for getting the creative gears turning as well, especially when coupled with a great workout. Next time you shower, turn that dial to arctic, shut off your brain and hop in, then experience the tingly adrenaline boost for hours after.
6. See places and do things
I’m generally not the type of person to plan trips and initiate outings. Naturally I would much rather sit in my home office or gym and repeat my very familiar daily routine. Luckily, I am blessed with a wife who lives to see places and do things. Dragging along with her since we married in 2007 has lead me to see more of the world than I ever would have in my lifetime alone.
Traveling brings a new perspective to the world around me. Every time I go on a trip, the exposure to different cultures and unfamiliar surroundings makes my head boil with fresh ideas.
I’m not implying that you frequently take 13 hour flights across the globe. Intentional travels to a nearby city, away from your area of familiarity, can bring about many new experiences and inspirations.
7. Just relax
Life is full of ups and downs. One day ideas are flowing, the next day I’m completely blocked and ready to rip my hair out…
To the best of my ability, it helps to be mindful of these unpredictable phases. When creativity isn’t happening, rather than beating myself up and making it worse I try to relax, sleep on it, knowing that tomorrow I’ll feel different.
Of course, giving myself a break should never become an excuse for endless procrastination. At work I am paid for my creative output, no time to relax there. But, even a quick 30 minute walk, stretch, conversation, or change of scenery can provide the nudge needed to get those rusty creative gears turning.
Taras at VisualSpicer.com
For any fitness enthusiasts reading this. In case you’re curious about my ultimate home-gym setup pictured above… Here’s a list of components I’m currently using to pump the creative flow.