How To Break Free From A Creative Rut

You’re known for having bright and innovative ideas. That kind of a reputation probably makes you feel pretty good about yourself, too — until you feel a mental block coming on.

It’s no secret that creative people suffer from ruts that make idea generation extremely difficult. It might be that you’re tired, uninspired or just busy with other things, but one thing is for sure: it can be frustrating when you’re unable to do what you love.

Fortunately, there are ways to fight back against your latest creative rut. Here are nine methods to try next time you feel one coming on, so that it disappears before it brings you down.

1. Crank the Classics

And we’re not talking about rock music. Instead, your brain might do some of its best work while you listen to classical music. Studies have shown that classical music can boost your creativity and improve your concentration, finesse cognitive functions.

This is definitely a trial-and-error-type of solution, though, because not everyone can listen to music and work simultaneously. The key is finding the right volume and musical style for you.

2. Read

Here’s another way to better yourself by way of admiring other creative geniuses. When you crack into a good book, you will simultaneously relax and stimulate your mind with new words, characters, settings and turns of phrase. Even a quick 30-minute read could be enough to inspire an idea of your own, even if it’s something you do just to calm your mind down. Really, any activity that gives you a bit of a breather from the task at hand can be a good way to break through a mental block, according to Psychology Today, because your subconscious is always working and will continue even when you’ve moved on.

3. Take a Stand

A recent study pitted two groups against each other to see who would be more creative in coming up with a new recruitment video for a university. One study group could sit down and work in chairs, while the other had only an open room in which they could stand and discuss their ideas.

Researchers found that those who stood appeared more open in sharing their ideas, which, in turn, meant they shared more information among themselves and produced better videos. Try this on your own by standing up while working through a creative challenge, or ditch the chairs at your next meeting.

The same research team also suggested adding white boards to the room so you have a place to scratch out your ideas while you’re on your feet.

4. Write, and Don’t Stop

One successful COO says he powers through a mental block by forcing himself to brainstorm. He gives himself a benchmark of, say, 10, 25 or 50 ideas and just writes down as much as he can. After an initial run-through of his go-to ideas, he puts in the real work: coming up with new iterations that could really make an impact.

The trick with this method is to not judge yourself too harshly on what you brainstorm. Instead, let the ideas flow until you land on something new and fresh. If you don’t get there right away, add a few more ideas to your total tally.

5. Meditate

Your brain might need a break if it’s out of ideas, and that’s where meditation comes in. It’s actually an extremely effective agent in the creative process, as it stimulates the neocortex. This area of the brain just so happens to be in charge of creative thoughts, as well as brainstorming, strategizing, envisioning things and solving problems.This might just be why studies have shown that meditators are much better at solving issues than those who don’t meditate. In fact, without it, you’re more likely to use an outdated method to solve your problem. Meditation = innovation.

6. Switch Up Your Scenery

Creatives draw inspiration from the world around them, so staying in the same place won’t do much to stoke your creative fire. One easy way to switch things up is to, well, switch things up: ask your boss if you can work remotely occasionally for the breath of fresh air that you need.If an out-of-the-office experience isn’t in the cards, you could redecorate your office, cube or desk at the very least. Add photos, inspiring images, tabletop lighting that warms up the unforgiving fluorescents and whatever else you think will make your space more “you.”

7. Think, Think and Re-Think

Creative minds are special, because they interpret art, literature, photography and film in many different ways. The same should go for your creative work: you should look at it through as many lenses as possible in order to come up with the best way to innovate it.When you reframe your issue, you give your brain an opportunity to retrieve information that’s filed under a different tab. In other words, the more questions you ask yourself regarding a creative issue, the more likely you are to come up with the solution on your own.

Bottom line: you have the answers stored away — you’re just having trouble remembering where you put them. Give yourself multiple potential avenues in order to find it.

8. Get Your Laugh On

Your mood is everything when it comes to creativity. A shiny outlook will deliver you more creative potential solutions, according to a 2002 study. It makes sense, too, considering how the brain works: a good mood awakens parts of your brain, like the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, which play a role in decision-making and complex cognition.

In other words, a smile and a laugh can get you pretty far, especially if you’re in the midst of a creative challenge.

9. Make It a Personal Bet

Who doesn’t love a good challenge? Especially one you can’t lose? By giving yourself an ultimatum, you might just find yourself motivated to do more in order to see your goal become a reality.

It worked for Dr. Seuss, who brilliantly took a bet from his editor to write a book with 50 or fewer unique words, though he could repeat the words as he desired. The end result was Green Eggs and Ham, which he wrote with a bit of an incentive in mind.

Give yourself a good goal to achieve, whether it’s an extra episode of your show after work, a glass of wine with dinner or a 15-minute snooze the next morning. That bit of motivation might be enough to take your creativity to the next level.

Creative Conclusions

In the end, it’s up to you to figure out which methods will work best for your particular working style, creative project and office setup. But, no matter which you implement, you’ll likely feel the flood of creativity rushing back as soon as you clear your mind and tackle your task in a new, innovative and, of course, creative way.

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she's a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. You can find her tweeting on her coffee breaks @SarahLandrum

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