There are a billion and one stories on the interwebs about how to overcome writer’s block or creativity slumps or whatever you want to name it. But what these articles don’t really talk about is having a set strategy in place for keeping bouts of ‘what the hell am I even working on right now?’ at bay.
You see, there’s things you can do to pre-emptively whack creativity blocks in the proverbial. And after about 7 years in the corporate, open plan office world and the last year and a half working all on my lonesome, I’ve definitely spent my fair share of time figuring it out.
I think most people can get ‘stuck’ in a spot where their work doesn’t come as naturally to them or they have to push past some blockages to get out the other side. It happens in all industries, not just the creative ones. Maybe you’re in finance and the numbers are all jumbled or you’re a data scientist and the problem solving skills just aren’t happening for you or maybe you’re a developer and you just can’t be effed writing any more code.
(I literally just named three areas of work that I am certainly no expert in so please don’t make fun of my terminology haha.)
It starts with a feeling of restlessness, distractedness or tiredness that then leads to frustration or all-out devastation. Hey, did that sound like it was meant to be in a rap? Go me!
Anyway – you know the drill – one day things are going fine… and the next? You’re staring blankly at a white screen (or if you’re a designer, the colours aren’t working for you, the creativeness is hiding, or insert other block that you have in your day-to-day life) and you’re just wishing things would get cracking.
But what if you don’t identify with being ‘creative’?
Oh, I hear ya.
For years I thought I was incredibly un-imaginative, even though I would write elaborate stories about fairies and magic and unicorns, or act out deleted scenes from Harry Potter that I had written (you’re welcome J.K).
Somewhere, someone along the way – I can pinpoint a moment at school, actually – told me I wasn’t ‘creative’ enough and I was silly enough to believe it.
You see, the sad thing is that people believe they’re either a ‘creative’ or they’re not. But there’s no such thing as one or the other. We are all creative, we all have the ability to tap into our creativity and we all go through phases of feeling a bit ‘meh’ about it. It’s often just the fear of failure holding us back.
(Don’t even get me started with the people who have the word ‘creative’ as their title. That just sets us back years by putting people into boxes.)
Creative ideas can come from anyone, anytime and from any department. Lawyers, accounts, business analysts – I’ve been witness to some extraordinary creative ideas from people in traditionally ‘less-creative’ positions.
The key for smart businesses going forward will be the ability to encourage and ultimately access this creativity from across the board.
Of course, if you’re a business owner (and especially a small to medium-sized business owner), you’re probably wearing all of the hats. Your daily routine consists of doing marketing, sales, admin, accounting, managing… and you feel like you just don’t have the capacity to call on your creativity at will.
But there’s no reason why you can’t have some measures in place so that you can confidently tap into the creative right-side of your brain whenever you damn well like.
It takes work. But the rewards are worth it.
Here’s how I try to keep my creative tank full:
- Do ‘creative’ work first thing in the morning when your brain is fresh AF. This could be anything to do with new ideas, writing, planning big-picture goals, working on the intricacies of your sales funnel… you get the idea. It’s basically anything that requires a lot of brain juice. And coffee.
- Break your day up by going for a walk, out to lunch or for a quick dip in the pool. This works as a ‘reset’ button for any work you simply have to switch to throughout the day.
- Have a go-to playlist that pulls you out of a slump and gets your mood into a happier state. Mine has always been classical music. #socultured
- Step away from the computer at least twice a week for a long period of time. That includes putting down all digital devices, pals. Get into nature and put your feet in the grass.
- Take a midday shower and let the big ideas come to you (all good if they don’t!) but I find hot water and a distraction leads to some big ‘a-ha’ moments. Plus, I gotta utilise those work-from-home perks sometime, don’t I?!
- Put yourself in noisy and fast-paced environments regularly. My experience working in-house as a writer really taught me how to block out external noise and focus on the task at hand. I believe it’s been invaluable to me being able to ‘switch on’ even if the environment isn’t really conducive to quiet work. Go to a busy coffee shop, the library or a co-working space for the best results.
- Read regularly. To be honest, I think the best books to get me out of a slump is fiction! Too many business books (while great) can make me feel overwhelmed and tired.
- Watch movies. Especially ones with great dialogue.
- Get enough rest each night. I aim for minimum 8 hours (of course, this is likely to change when I have a baby haha)!
- Don’t be stingy with giving yourself holidays! I try to have at least two a year, where I take a minimum of two weeks off.
- Close all unnecessary tabs when you’re deep in creative work. One step further is installing an app like Freedom or WriteRoom to block distracting sites like Facebook, Twitter, news and increase productivity through time blocking. Or go old school and turn off Slack notifications and put your phone to Airplane mode. Don’t argue, just do it. I promise you’ll see and feel the results!
- Talk to people in different fields to you – this could be getting a few people with different careers / specialty backgrounds around a table to discuss a new project or idea or simply having a quick 30 minute chat with someone out of your comfort zone.
- Envision the finished product and how amazing it’s gonna be. I know, it sounds woo woo. But you know what? I don’t care. This legitimately helps me. I imagine what it’s going to be like when my work is finished, that the client is going to love it and whaddya know, I have a weight lifted off my shoulders and the work gets done in record time. Working from a positive mindset really does produce the best results.
- And finally: just do the damn work. Sit down and get going, even if you don’t want to… open the computer and start typing (or designing, coding, numbers… you get the gist). Just get started. Don’t think, don’t edit. Schedule in time the next day to make revisions. This seriously cuts down SO MUCH time rather than writing and rewriting as you go.
Try these out and let me know how you go! And of course, if you ever want to chat about this kinda stuff you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love a chin wag!