You've been at this project for hours on end, and nothing seems to be working.
The copy is stuck.
The title is a big fail.
And for some reason, you can't think of one brilliant, funny, or even semi-not-cringe-worthy to say to your audience.
You have hit a creative brick wall, my friend.
It happens, and it sucks.
But you don't have to stay there!
Here are a few ways to open your mind and get connected with your creativity again.
Decompress & Destress
Stress has a specific effect on the way your brain processes information and makes decisions — it makes your prefrontal cognitive abilities take a nosedive and blow up in your face.
Guess what? Your imagination is a function of your prefrontal cortex. So your ability to think outside of the box and get creative — those processes that require your imagination — they get strangled and go away when you're stressed. Here are some ways to destress your body so you can come back to your project or problem with creative solutions and ideas.
First, make sure you're fed, rested, calm, and hydrated. Taking care of your animal self means you've taken physical stress off of your body, which makes it easier to emotionally release stress. Once you've got that under control, you can re-approach what you're working on.
Second, make time to meditate, throw dishes, bake cookies — whatever that special thing is that brings you back to center and grounds you. When you take your mind out of the situation, your subconscious keeps working on the problem in the background. That's why the shower is the birthplace to some of the greatest inventions, ideas, and philosophies.
Give yourself the space to ground and get out of your head, so that beautiful brain of yours can work its magic.
Remember, the stress of forcing creativity shuts down your brain. All access to your creativity goes away. So when you want to activate your creativity, you've got to get into the space where your body and mind are feeling open instead of anxious.
Don't change directions philosophically, change directions physically.
Actually stand up and turn around. When you change where your body is in the room, it makes you change gears, which can inspire new ideas. It's a literal perspective shift.
Walking is great. Your body is designed to put one foot in front of the other for long periods of time, so your brain works well when walking. Not sure? Think of it like this.
Your body is in motion, increasing your circulation and oxygen intake, which can mean getting more oxygen to your brain and bloodstream.
Not to mention, whenever you create momentum for your body, you create momentum in your mind. This gives you the power to see the world in new ways, find new inspiration, and come up with new ideas.
If you're not an outside person and the idea of walking in nature makes you want to bolt the doors and hide under the covers, all you need is a walking desk.
This will keep you in motion, and help your creativity grow.
Start At The Bottom
Start with a terrible idea— no, the worst possible idea.
Because when you stop trying to think of a good idea, you take the pressure off of yourself and get your mind in motion.
Often the idea is the hardest part — like when you're trying to write an email or social media post and it's like someone hit you with a paralyzing blow dart because no matter how long you stare at that screen, you can't think of anything to say.
All you need something to get you started, and a terrible idea could be the sideways kick that leads you to the great idea.
When you run with the worst idea you can think of, it gives you momentum to work toward something better. Start there and see where that goes. As you try making that idea incrementally better, you're sowing the seeds for a brilliant idea to grow.
And remember, winning ideas typically aren't the first one you pull out of the hat — they're an evolution of something else.
Steal Someone Else's Idea
No, don't go out there and take something that isn't yours, but walk a mile in someone else's shoes.
What does that mean?
Pretend you're someone else. Put on a different persona.
This will help you use someone else's brain and steal their ideas (ethically!). When you stop trying to see the world through your own perspective and open your mind so you can perceive the world through someone else's, new opportunities and solutions you never would've seen before become blatantly apparent.
This is one of the most powerful ways to creatively problem solve and create epic projects. If you want to master this, you can look into the new book from Todd Herman, The Alter Ego Effect, or pick up some local acting classes at a nearby college, acting coach, or community theatre.
When it comes to unlocking your creative potential, you want to keep yourself open. Try new things and new combinations. What worked before might not work now, and what works now might not work next month.
Stay flexible and keep stretching. The more you practice these creativity strengthening exercises, the easier it is to stay in the flow.
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"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before." -Willa Cather
A logical fallacy called bifurcation (yes, it sounds like a disease) is used to make people believe that they can only choose between two extreme choices: love me or leave me, put up or shut up, etc. In relation to my career and my love life, I was once stricken by this crazy malady.
I spent over a decade in and out of love relationships that undermined my career and drained my creative energy along with my finances. The key problem was that I was convinced that I had two options: be a kickass, and powerful professional who scares off any prospective mate or surrender to that deep and profound love such that my ambitions blow away in the wind. For years, my psyche ping-ponged between these two choices like that was the only game in town. But why?
Turns out we women are often programmed into thinking that we can't have love (at least that good, juicy heated kind) and any sort of real career. This is not actually that surprising given the troubled history that America has with women in the workplace. Post WWII, women were supposed to quit their jobs and scurry back home and leave the careers for the returning men. And if you think we've come a long way from making women feel they don't belong in the workplace, consider Alisha Coleman. In 2016, she was fired because her period leaked onto a chair!
But try to keep a good woman down, and well, you can't (Alisha sued her former employer). Given enough information we will always find a way to overcome our situation. As we teach in my practice, Lotus Lantern Healing Arts, we are all our own gurus. The light in the lotus just offers a way to illuminate your path.
So what was I missing so many years ago when I kept struggling between two suboptimal choices? The answer is the understanding that if I wanted to have it all, I had to start living right now as if I could. For me to be with someone who supported me having a fantastic career, I had to believe that that was actually one of my choices and start living that way.
Of course that is easier said than done (like most life lessons). So once I made that realization, here are the three key changes I made (and no they didn't happen all at once):
First, I stopped apologizing. Why the hell do women always feel the need to apologize for everything! (Sorry for swearing! Jk.) In particular, why do we have to feel bad about time away from the homefront? Remember Don Draper stopping off at the bar before heading home? I took a Madman lesson from him and stopped apologizing for my free time and let go of my usual rush to get back. Instead I focused on enjoying the transition, which was often needed to release the stress of work. Whether I was slow-driving listening to my jams and singing at the top of my lungs or stopping off for a pedicure, a little ritual went a long way to making me feel like a real human when I walked through the door.
Second, I let go of perfection in order to be present. I stopped stressing over a work deadline and instead rescheduled it to tend to my love life or postponed a romantic dinner because a juicy work opportunity appeared. In this way, I did not force an unnatural choice or one I did not want but really paid attention to what felt right. Instead of feeling subpar in each realm, I end up getting the most out of my time in both places.
Third (and perhaps most significantly) I began to welcome and expect encouragement from the most significant person in my life. I made it clear to my partner that I wanted insight and not criticism. And since I knew I needed understanding and not saving, I said, "Please help me look at my career woes from a different angle instead of offering me advice." Ultimately, I only accepted partners that truly supported my dreams and didn't let me play small.
Today, some of the most exquisite pleasure I feel comes simply from my partner witnessing me. Having a cohort who really appreciates my struggles, helps me integrate work and life, and enjoys the wins together can be mind-blowing. Likewise, when the shit hits the fan (again, not sorry!), it's really important to have a partner that can hold space for you and help you remember those wins.
It's a constant battle. Our culture still perpetuates the myth by pitting love and career against each other (ever see Fatal Attraction?). Men don't always get this message, but then we don't need to wait for them to get it. All we have to do it start living right now in the way we truly deserve and bring others along with us. When my friends see me and my partner together separately killing it in the career department and fiercely loving each other they say, "Your relationship gives me hope."