In a creative field, there’s nothing so discouraging as sitting down with a fresh, new project and brainstorming all kinds of ideas about… nothing! Writer’s block, creative funk, brain fart—across all fields and professions, no one is safe from the occasional mind lapse. It’s not a lapse of judgement, inspiration or motivation, it’s more like… oh, what’s the word? It’s not delayed reaction, but similar… it’s um… postponed creativity. A rain delay of thought, if you will.
Well, leave your umbrellas at home. Today is your lucky day, as I have prepared this wonderful list of ways to break through the mundane and get inspired!
Get on your feet!
To get your creative juices flowing, take a walk around the building. Go to a spin class. Visit your co-worker three offices down. Whatever the level, a change in your environment can inspire a change in your thought processes. Plus, moving around increases your heart rate, and, although I’m no scientist, this probably means more blood flowing to your idea factory— the brain!
Try something scary
I asked Mady Stoner, an AE at AKHIA and (incredibly talented) photographer, what she does to keep her creativity flowing. “When I’m in a rut, it’s because I’ve become complacent and continue to do the same things that I know I’m good at. Trying something scary or new allows me to think differently and push outside of my comfort zone.” (I’m super impressed with this response, by the way.) Whether it’s as simple as using a different type of paint for an illustration or bungie jumping, a new experience allows for new perspectives.
You don’t have to be a designer or artist to reap the benefits of doodling—in fact, I would argue non-creative professions stand the most to gain. Sunni Brown, founder of Sunni Brown Ink and one of Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business,” says “when the mind starts to engage with visual language, you get neurological access that you don’t have when you’re in a linguistic mode.” By absentmindedly drawing, you’re flexing parts of the brain you may not use on a daily basis. It also tends to relieve stress, allowing a clearer mind to focus on the problem at hand.
Sleep on it
Last year, I was working on a particularly challenging branding project, when my creative director, Nick Pfahler told me to sleep on it. “Literally.” Apparently, when he’s feeling stuck on a project, he’ll actually place printouts of the project under his pillow or beside his bed, waking up with dozens of ideas. Sure, this sounds like a bit of witchcraft, but it’s more about getting a subject on your subconscious radar and letting the wheels turn without your conscious self getting in the way.
Witchcraft or not, I tried this as well, and while I woke up with the papers crumpled up on the floor across the room, I did feel more refreshed and ready to tackle the next day’s work.
Ask an SMN (Subject Matter Novice)
A frequent challenge I face in my work is that I’m often not the target audience of the piece I’m creating. In these cases, I can get stuck wearing my “designer hat” instead of my “client hat.” Luckily, I happen to be surrounded by smart people who think in completely different ways than I do. If I can’t take off my designer hat, I usually walk up to one of these smart folks and, giving them as little background as I can, simply ask “does this make sense to you?” Usually, a pair of fresh eyes can pinpoint exactly what’s not working and easily get the ball rolling again.
Try not trying
Inspiration can strike at weird times. Most of my good ideas happen while I’m in the shower. For some, they strike while driving to work. Others while they’re pulling weeds in the garden. In these situations, relaxation is key. According to Baba Shiv, a marketing professor at Stanford, doing something you enjoy boosts the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, creating a calm, yet energized condition ideal for creativity. Plus, getting a break from your office’s white noise (people chatting, co-workers typing, etc.) is just what your mind needs to make space for new thoughts and ideas.
So, there you have it! Tried and true methods to knock the cobwebs off of an idea or two and get the project rolling. It can be a simple walk around the building or a cat nap that jumpstarts your idea. Regardless, don’t panic, the idea will come to you. You’ve got this. You may have lost the thought, but you didn’t lose your motivation.