Eat Through Your Creative Blocks

In this series of posts, we’re exploring ways around the different types of blocks to your creative work, whether they are physical, mental, or emotional. In this post, we’ll dive into some ways to get around, or take advantage of fatigue, poor health, or otherwise physical states of being.

Know your Enemy

When you embark on a creative project or task, it’s important to understand what you need out of the moment. Are you suffering from creative block, where you can’t seem to come up with new ideas? Or, are you having a hard time executing those ideas, perhaps instead suffering from lack of productivity. If you’re producing something creative, did it occur to you that these blocks could be distinct? Do you have a timeline that allows you to separate them?

A recent study at Albion college points to evidence that you might actually be more creative when you’re tired. Sound amazing? Consider that fatigue acts as a dampener for your rational brain and its ability to hone in on specific information. You might not focus well. You might get a lot of stray thoughts marching through the middle of your attempts at work. Killer for staying on task. But when it comes to generating out-of-the-box ideas, your brain needs a party of thoughts – the more the merrier. Feeling underslept? Don’t seize the blanket. Seize the moment and make time to generate ideas for future creative work.

creative-brain This is your brain. This is your brain on creativity.

Powering through Productivity Blocks

So you’ve taken advantage of what seemed like your worst working time to do some creative idea-generating. Great! Now you just need to move on to doing something about those ideas. Here are some tips for getting from sluggish to finished task or product:

  • Your brain is not a mystical wellspring of thought inside your cranium. It’s a muscle, and it’s part of the larger, self-equalizing system in your body. Feed it accordingly. There’s no way to tell your body to direct your healthy lunch to fuel your brain and your chip-and-soda-snack-fiasco to power your appendix instead. Try to give your body a diet that avoids the drastic ups and downs of carb or sugar loading.
  • Learn your body rhythms. In a small journal, take a day and write down your energy level, hunger, focus, and mood each hour. Get a generalized idea of what your best times are, and if you can, plan your your creative and your productive work for the appropriate times.
  • What’s that you say? Too late for the above? Okay, sure. Here are some quick-fix ideas.
    • Take a 20 minute nap (and don’t forget to set a timer).
    • Have a cup of coffee or tea. Better yet, have a large glass of ice water.
    • Do 5-10 minutes of stretching or exercise.  A great way to incorporate both is to try a Sun Salutation yoga series.
  • Still feeling the blergh, but need to get a move on? Help yourself work at a lower level. Set small milestones to limp along the process. “And now I’m going to choose my topic. And now I’m going to list 3 elements about my topic (or choose color, style, and tool). And now I’m going to add detail to the first element.”
  • Check your environment. Is your music a nice background or a rocking distraction? Is your space in a high-traffic area? Is it too cluttered? Chair too comfortable? Not comfortable enough?  Don’t ignore the small annoyances if they take fewer than 5 minutes to fix.

What methods do you use to power through creative block?

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