Amp Up Your Creativity
Ever feel like you are out of ideas or solutions? When I was a 20-something designer I worked long hours struggling with my ideas. Trying to find the best one. Sometimes staring at a blank piece of paper. But I’ve learned some tricks over the years to prevent that creative block and get those juices flowing.
Do you know someone who claims they are not creative? Of course they are. They just haven’t used that muscle enough. Putting creative ideas out there is risky. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Get past the fear and let your creativity flourish.
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
– Maya Angelou
Here are some of my favorite approaches to getting creative:
1. Put it on pause.
Don’t sit and try to force a solution if ideas won’t come. Move on to something else for a few minutes or hours, even overnight. Trust that solutions will reveal themselves. When you sit back down, more often than not, ideas will flow more easily.
2. Get moving.
Blood flow = creative flow! So often when I am running, I can hardly wait to get home to jot down my ideas. If your creativity has stalled, try taking a walk, a bike ride, or a run. Get the blood flowing and get away from the problem.
Once you are out there, enjoy some music or listen to the birds sing to help clear your mind. When you come back to the challenge, you may find the problem solved!
Inspiration comes from unlikely places! Once, Adrenaline was working on point-of-purchase posters for Reebok. They wanted multiple concepts to support their CBS Survivor merchandise. Out for a run, I nearly stepped on a snake! It got me thinking about using threatening animals as a metaphor for the conniving behavior of the contestants, as well as the rugged conditions they endure.
3. Make a list.
Sometimes the obvious answer to a challenge is not the one you want to implement. To get around this, I like to do a little list-making.
Begin by writing down a concise summary of the problem. Then, write down your first thoughts for a solution. Now write down 20 more thoughts. Don’t worry if some of them are ridiculous. Don’t judge the ideas as you write them and don’t write out complete thoughts. Jot down just enough to remember later what you were thinking. It’s a great way to stretch your imagination, get away from black and white solutions.
Creativity is not just for work! Ever have a child who “forgets” to put their things away? Mine did. After nagging her with little effect, I made a list for myself. One of my list entries was to put her things away for her. Here’s where I got creative: I put her things away in all the wrong places – Eureka! She quickly realized that it was easier to put things away herself than to find where mom might have hidden them.
4. Be positive.
Jot down some things you’re thankful for. This can break the barrier of negative thinking, give you perspective on what is overwhelming you, and open you up again to your creative force. This technique works best as a regular practice, since negative thinking can be a habit, and negativity short circuits creativity.
5. Get a snack, and some sleep.
When you need to be creative, make sure you aren’t hungry or tired. Plenty of sleep and quality food will support your brain. According to a 2009 Harvard study, “REM (Rapid eye movement) sleep, during which most dreaming occurs, allows the brain to work creatively on problems posed before sleep, enhancing performance by nearly 40%.” Next time you have a tough creative problem to solve, sleep on it!
Stressed and under pressure to be creative? When I feel stressed I cannot be creative. I know my friends are chuckling at this next suggestion – my restless nature makes it hard for me to sit still – but it works:
6. Calm the monkey mind.
This Buddhist term describes an agitated, easily distracted and constantly moving state of mind. Try this basic mindful breathing exercise: Put your hand on your belly. Breathe in slowly, breathe out. Be aware of your breath. Don’t consciously push other thoughts away, but bring your mind back to your breathing when it strays. Sometimes just 5 minutes of breathing helps me de-stress enough to think more clearly. Here is a more complete guide to the technique.
7. Got a partner? Trade projects!
This is a de-stressor we use around Adrenaline pretty often. When working on a collateral layout, logo design or a blog post, if I feel stuck, I ask Steve, Lynne or Scott to spend some time on it. Not only do we solve the problem more quickly, the results are better.
It is such a relief to get another person’s take on a problem. Two minds are better than one, and it often shows in the results! This approach requires trusting your partner. It has the added benefit of knowing that someone has your back.
“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people” – Leo Burnett
Creativity is an essential part of solving problems in our lives, whether it’s at work or at home, in our professional or personal life. Once you get in the zone of creativity, you experience a state of flow that is joyful, energizing and productive. Try one or all of these tips the next time you are stuck in a creative block!