Have you ever had that moment where there is so much swarming around in your head that you can’t quite grasp that moment of clarity that you know will make everything fall into place? Or worse– you’re simply coming up blank? That fickle muse we call creativity just doesn’t seem to understand that we have a deadline to meet!
Our minds have a funny way of getting caught up in the details. We leapfrog from one barely-hatched idea to another, trying to will this burgeoning list of ideas (each seemingly more brilliant than the last) to our mental tab. Suddenly, another idea comes about, but you can’t think of the right word, so you go to the internet where you discover another rabbit hole of ideas. By the time you come up for air, you’re left surrounded with a pile of ideas with no clue where to start or what is actually worth pursuing.
Think of it like standing very closely to a Monet painting– you have to take several steps back before you get a clear picture.
So, when you are experiencing a moment where you have ideas, you’re just lacking clarity, take a moment to step back. Find something else to focus on for an hour or two. If you have the time, take a day or two. While you are at work, focus your energy on something that is productive, but not mentally taxing; this is a great time to clean or organize, sort through that stack of paperwork you’ve been neglecting, and just cross a bunch of the easy-to-do incidentals off your list. Giving your brain something else to focus on will allow your mind to piece those ideas together into something more concrete and cohesive. If at any time, you feel like you might have a breakthrough–even if it’s just on a portion of your project–write it down immediately and don’t self-edit, or sort your ideas onto color-coded sticky notes, then bring this back to your desk when you’re ready to start working again.
There are few things in business as terrifying as feeling as though you have run out of ideas, with no inkling as to when, or if, you may get another.
You start sentences and can’t even finish them. You stare at your computer monitor with the cursor blinking back at you impatiently.
You pace the room determined not to leave so you wander aimlessly from chair to couch to window. You lay on the rug, you slump onto your desk, you try a handstand to get blood flowing to your brain, only to realize that you can’t do handstands and sprain your wrist (just imagining here, not at all speaking from experience…) and you get up realizing how much time you have wasted and how little you’ve accomplished. This moment feels so bleak, so exhausting, so empty. Empty. This is your brain telling you that it has run out. But, not out of ideas; it’s out of inspiration. New ideas are created simply by taking experiences or information and approaching or combining them in a new way. The answer in this scenario then, is to feed your brain with new things. Change your work setting (even temporarily), take time to notice the details, textures, and colors that surround you, or go back and revisit an old project. (Check out my post to learn 5 Simple Ways to Boost Your Creativity–without taking extra time out of your day)
And don’t forget to schedule in time for your Self. When you’re at home, sneak in a few minutes for yourself by taking a walk, running a bath, or escaping into a book or a puzzle. Take time at home to try something new and fun, or reconnect with something, whether it’s an old friend or a hobby left by the wayside. This is an area we so often neglect and justify it as time better spent on busywork. I encourage you to pause for a moment though, and tally up the minutes and hours you lose spinning your wheels when you’re in a creative block.
Don’t think of time for yourself as frivolous or wasted. It is, in fact, an investment in your overall wellbeing and your work reaps the benefit.