When you feel stuck or your creative ideas are lacking, the underlying cause stems from a contracted awareness, so the answer is usually to expand your awareness and allow for new possibilities. Once your awareness expands, creative ideas begin to flow and you begin to move forward.
Thomas Edison, who famously failed 10,000 times before creating the light bulb said, “When you have exhausted all the possibilities, remember this—you haven’t.”
What can you do right away to break through creative blocks and get unstuck? Below is a list of activities that can support you in creating expanded awareness and help you get unstuck.
1. Explore a New Kind of MovementYou may know that regular exercise is essential to health and happiness, but you may not realize it is also essential to your creativity. Through physical movement, you can change your energy not only in your body but also in your mind. Different types of movement have different effects on your energetic body. By physically moving in a new and unique way, you may also find new solutions or creative inspirations.
There are countless options: running, walking, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, various dance classes, weight lifting, stretching—the list goes on and on. Pick one you never thought to try and see what happens!
2. Take a NapThere are times that you may have worked yourself into a negative spiral or thought pattern, or perhaps you are just plain exhausted. Taking a quick nap can break your patterns of thought and revitalize your brain and body. Studies show naps can boost your mood, improve performance, and create better focus. Not to mention your dream state can provide you with even deeper insight or inspiration. Take a quick nap and wake up re-inspired.
3. Have a Thoughtful ConversationIf you are feeling stuck, talking your thoughts out with someone can lend insight you can’t get on your own. We are social beings and nothing truly great is ever created in isolation but through collaboration—it’s simply our nature. Also, if something is weighing heavy on your mind, it can be extremely difficult to be creatively inspired. Talk it out with a friend or have the difficult conversation you know you need to have, and then get back to work refreshed and with a newfound perspective!
4. Take Intentional Breaks or Project JumpAlbert Einstein is famously known for taking breaks from his scientific discoveries to practice the violin. Elon Musk has been busy not only inventing revolutionary space rockets over the past few years, but he’s also been working on various other projects such as innovation of battery cells, solar energy, and electronic vehicles.
Studies have shown intentionally switching from one project to another or simply scheduling intentional breaks can increase creative ideas. Taking time away from a particular project allows for what is known as incubation, a critical step in the creative process. Letting your thoughts “incubate” by placing your attention elsewhere allows for different areas of the brain to connect and reach new insights.
5. Break Out the Pen and PaperA study published by the Journal of the Association for Psychological Science reported that writing with pen and paper instead of typing helps to increase creative thought. Ditch the laptop for a little while and physically write out your thoughts and ideas.
6. Go OutsideAside from researchers recommending time outdoors, you also probably intrinsically know that spending some quality time in a natural environment changes your energy levels and makes you feel good. If you are feeling stuck and need some inspiration, going outside can re-invigorate your thoughts and inspire new levels of creative thinking. The more natural the environment the better!
7. Immerse Your SensesPlaying with your senses expands your awareness and can lead to new insights and creative thoughts—plus, it’s just plain fun. Listen to music, eat a delicious snack or meal, look at something beautiful or interesting, get a massage, or use aromatherapy. Play with your senses and wait for the good ideas to roll in!
8. Surrender or Accept FailureCreativity requires you to stay in possibility or uncertainty. It is important to realize ideas won’t always lead somewhere. Creative ideas seem to have a natural spiral of excitement and despair, and even in the face of seeming failure, you just have to keep at it. It is important to recognize your ideas are not you; if an idea doesn’t work, it is not a reflection of you so don’t beat yourself up. Surrendering to a creative idea not working may be just the liberation you need to move on to the next idea or creative endeavor that will succeed.
9. Healthy DistractionBackground noises or distractions can actually increase your creative flow or output. If you feel stuck and have been in a quiet office all day, try to sit on a bench outdoors or work from a coffee shop; it can help to get your creative groove going again.
10. Get PresentStop comparing today with yesterday. Let go of the past and release thoughts about future worries—they are both distracting you. Only this moment is real. The easiest way to be present is to simply close your eyes, focus on your breath, and say to yourself, “I am a new person in this moment.” Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths—you got this!
And if somehow none of those activities help to re-inspire your creativity and get you unstuck just remember:
“…Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.” –Chuck Close