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Ten Ways to Conquer Creative Blocks

Businessman shows a brain in shield glass as concept

Every night, even the most unimaginative person has the ability to turn into an artist. When our heads hit the pillow and we start to dream we let go of reason and assumptions and we have the opportunity to grasp the freedom of thought without restriction.

It is during this time that the brain rests and unlocks the subconscious. All of those tedious tasks that have occupied your mind all day suddenly disappear and provide you with the ability to listen to your mind. Practice some of the following exercises to get through some of your creative road blocks.

1. Keep a paper and pencil or tablet next to your bed. As your mind starts to unravel, you will be amazed at what comes out. If you manage to wake up during this time when your mind becomes quiet, jot down what comes out and then go back to sleep. Your brain will automatically remember what you just wrote and it will start to develop that idea. It might lead to something else and perhaps even euphoria. The key is to not let these ideas vanish. Write them down.

2. Quiet your mind. In this time of on demand everything, it’s easy to clutter your mind with so many things. You have so much going on in your head everyday, how are you supposed to focus on creating something new? The other day, I counted the number of information blocks on the MSNBC TV Screen and there were ten! Ten areas on the screen that were vying for space in my brain. It’s very difficult to concentrate until the brain has been silenced. One way to do this is to go to a quiet location, sit down with a piece of paper and jot things down that come to your mind. It doesn’t have to be sketches, just whatever comes to the surface.

3. Take a shower. Have you ever noticed that you feel a bit different when warm water is cascading off your body? It’s because our minds are not focused on our mobile phones or preparing for meetings. When our minds are diligently fixated on the tasks of the day, it actually prevents us from detecting the connections that lead to perception. When we allow our minds to disengage for awhile, we can finally hear the discourse taking place between the right and left hemispheres of our brains. If we recognize this process start to happen we can start to see some clarity and insight into things that were otherwise suppressed.

4. Play a word association game. Write down (in a quiet place), all the words you can think of that relate to the problem you are trying to solve. Reference a thesaurus if it helps. Write down the words and you will start to see things flow and some words will lead to others and then maybe just maybe you’ll hit on something that you didn’t think of before. Perhaps one word will take you down a path that leads to another path and then another and then woolah! Pay dirt!

5. Store the problem in the back of your mind for awhile. Tuck it away neatly behind the 27 million other things you are thinking of. Then pull it to the front every now and then when you come across something your brain hasn’t seen in awhile. The problem will start to become clearer when you associate it with new things. You will start to see the problem in a new light.

6. Play music. This distracts your mind and helps to loosen things up. It let’s ideas flow more freely and unleashes thoughts and ideas that may have been lurking around but couldn’t get out because the consciousness had them locked down.

7. Get unfocused. Let your mind wander. The gate keepers in your brain will open up when you disengage and let your mind wander. Allow yourself time to daydream, nap, or partake in any activity that lets your mind wander.

8. Think positively. Position yourself in a positive environment and only allow positive thoughts to enter your mind. Consider finding a blue room to dwell in while you think about the problem at hand. It has been proven “that the color blue can help you double your creative output” 1. You will discover that you will start to feel more open to perceptions that might have otherwise been obscured. You will be able to explore and discover new thoughts thus allowing you to connect the dots more easily.

9. Get out of the office. Go for a walk, take a train ride, or go to the beach. When you expose your mind to fresh things, you provide stimulus to the brain which will help to see things in a different way. The environment you are in hugely affects your ability to create. Research shows that even three to five minutes of contact with nature can significantly reduce stress and have an impact on emotions, reduce anxiety and increase positivity. “Environmental triggers seed behavior and response in people to a much greater extent than we realize.” 2

10. Find some “me” time. Trying to do too many things can stifle creativity. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed or overtaxed take a breather for an hour or two or even a day or two if time allows. When you come back to the problem you should see everything in a new and brighter light. 3


1 Imagine: How Creativity Works: Jonah Lehrer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) 51-52
Imagine: How Creativity Works: Jonah Lehrer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012) 29-30
The Google program is officially known as Innovation Time Off. That program has led directly to the development of Gmail, Google’s successful e-mail program, and AdSense, a nine-billion-dollar-a-year platform that allows Internet publishers to run Google ads on their sites. Marissa Mayer, ex Google VP of search products and user experience, estimates that at least 50 percent of new Google products begin as innovation Time Off speculations.


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