We’ve all been there: trying to come up with a design, a story, a pitch, or a logo, when suddenly, without warning, you get brain freeze. The phenomenon that writers call being “blocked” is common across all creative disciplines. We’ve collected seven tips to help creatives gain victory over their blocked minds.
You don’t need to be a budding comedian to get inspiration from improvisation. You may be reluctant at first, since nobody wants to look dumb. But there’s a deep method to the improv madness: it’s designed to relax performers enough that their creative ideas flow. And although many of the ideas will be stupid, there will also be gems. There’s no reason why you and your team can’t incorporate improv games into your brainstorming sessions. This is especially helpful for people who work in groups, helping collaborators sync up and juicing creativity.
Watch a Movie
They won’t teach you this in design school, but sometimes playing hooky helps. This is especially true for people whose minds are running ragged to come up with ideas. If your brain is too tired to work, try heading out to the movies, alone, in the middle of the day. This will force your brain to be complete immersed in something else for two hours. By the time you get back to the office, your brain will be focused and ready to work.
Go Somewhere Else
One of the best ways to shake off a creative block is to go for a walk. Even better, change your working environment by going somewhere else. Whether it’s the local library, a coffee shop, restaurant, or co-working space, changing your surroundings can change your brain. Don’t believe it? Then listen to what neurobiologists say: they believe that new environments actually can increase the rate at which the human brain makes new connections and neurons. Leaving the comfort zone can stimulate the imagination, even if it’s just for a few hours.
Make a Mood Board
Making up a mood board is more than just an exercise in procrastination: it also improves the way your brain recalls information, according to research. This technique finds you choosing patterns, images, colors, letters and scenes that you enjoy, which can bring up new emotions, thoughts and ideas. This is especially helpful for fashion designers and graphic designers who are trying to come up with a specific mood.
Doodling is associated with procrastinating, but both phenomena are actually associated with better attention span, more creativity and better memory. Author Sunni Brown even wrote a book about this strategy, which explains the neurological processes engaged during a doodling session. She recommends several different ways to doodle for better productivity. She suggests taking unrelated concepts, like cars and hot dogs, and drawing them in small parts. Then make doodles fusing the two concepts together. This can help people see things in a different light, or create new ideas.
Try Other Creative Disciplines
Sometimes getting inspired is as simple as leaving your comfort zone to do something else creative. If you’re an artist, write a poem or a story. If you’re a graphic designer, grab the camera and spend a few hours with photography. If you’re a writer, write music or a song. Doing something else creative can leave you with unexpected insights.
Divide the Thinking and Doing
Sometimes trying to get through a project too quickly can scramble your brains, since you can literally exhaust yourself sorting through all the possibilities. Many creatives find that it helps to split their time into separate days. Spend the first day or part of the day just kicking around ideas. Write them down and then move on to something else. You will be surprised how much clearer it all seems the next day, after a good night’s sleep. On the day when your task is to “do,” you can work without extraneous things on your mind.