Written By Katie Thompson
As creatives, we spend our time dreaming up big ideas, coming up with innovative solutions for difficult problems, and flexing our creative muscles to create beautiful and inspiring art. Creating comes naturally, and when inspiration hits, we hit the ground running. However, like any other muscle in our body, that creativity muscle can get fatigued. At some point, the creativity well will dry up, and you will feel like you just have no good ideas or inspiration. I’ve been there and so has everyone else at some point in their journey. But you don’t have to stew in a creativity rut. There are plenty of ways you can push past that mental stiffness and get back into your productive groove. So here are seven tips on how to break a creative rut.
1. Change locations
When you work from home or work form an office, your surroundings can get really, really dull. Your environment can absolutely affect your productivity and creativity, so if you’re feeling stuck, try working somewhere else. Go to that cute coffee shop down the street or take a walk and do some brainstorming. Believe me, changing up where you work can help spark tons of new ideas. It also can help with that isolation of working from home and get you out in the world to interact with actual humans.
2. Work on something else
A lot of the time, we feel stuck because we’ve been working on one project nonstop, and your brain is just tired. If you are so focused on one idea for an extended amount of time, it’s just common sense that your well of ideas is going to get low. So, my suggestion is to simply work on something else. Move over to another project, tidy up your office, cook something. Just do anything else that will engage your brain that isn’t the project that you were working on. Then, come back to it after a few hours or even after a day. You’ll be looking at it with fresh eyes, and you’ll be able to see it from a different perspective. Maybe that meal you cooked sparked a new storyline, or that other project got your copyediting skills going, and you start to catch a bunch of mistakes you missed before. Trust me, this one works.
As entrepreneurs, this one is hard. Since we set our own hours, some of us tend to work more than we did in that 9 to 5 simply because we are hustling to make things work. But if you’re body is tired and your mind is fatigued then I promise you, you aren’t getting much work done. And if you are, then I can bet it’s not your best work. The world will not collapse, and your business will not fail if you take a day off. Coming at a project, refreshed and rested is the best way to actually give it your all. If you’re exhausted, the work is going to suffer so take a break once in a while.
4. Go get inspired
This one always works for me but I have to be super conscious about how I go about it. If you’re feeling stuck and you go look at other’s work similar to what you’re trying to create, your brain will want to steal some of those ideas because that’s the easiest route in front of it. Be wary of that and try to avoid browsing work that’s really similar to yours. Instead, look for inspiration in unexpected places. For example, if you are writing a blog post and feel completely uninspired about what to write about, go watch a movie or a document about something that inspires you. I used this tactic when I was writing my second novella. I was stuck on where I wanted the storyline to go so I went and watched some films from the era my novella was set in. The music, costumes, and scenery of these movies completely got me back in my groove and I was back to writing in no time.
5. Get a second opinion
If you have an awesome creative community that you go to for support, reach out to a few of them and ask them to take a look at what’s got you stuck. They might have some suggestions for ways you get inspired that you have never thought of. If you are feeling stuck in general and don’t know what to work on next, ask your friends what they are working on. Ask them if they want to collaborate on something or if you help in any way with something they are working on. Sometimes all we need is be surrounded by other people doing amazing things to get inspired.
6. Ask yourself what the problem really is
Let’s face it, creativity is often fueled by emotions. If you are feeling blocked creatively, it’s likely that you’re also blocked emotionally. Stressing about family, relationships, jobs, money, expectations…these things can really cause a roadblock when you are trying to create and be vulnerable. Ask yourself if you can’t seem to finish anything because you are afraid of putting yourself out there. Your brain might be so tied up dealing with the emotional turmoil and stress from another situation in your life that it just doesn’t have the capacity to focus on anything else. So, if you’ve tried everything you can think of and you’re still in a rut, ask yourself what’s really wrong. Identify what might be causing your pain, stress, or distractions. Work on dealing with those issues, and once they are on their way to being resolved, your mind will open up and have space for new ideas.
Sometimes a creative block can be cleared away with some good old-fashioned moving around. Whether you’re a soul cycle fanatic, love hiking or just enjoy walking around your neighborhood, moving your body is a great way to get your mind moving again. Throw on your favorite pump-up music or podcast and simply do something. By all means, it doesn’t have to be a 500 calorie-burning punishment session to do the trick. I’m a huge fan of going for walks or doing a quick 20-minute kettlebell workout. All those endorphins released when we move our body can do nothing but help get our creativity amplified and ready to work.
Don’t beat yourself up if you have times that leave you uninspired and unproductive. I guarantee that it won’t last forever. But, and that’s a big but, don’t let these downtimes discourage you from trying again. Just because you aren’t bursting with ideas at the moment doesn’t mean inspiration won’t strike in the next moment. Just be patient, find what works for you, and don’t quit when the going gets tough.