Coming up with creative ideas and innovative solutions can be a daunting task. While there can be lulls in one’s artistic creativity, an extended drought of ideas, otherwise known as a creative rut, can be a troublesome predicament. This stressful lack of creativity can produce a cycle of frustration, in which the longer it goes, the harder it is to snap out of it.
Here are ten ideas that will help get your creative juices flowing and pull you out of your creative rut.
Doodling is something we’ve all done at one time or another. Bored in class, bored in a meeting, scribbling tiny drawings on a napkin, or drawing your favorite band’s logo on your textbook cover
back in grade school. Sometimes, just cranking out ideas and random thoughts can break free an avalanche of new possibilities.
Here at Zion & Zion, we often employ strategies we learned in our Design Thinking training. For example, we utilize brainstorming sessions to “ideate” to stimulate free thinking.
“You can try smashing out as many ideas as you can around a topic, then culling the winners. And guess what? Those are generally found at the end of the process. The sheer act of forcing yourself to drive quantity, with no judgment, can drive quality” – Josh Linkner
“Even if you are drawing on the side of a paper, you are lighting up different networks in the brain and engaging different information. Doing so could spur that ‘ah-ha’ moment when a solution to a problem seems to have slipped away.” – Sunni Brown, The Doodle Revolution
2. Sleep on it
Take the problem you’re working on, write it down on a piece of paper right before you go to bed, and in the morning, revisit that problem to see if any new ideas come to mind.
One study featured in Psychology Today found that when people did this, half of them dreamed about the problem, and for 70 percent of those people, their dream included a novel solution to their problem.
“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” – John Steinbeck
3. Create space
A great way to shake loose some of those cobwebs in your head is to create space between yourself and your work. Take a break from your electronic devices. Go for a walk, meditate, read a book, listen to some music (the kind you get lost in), take a shower, or simply look out a window. My personal favorite is playing my drums. The act of doing something else and taking your mind off your project, can provide a much-needed distraction that your brain needs.
“The subconscious mind is always working on things for you and will often present things to you when you are doing something else.” – Ken Smith
4. Change your scenery
Consider painting a wall in your workspace or studio, rearranging the furniture, facing your desk in a different direction, or introducing a new accent element like a wall hanging or plant. If you’re working in a traditional office space, try getting up from your desk and finding a quiet nook or conference room where you can experience a different working environment. These simple acts may change the way you visualize your surroundings, even if it’s something in your periphery, which could lead to some creative breakthroughs.
5. Mix things up
Take yourself out of repetitive routines to lessen the daily monotony. Change things like your morning schedule, your drive route to work, or your go-to lunch eatery.
6. Be accountable
Tell your friends or family about your work and what goals you’re trying to achieve. Announcing your intentions publicly and following up with them about your progress will add accountability to your process and will give you the comfort that you’re not alone.
7. Explore your inner child
What better way to empty your mind of all the stresses and distractions of your adult life than to break out some Legos or Play-doh? Sometimes thinking outside the box and visualizing in three dimensions can help unblock whatever is constraining your mind. It doesn’t have to directly correlate to your project, it can simply be a means to clear out the cobwebs and exercise your brain.
8. Eat brain foods
According to a report published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, eating more fruits and vegetables correlates to better well-being and an increased sense of curiosity and creativity.
There are some suggested creativity-producing foods such as unprocessed foods, cold water fish, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts), whole grains, fresh fruit and veggetables, beans, nuts and seeds, coffee, green tea, and on occasion, unhealthy treats (which release endorphins, making you feel more positive).
Exercise, especially strenuous aerobic workouts like running, stimulates the Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which stimulates the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus. “(The hippocampus) plays a big role in long term memory, but there are also reasons to think that it plays a role in helping people imagine new situations.”
10. Visit creative blogs
The following are a few sites and blogs I recommend for some great ideas, visual distractions, eye candy, thought-provoking quotes and articles, and more:
- Pinterest: Everything from creative poster designs to inspirational quotes
- Instagram: A wide variety of images to inspire you. You never know when some random, unrelated image sparks an idea you otherwise never would have thought of.
- Swiss-Miss: A fantastic blog by Tina Roth Eisenberg, a Swiss designer living in NYC. She shares inspirational quotes and ideas, and a Friday “Link Pack” with all sorts of interesting design topics to browse through.
- Lovely Package: A blog featuring striking package designs.
- Grain Edit: A design blog with a focus on classic work from the fifties through seventies, and contemporary work inspired by that same era.
- You The Designer: UCreative’s collection of design articles, reading lists, and resources like free fonts and several creative examples to help light the artistic fire in you.
- Wrap Magazine:If illustration is your thing, this whimsical tumblr is for you.
- AisleOne:Is a creative resource with a spotlight on design, typography, minimalism and modernism.
- Mirador:A blog produced by a Paris design firm, Say What Studio. Scroll through their feed to see some amazing examples of the latest and greatest design work happening out there.
- This is Paper:Great examples in print design, architecture, photography and more—and they even have a mixtapes section for your listening pleasure.
I hope one or more of the suggestions listed above offer a pathway to divine creative inspiration and free you from that dreaded creative rut.