Defeating Creative Block


Every hero has a villain. A protagonist doesn’t exist without an antagonist. Spider-Man needs Doctor Octopus. Luke Skywalker is nothing without Darth Vader. Otherwise, there’s no story and no drama. The creative field is no exception. We face our own nemesis – creative block.

This sinister force has been known in many forms and under various aliases, and it doesn’t only plague those of us who work in the creative arts. Anyone whose profession involves problem-solving and inventiveness has to grapple with this mental adversary, which boils down to an inability to continue a train of thought. Barriers are constructed in our minds, keeping us from moving forward with an idea. Stress and emotions build walls that we are unable to move around. Rather than keeping out the wildlings, these walls are separating you from your next great idea.

Want to break through the wall quickly and recharge your creativity? Here are a few ways to battle your nemesis and achieve heroic victory.

Switch gears. Step away and work on something else. It doesn’t even have to be a creative project, just occupy your mind with something else for the moment. Setting aside a project and coming back with fresh eyes sometimes allows you to see things more clearly. The allowed time you can keep the game on pause is always a factor, but even a short break can help you win.

Learn a new trick. Sometimes we are so stuck in our old habits that we run out of ideas. While writing lyrics for his solo album Binaural, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder suffered from writer’s block. To bring in a new perspective and better focus to song writing, he banned himself from playing the guitar and switched to a ukulele. Try learning a new way of doing something, be it stylistic or in method.

Clear your plate. All of us are constantly juggling various concerns, big and small. Multiple minor projects get in the way of the big project and vice versa. Go ahead and finish the work you know you can easily knock out, which allows you to bring more focus on what is the most creatively demanding. Just remember, it’s much easier to defeat Goldfinger once all his pesky henchmen are out of the way.

Stop Thinking. That’s right, turn your rational brain off. Following the standard rules and regulations is usually required, but strict adherence to the “don’ts” is kryptonite to your creativity. Thinking outside the box starts by breaking a few rules. Don’t worry about staying inside the lines. In the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, let go of your conscious self and act on instinct.

Be Batman. If all else fails, reach into your utility belt and pull out a trick you haven’t used in awhile. We all have go-to solutions that we’ve recycled a few times, so don’t be afraid to employ one now and then. Who knows, you may stumble onto something new in the process.

At the point you see your enemy’s lair in the distance – or you are surprised by ninja attack – consult the above list. Over time you will figure out other strategies and will discover what works best for you to beat your creative nemesis. Last of all, good luck – you’re going to need it out there.

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