Three Ways to Easily Break Out of a Creative Slump, Even If You’re Feeling Hopeless Right Now
It happens even to the best of us.
You feel like you’ve hit your stride. The stars have aligned. And your creative abilities are now bearing fruit abundantly.
You know that everything will turn out perfectly, as long as progress continues with the same intoxicating sense of wonder and effortlessness.
But then without warning, the ideas stop coming.
You start to fear that your project will stall forever. Is it game over?
It’s times like these where you justifiably throw your hands up and say “It’s not fair!”
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
Because you can definitely do something about it. And all it takes is a change of perspective; a slight shift in how you approach the creativity process.
So let’s look at what you can do to reignite your dormant creativity.
The Normal (Read: Ineffective) Approach to Creativity
When most people create, their new ideas are firmly structured by unconscious ways of perceiving, categorizing, and conceptualizing; their knowledge and experiences remain frozen in certain patterns.
Unfortunately this merely serves to produce more of the same.
And then they adopt the intuitive approach of ‘try harder’ — expecting that merely greater effort will inexplicably cause something radically different to appear.
But if trying harder with the same approach only results in the same kind of ideas, is it really surprising that we get stuck and frustrated?
No wonder creativity can be so stressful…
A Better Model of Creativity
For the sake of this post, let’s go with this working definition of creativity:
Creativity is the process of contrasting two or more dissimilar concepts to discover new and useful ideas.
This by no means encompasses all there is to creativity. But applying this definition will take you a LONG way.
As Michael Michalko explains, when you superimpose dissimilar ideas, the mind immediately acts to find connections between them.
Nature abhors a vacuum.
Your imagination is primed look for ways to fill the empty conceptual space. And in bridging the gap, new and unexpected ideas emerge.
Okay, so now that we’ve looked at some of the theory behind creativity, let’s look at three ways we can put it into practice. Very shortly you’ll be amazed to realize how easily you can generate new and exciting ideas.
#1 Shifting Contexts
Let’s say you’re designing a chair. The initial context you’re working in is Furniture Design.
What happens if we superimpose other contexts? Here’s a few ideas I came up with:
Furniture Design + Biology = Is it possible to design a self-cleaning chair that regulates bacteria levels on its surface by itself?
Furniture Design + Politics = Can we leverage current political issues while promoting our new product in our magazine? Perhaps we could Photoshop in a politician onto our chair and write a funny caption.
Furniture Design + Music = Is it possible for us to integrate an audio system into the chair so people can recline and listen to their favorite songs without needing headphones?
You can go on and on with countless other contexts, each time generating an abundance of ideas.
#2 Random Stimulus
Consider a problem, paragraph, object, idea, anything. Now start to bring in a random stimulus alongside it. It can be from literally anywhere.
Furniture in your environment.
Words from your memory.
It could even be nonsensical scribble on a notepad.
What happens if you bring together, say, a load of scribble that looks like a polar bear with the concept of free will? You might get ideas and questions like:
- Do animals have free will?
- Perhaps the concept of free will in human beings can shed light on animal behavior, which is often considered to be driven solely by instinct
- How does a harsh environment, such as the one a polar bear lives in, affect behavior?
At first, some of the ideas you come up with might be not be so useful to you. Some will be total nonsense. But through forced combinations you can continue to produce ideas a lot faster, and this means you‘re much less likely to get stuck.
#3 Paragraph Juxtaposition
Take a paragraph. It could be one you’ve written (especially if you’re struggling with your writing). Or it could be one someone else has written. Then find another paragraph from somewhere else. It could be from the Internet, a book, a newspaper; it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s random.
Put both paragraphs side by side, and read one after the other. And then let them both incubate in your mind for a few moments. Let them intertwine and meld together.
What new associations and ideas have arisen naturally?
Now, try to force connections between both paragraphs. Combine random sentences together from both paragraphs. You’ll likely find that as you do this, some startling and unanticipated connections arise.
Without even trying very hard, you’re able to originate new ideas.
What could be simpler?
So What Are You Going to Create Now?
With the conventional approach, you have to wait for odd combinations of ideas to spontaneously arise and combine. But now you’re aware of some of the mental mechanics behind creativity, you can purposely initiate the creative process any time you like.
And as time goes by, you can do this with increasingly less effort.
Because the more you use these techniques, the more easily you’re able to dispense with frozen patterns of thought and perception.
Writers block, overexertion, frustration, or whatever else hinders your creative endeavors, can become a thing of the past. And these are only just three techniques we’ve looked at today.
Imagine having a whole repertoire of creativity tools.
What amazing things would you be able to do?
You no longer have to buy into the myth that creativity takes exceptional talent or grueling effort. Like many things, it’s a skill that can be taught and developed. And it can actually be fun!