11 Things I Do When I Feel Creatively Blocked
Between training for races, running an online store, working on various writing projects, and traveling, my mind feels far from settled right now. And it shows today, as I'm having trouble with my writing. Good thing I've been here many times before, as I've developed some tactics over the years for shaking off that brain fog feeling and getting the creative juices flowing again.
1. Take an eight-minute nap.
It's amazing how even a brief rest can refresh the brain. I got in the habit of taking short naps during COVID when I was working a job at the time from home and we pretty much had back-to-back online meetings all day. Whenever a free moment between meetings would come up, I learned how to take quick naps to recharge, notably finding that eight minutes worked for me. I'd set an alarm, fall asleep in 1-2 minutes, and by the end of the eight minutes, my brain felt ready to go.
2. Come up with 10 more ideas.
This is a tactic stolen from James. You may have heard him say this before, and I think he wrote it in one of his books (I forget which one), but basically, he says that if you can't come up with 10 ideas, write 20. The point is if you are struggling to come up with 10, you are thinking too hard and not letting your mind flow. I find this works pretty well.
3. Get around people in the same situation.
If I'm struggling with running, I'll go run with a friend or jump in an organized group run. With writing, I'll go to a writing meetup group to be around other writers (which is what I'm doing this very moment). If you're a musician, stop practicing at home and go play music with someone. There is something about simply being around other people doing the same thing you're doing that wakes things up.
4. Shake up the routine.
Drive a different route, write at a different time, or wake up early instead of sleeping in (or vice versa). Routines are fantastic for efficiency and productivity, but human beings weren't designed to be productive 24/7 (read my "Productivity Porn" list: https://notepd.com/idea/productivity-porn-10-reasons-why-people-are-way-too-obsessed-with-getting-things-done-nr3s4). I find when I try too hard, that's often when I get blocked. Find something stale in the routine and shake it up.
5. DRINK COFFEE.
6. Do something physically challenging.
Do hill repeats, lift something heavy, do yoga, it doesn't matter. Anything that gets the blood flowing has an effect on being able to create.
7. Do something creative in a different area.
I used to be a musician, so for me, music is a hugely important part of my life. So if I'm struggling with writing, I'll go work on a music composition I'm playing around with or just listen to some awesome music for a while. Sometimes the creative muscles need to be worked from different angles.
8. Jam on some powerful music.
I touched on this one in the previous idea, but whatever music gets your heart going and makes you want to get up and move, turn it on.
9. Change the environment.
If I'm working at home, I'll go to the coffee shop or vice versa. There's a stunningly beautiful Sonoran desert park only a 10-minute drive from my home, so occasionally I'll go there and work with a view. Sometimes the simple act of changing my work location opens up my mind.
I know meditation isn't for everyone, but it works for me. I'm a huge fan of the Insight Timer app (https://insighttimer.com).
11. Always show up and never quit.
If nothing else, I'm relentless about doing the same things every day. If all else fails, and you're still feeling blocked, show up anyway. Don't take the day off. At least try, even if it's a half-ass attempt. Establishing and maintaining the habit of doing what you creatively do every day is more important than taking time off when you're "not feeling it." The best creatives in the world show up no matter how they feel. Your music may suck that day, and the words you write may make no sense, but at least you did it.
If you show up every day, you will always have another chance tomorrow.