I’m sure you’re well aware of the frustration. You sit down in front of your laptop feeling well rested - with a coffee in one hand, your notepad on the desk and your favourite pen in the other hand. The temperature in the office is just right and you have had a great drive to work that morning.
You put your pen to the paper when suddenly – nothing. There’s nothing there. Your brain is rejecting all of your great ideas before they even exist. The slightest fathom of an idea and you’re already dismissing it.
You then think back to the time when you were driving on the motorway late one night and your mind was racing with ideas. Or when you were in the shower and didn’t have a notepad to hand. Or when you were up against it to meet an unachievable deadline but you somehow produced something incredible with time to spare.
What was different about those times? You were tired, busy and stressed – it should have been a recipe for disaster. But the disaster is right now. Why are there no good ideas left?
The best way to get creative is to just start creating. Confused? Thought so. Let me explain:
1. GET AWAY FROM YOUR DESK
Before you do anything – just get away from your desk. Go for a walk. Go for a drive. Go and abseil from the roof of your building. It doesn’t matter – just get away from staring at your screen or your pad of paper.
Even this can be enough to get the juices flowing, but if you’re having real trouble then there’s so much more you can do.
2. STOP THINKING OF IDEAS
It might sound a little counterproductive but it genuinely works. You can often think yourself into a corner if you work too hard on it. Identify a clear objective for what you’re trying to achieve. Make sure it’s as clear as it can be and then let it bubble in the background of your brain as you work on other tasks.
Return to the problem refreshed and you’ll be amazed at what ends up on the paper.
3. JUST GET STARTED
You’re now ready to get started. With a clear and refreshed mind, you’re ready to start creating. After all, the secret to creativity is to simply start creating.
Creativity is born from finding innovative solutions to problems. What better way is there to inspire creativity than throw yourself into a pit of problems that need solving?
I’ve written about this before but a great way to break through the creativity wall is to practise freewriting. Although it’s common to associate freewriting with creating a novel or piece of extended text, the exact same process works when developing ideas for any solution.
Freewriting is what allows you to remove too much conscious thought from the creative process to bring information forward that you didn’t know was there. Overthinking is what blocks this information and asks too many questions.
Get the ideas down and ask questions later.
4. DO SOMETHING DIFFICULT AND CHALLENGING
This should really be considered step 3.5 – as it’s likely that freewriting is your new, difficult and challenging thing.
As we said before, creativity is found through challenges. Difficulty inspires innovation. Ever noticed how your inspiration tends to falter when you get stuck in the day-to-day tasks that you know like the back of your hand?
Let’s say you have a month to develop a multi-channel launch campaign for one of your new products. This isn’t the easiest task at the best of times. It’s such a huge task that can go in absolutely any direction. This is when your mind starts to ask all the wrong questions and blocks creativity at the source.
To inspire creativity, why not make the task even more difficult?
You have one month to do it – give yourself a week. Better still, a day.
Let’s ramp it up a notch, your campaign can only run for a single week. Sounds impossible, right? Of course it’s possible, just get started.
So the point of this task isn’t to deliberately make your life difficult. You still have a month to do the task and you don’t have to run the campaign for a single week, but treat the exercise as if you are confined to these parameters. You’ll be amazed by what your mind conjures up when you don’t have the luxury of time on your hands.
Treating the campaign as if it’s only running for a single week allows you to eliminate the non-essential. All of your thinking will be focused on complete effectiveness and clarity for that short week.
Almost all blocks in creativity can be cured with a little urgency and throwing more wood on the fire. When was the last time that you were up against it and didn’t produce anything of value? It rarely happens. You always pull something out of the bag and work with what you’ve got.
The human brain is a muscle. As with any muscle, you can train it to make it stronger and more effective. Many people think that creativity is something you’re born with. Those ‘creative types’ always seem to have the right idea. You know what? They can hit the wall in the exact same way as you.
Creativity is something that can be developed. You can train yourself to be more creative. It just takes confidence in your craft and a little imagination to get going.