How to overcome a creative block

Tips to overcome a creative block.

Creativity is never static, and it is experienced differently by different people. For the ones among us who have finally cracked the secret of how to be creative at work, this may not always be as easily translated into the new environment that we now have to work from: our homes. While we may sometimes find it easy to be creative at work during the pandemic, at other times, this may pose new challenges for some of us. Today, we would like to give you a few tips to help you overcome a creative block, by making use of space and interactions.

The stages of creativity

The psychologist Wallas summed up his theory of creativity by dividing it into a 4-stage process. These are: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. The first stage, that of ‘preparation’ involves gathering as much information about the problem as possible. The second one, ‘incubation’ refers to the “unconscious processing” of all that information. This stage involves making connections between different facts gathered in the first stage, and it could either unfold through active thinking about the problem or while resting or performing a different task. The third stage, that of ‘illumination’, refers to the moment when, after the research and the reflection on it have been finalised, an optimal solution is identified, by weighing in all the benefits and consequences. In the last stage, ‘verification’, one tests and adjusts the solution to the problem at hand accordingly1.

The 4-stage process of creativity includes preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification.

Following this theory, we can assume that a creative block usually happens somewhere during the first two stages, especially if not enough time or attention is dedicated to the incubation period. This is especially relevant when thinking of the nature of the process through which illumination occurs. Making use of our mind’s ‘focused’ and ‘diffused’ modes is essential for boosting creativity and facilitating a better problem-solving process. While the ‘focused’ mode is essential when actively working on a task, the ‘diffused’ one allows our minds to wander while resting or daydreaming, while also activating our imagination and our subconscious mind, and increasing brain activity in a different way to the first one2. Researchers have therefore shown that making use of our mind’s ‘diffused’ mode has very positive effects when it comes to creativity and problem-solving3. This is why it’s important to consider a balance between the two when being faced with a creatively demanding task.

The best way to help our minds think out of the box is to have regular breaks. However, this is not any type of break: it needs to be a productive break. To ensure its productivity, this break would have to be taken after the ‘preparation’ phase of the creative process. In this way, by gaining a deeper understanding of our project or problem first, we can then let our minds wander and come up with creative ideas or solutions.

There are, therefore, a few ways in which we could help our minds form new connections when these don’t seem to occur instantly. To help you deal with a creative block better, we have a few suggestions.

1. Do things differently

Making use of space is a great way of putting this theory into practice. You could, for example, change your environment by sitting in a different place in your house. However, you could also stimulate your mind by creating the illusion of a different environment. You could change the position of your desk and furniture, opt for a different style or color palette, or even place your paintings upside down. For more ideas of how to redesign your home office, check out another one of our articles here. These tips will help you see your home from other angles, which might trigger your brain to see things differently and make new connections. This will hopefully provide you with a new perspective on the task at hand as well.

Another way of activating your imagination is by attempting to change your daily habits. You could, for instance, choose to incorporate new activities at different points in your daily routine. Consider taking useful breaks either by doing a short workout for example, or by reading an article or watching a video that is relevant to your field of work4.

The best way to help our minds think out of the box is to have regular breaks.

2. Talk to someone

Social interactions can not only help your creativity by helping you relax and allowing your mind’s ‘diffused’ mode to kick in. It can also boost your serotonin levels, which are proven to be effective in promoting creative thinking and helping one come up with a solution5. You could choose to unwind by having a conversation about any kind of topic, and this will allow your state of mind to shift once you start working again. At the same time, if appropriate, talking to someone about your specific task could also be a great way of getting to the bottom of the source of your creative block. Attempting to put the issue you are confronting into words and explain it to someone who is not familiar with it could therefore help you see it more clearly and allow you to approach it from a different perspective more easily.

3. Go outside

Getting some fresh air can often help with giving you a new perspective. Consider having a break from your work by taking a walk. Even if it at that moment you may feel that you don’t have enough time, having a break is actually more likely to help you finish your work faster and more efficiently. You could make sure not to fall into a pattern by trying to always find new routes and different places to go.

In order to work better and more effectively, it is important to find a balance between periods of intense focus and productive breaks that will let your mind incubate, wander and come up with creative solutions. In order to keep your imagination and subconscious mind active, it is helpful to stimulate them by changing up your environment and daily routine more often.

If you would like to learn more about how to use space and interactions in order to boost your creativity, or if you would like help with redesigning your home to help you be more effective, then get in touch with us. We would be happy to help with any questions you may have.

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