Creative block?

Four ways to get ideas flowing again

By Dr. Patrick Wiita

Patrick Wiita is a child, adolescent, adult and forensic psychiatrist. Due to the pandemic, he is providing services virtually using state-of-the-art telepsychiatry technology.

Having the opportunity to be creative at work is a gift and a curse. Creative block is inevitable and can be excruciating. Whether your block is related to priorities, timing, or fear, here are some tactics to unclog your mind and move towards creative catharsis:

Commit to create

Often, things we do for ourselves just don’t seem like priorities. For your own projects, this could be leading to a blockage in your creative flow. Up the stakes by setting a deadline and telling people about it. If you don’t make your deadline, you’re not only letting yourself down, but you’re also letting your audience down. That sense of panic you’re feeling is “motivation.”

The shower principle

This one takes a bit of preparation. First, fill your mind with the problem, read your notes, look at your spreadsheets. Next, go do something else. The more mundane, the better. Go take a shower. This intentional procrastination gets your brain out of problem-solving mode, especially if you’re prone to automatic “that will never work” -type thoughts. Inspiration happens when your brain’s guard is down.

Trade plumbing for HVAC

Sometimes we think of creating in a straight line. You’re at point “A” and all of your juicy, creative ideas are at point “B,” on the other end of a hopelessly blocked pipe. Instead of lamenting your clogged pipes, pivot to your thermostat. What are the “hot” thoughts circulating in your mind right now? Identify and develop those, even if they seem unrelated to what you’re working on.

Perfect, the enemy of good

You might only need only one perfect idea, but why not try 20 “good enough” ideas? Starting your brainstorming obsessed with limitations or abandoning ideas because you can’t see how to implement them immediately is a surefire way to bum yourself out. Create for creativity’s sake, and leave the criticism for another day.

These techniques can readily be adapted as a leader in a team-based creative approach. Remember to not encumber your team with limits from the get-go. Have them do their outside-the-box thinking literally outside the box that is their typical office, and remember that there are no bad ideas in brainstorming.

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