25 Ways to Break Creativity Blocks

by Mike Brown

25 Ways to Break Creativity BlocksCreative blocks are maddening, but having a readily available strategy to get your creativity back when one happens turns it from crippling to a mere nuisance.

Here are 25 creativity strategies to get your Brainzooming when you’ve hit a creative block. Pick as many strategies as you need to get your creativity going again:

  1. Switch to a Bare Wall – Completely change the “canvas” on which you’re trying to express your creativity by switching to a new, blank one. If you’re stuck on a computer, get a new notebook and start handwriting. When you’re not able to draw something with a pencil on paper, switch to painting on an oversized canvas.
  2. Stop Everything – Walk away from your creative block and take a 30 minute nap (or whatever length leaves you refreshed). Let your mind wander and imagine anything at all as you go to sleep. Come back to your creative endeavor refreshed and ready to be creative again.
  3. Revisit Your Creative Pinnacles – Go back to a past creative success and create a variation on the theme. When stuck while blogging, redo your favorite post from a different perspective or angle. If the music isn’t flowing, play a favorite piece in a different key or tempo.
  4. Seek out Someone Else’s Creative Pinnacle – Pick some creative output from one of your creative inspirations and do a BIG (i.e. non-copyright infringing) variation on a successful theme they used.
  5. Embrace Mindless Activity – Perform an activity you’re able to do without thinking or using any creativity. Maybe it’s cleaning or lawn work or driving around. It has to be active with plenty of opportunity for your mind to wander.
  6. Create an Artifact – Find a small something to create that’s more easily achievable than your whole project (it could be working on something you’ve already put in the creative trash heap). Create your small start and use it as a tangible first step to get to the next bigger creative step.
  7. Return to the Familiar – Use the forms, styles, characters, and media that are old standbys for your creative expression. Take advantage of familiar forms to get your creativity re-started.
  8. Use “Real Simple” Magazine – This magazine, in particular, is a great inspiration for creativity. Take your creative block and go page by page asking how the images and headlines you see could shape your creative strategy, writing down ideas as you go. If you prefer a different magazine, look for one with lots of images and big headlines.
  9. Start with Things You’ll Throw Away – Decide upfront you’ll throw away anything you create in the next hour, then simply dive in and start doing something toward your creative goal right away. You’re willing to trash it, so don’t let any self-criticism block your creativity.
  10. Finish Something – Maybe an obligation completely unrelated to your creative challenges is hanging over your head. Drop your creative project and focus on other nagging deadlines which may be affecting you subconsciously. Getting pesky non-creative deadlines out of the way can free you for a new perspective on creativity.
  11. Find Someone Who Loves Something You Created – People who think you’re creative are great creative catalysts. Seek them out and ask what inspires them about creative work you’ve done. Use how you’ve inspired them in the past to inspire your creativity now.
  12. Seek out People with Dramatic News to Share – For some people, angst leads to creativity. For others, happiness triggers creativity. When stuck creatively, find the people in your circle with compelling stories to share – whether of challenges or of successes – as new inspiration sources.
  13. Doodle and Eat – Many restaurants use white paper in place of cloth table coverings. Go to one nearby with pens, markers, or crayons and doodle your way through dinner. Write, draw, diagram, or do whatever else will trigger your creativity.
  14. Go Get Sweaty – Studies show it and so does any great workout – physical exercise is a wonderful way to shake your mental cobwebs loose. Pick your favorite exercise and participate in it aggressively, putting your creative block to the side. When you’re done, you’ll see your creative challenge with new clarity.
  15. Tend to Your Basic Needs – Drink some water. Take a shower. Eat your favorite meal. Eat something you’ve never eaten before. Take care of the basic needs of life and then restart your creative efforts.
  16. Host a Creative Happy Hour – Invite a group of cool, creative people to join you for a happy hour. Have fun, share some stories, ask for some creative input from your companions, and get in a creative spirit once again.
  17. Find Some Fresh Eyes – Ask a creative friend who doesn’t have any background in the area of your creative block how they’d approach your challenge. With a new set of eyes and fresh thinking, chances are the other person will see a creative key you’re missing.
  18. Take advantage of “Crowdspiration” – Go where there’s a crowd of people and use the looks, conversations, and buzz of the crowd to catalyze your creativity. Remember: the crowd can be in real life or virtual, because wading into the Twitter pool is another great source of random crowdspiration too!
  19. Put Your Kids in Charge – For little kids, the whole world is new and full of creativity. Get your kids (or borrow somebody else’s, but ask first) and see what kind of creative fun they’d like to have. Whether it’s playing in the yard or going to Chuck E. Cheese, throw yourself into it with childlike glee to uncover new inspiration for creativity.
  20. Try Trait Transformation – Write down six descriptors or characteristics of your creative challenge. For each descriptor, ask how it would help meet your creative objective if it were bigger, smaller, turned around, removed, customized, standardized, or simplified. Asking these questions to twist your situation leads to lots of new creative ideas.
  21. Random Wikipedia – Random inputs help trigger creativity, so here’s a quirky approach to try. Take a period of your life, pick a starting point (i.e. an actor or author you enjoyed then), and look it up on Wikipedia. Click on a random link in the first Wikipedia entry and keep surfing for semi-random inputs. You never know what cool creativity will be inspired via Wikiwaves.
  22. Laugh Like Crazy – Watch an incredibly funny TV show or movie and laugh like you never have before. If laughter isn’t your best creative medicine, pick something else to watch that you know will tug on other emotions. The key is triggering your emotions to open yourself to new creativity.
  23. Change Scenery While Staying Where You Are – Alter as much as you can about your current environment – vary the lighting, rearrange the furniture (avoiding creativity constricting right angles), sit in a different chair, stand up or lay down, look out the window, step away from the computer. Whatever you’re doing where you are, do things completely differently.
  24. Change Scenery By Changing Where You Are – Get as far away as you can from your creative block’s “home field.” At the office? Go to a museum or a hotel lobby. Spent too much time inside? Get outside as quickly as you can. Bored with your hometown? Start traveling. Whatever it takes, force yourself to change your physical surroundings for a creativity boost.
  25. Be Patient – You know what? Now might just not be the time you can muster your creativity to respond to the goal at hand. Put the project to the side (maybe for an extended period of time), apply your creativity to areas where it is readily flowing, with the faith (you may want to say a creativity prayer) that the creative spark you need will happen at the right time, even if you don’t know when that is!

Those are 25 potential creativity catalyzing strategies from Brainzooming. What ideas can you add to the list? We’d love to include them as we add to the list as well.

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Mike BrownMike Brown is an award-winning innovator in strategy, communications, and experience marketing. He authors the BrainzoomingTM blog, and serves as the company’s chief Catalyst. He wrote the ebook “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” and is a frequent keynote presenter.

No comments

  1. Great list! I particularly like 6, 9, 13 and 20 – ideas which are new to me. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for sharing your favorites from the list Mark! It would be great to hear from others which ones they like and how they work for them. I’ve tried the entire list and found success with all of the ideas.

  3. Hi Mike, another terrific blog post – thanks!

    As I suggested in response to one of your previous posts this month (on the Beatles, creativity, and when best to quit), did you get a chance to look up ‘The Role of Psychological Distance in Creativity and Innovation’ at https://thelaughingbuddha.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/the-role-of-psychological-distance-in-creativity-and-innovation/ ? I think you will find it interesting.

    Thanks again. I always look forward to your posts.

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