How to Be Creative When You Don’t Feel So Creative

How to Be Creative When You Don’t Feel So Creative

David Epstein, MD, explores methods and mindset for breaking through the creative block we all experience.
We all have times when we feel stuck in our creative process, whether it be writing, painting, drawing, building, or other actions of creating anything. Some may define this feeling as writer’s block, a creative slump, an artistic freeze, or an inspiration drought. Whatever the name, the result is the same. We feel stuck and don’t feel we can create anything. So, how do we move past this feeling of having a pause in our creative process?


Understanding the Feeling of Being Stuck
Identifying the idea of being stuck as a feeling is very important. It is just a feeling. It doesn’t mean that the creativity is missing. The creativity is still present. Something is just preventing it from emerging and expressing itself.
Aside from just allowing time to recover the creative spark, other ways in which new ideas come into focus to trigger our creativity include clearing away the clutter or noise to allow something to bubble to the surface or experiencing new things to fill our brains with fresh ideas. Both methods would seem to be at odds with one another, but they are just two perspectives on bringing new thoughts or perspectives to the forefront of our consciousness. In fact, in concert with one another, both methods can be powerful tools to break through the proverbial wall that is blocking our creativity from emerging.


Clearing the Clutter and Letting Creativity Materialize
Ideas seem to flow, and inspiration seems to come when we clear the clutter or noise from our minds. This may happen when we perform activities that are specifically aimed at quieting our minds, such as conventional meditation or meditative-like practices like journaling. But, other activities that may distract the mind, such as exercise or performing other activities that are more routine and automatic like taking a shower, brushing one’s teeth, eating, or any other activity that doesn’t require too much engagement or thought. How many times have ideas popped into our heads when we’re taking a shower or working out at the gym? The idea is that the brain is focusing on something that doesn’t require too much focus but allows just enough engagement to draw attention away from some other preoccupations that one may have, such as struggling to try and be creative.


“Ideas seem to flow, and inspiration seems to come when we clear the clutter or noise from our minds.”


Experiencing New Things to Fuel Creativity
On the flip side, bringing in new ideas can jumpstart our creative process. Traveling to new destinations, meeting new people, having discussions with old friends about novel topics, reading different books, leafing through magazine articles, catching up on current events in the news, hiking on a new path, and additional experiences or subject explorations outside of the normal routine will provide new perspectives, knowledge, and ideas. These new perspectives, knowledge, and ideas provide fuel to energize one’s creativity. It initiates one to think about something new or take a different view on something old.


Allowing Time to Recharge Creativity
Ultimately, regaining former creativity may just take time. If one is working diligently and persistently on some creative endeavor, there surely will be a moment of feeling stuck. As it is sometimes said, too much of a good thing is not necessarily a good thing. The joy of creating can ultimately become a “grind” that loses its luster if the production schedule is too intense or impacted. That is to say that, sometimes, one needs to take a break and step away from producing and being creative. Time without being productive or creative can recharge and reset one’s thought processing and, ultimately, result in a creative rush after the break.



Moving Past the Pause: Keeping a Positive Mindset
Moving past the pause in our creative process can be difficult and not feeling so creative can be distressing. But, keeping the perspective that this is just a temporary feeling and that it will pass is crucial to keeping a positive mindset. Don’t be discouraged or frustrated because your creativity will return. It is not a matter of “if” it will return, but “when” it will return. Some techniques that can expedite the process include clearing the clutter or excess noise in our minds and experiencing new things. However, sometimes, time may be the only answer. Forcing creativity can end up being detrimental to one’s ultimate mindset. Allowing the creative process to drive itself may be all that you can do to regain the creative spark, but revitalizing the brain by clearing the clutter and feeding the mind with new experiences may be a recipe for cooking up some creativity when you don’t feel so creative.


How do you typically respond when you encounter a creative block or slump?
How do you balance the need for structure and routine with the need to keep your creative process fresh and spontaneous?

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