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Finding Creative Ideas When You’re Stuck

I have to challenge myself each week with what I can share with others that might add value as a creative. Often when trying to brainstorm ideas I get stuck. In those times of frustration, it feels impossible to create. Creative blocks in developing new ideas affect all artists at some point. Day-to-day stress often results in feeling overwhelmed. Creative brainstorming when you’re stuck sometimes requires a little downtime. Here are six tips that might help in finding creative ideas when you’re stuck!

My mind is usually a landfill of thoughts, sometimes keeping me up at night with creative ideas racing through my head in excitement…AKA the hamster running on the wheel! When the ideas stop and I get stuck it leaves me feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. That stress often blocks my ability to move forward because I get caught up in my head. When I get off balance and become stuck I have to find a creative solution that will allow my mind to think freely again. If you have ever struggled with being stuck, here are six things I do that may help, so read on!

Creative Brainstorming

One of the easiest ways I have found to generate ideas especially when I am stuck is through idea linking and wordplay. It is basically creating a visual diagram, (idea map) of connected ideas through a hierarchy of those connections (mind mapping). I use this method to brainstorm and to get organized. I do this in one of two ways, the first is by hand using paper and pen or a tablet.

Starting with a single idea, word, or phrase, I add linked words as they come to mind while trying to make it fun and spontaneous. For example, if the first word is dog, I branch out any word or phrase that comes to mind. Dog > toy, bed, play, etc. I then do the same with each secondary word and repeat the process. TOY > squeaky, bone, rope, and so on. Below I share the process using The Creative Push as an example, going through the exercise of brainstorming ideas for this blog channel.

Another way you can do this, especially if your handwriting is terrible like mine, is by using a mind mapping application like Gitmind or Mindomo. It is the same concept as paper and pen except you are typing the ideas out and linking them around each word, theme, or goal using an app. This also allows you to share, save and print out your thoughts. Below I have outlined the many ways you can customize your own mind maps using Mindomo.

Relax, Get Outside Or Go Somewhere

Getting outside in fresh air, especially in nature is by far the best medicine for most anyone in need of a reboot to clear the mind. Sometimes in order to be creative, you need some downtime to allow your worries, work, or health issues to soften. Slowing down and relaxing can allow creative thoughts the ability to re-surface. Here’s the deal, stress is likely the main cause of a lack of the ability to generate creative ideas. 

If you have ever had to work on a deadline as a creator, just the stress of having a time limit can inhibit your creative thinking. Give yourself a peaceful break and it may offer you some solace to clear whatever block you may be experiencing. Ride your bike, take a drive in the country, go for a walk, take a bath or lay in a hammock. Do something that allows you the time to slow down and relax. If you go somewhere be sure there are no stressful triggers that might keep you from enjoying your time away. In the summer I make sure to take one day a week off doing something that allows my mind and body to relax, usually, it is on the water, out in nature, or in my backyard.

Many people swear that yoga helps, so choose what works best for you. The point is to get away from all of the noise and allow the mind to relax and wander. The fresh air, the smell of flowers, the sound of birds, water, or even the wind rustling through the trees can offer something peaceful to ponder. Take a drive outside of the city or sit by a campfire with friends. Relaxation also includes getting good sleep, a proven need for all of us to be more mentally productive.

Explore Something New

Changing your mindset and learning or exploring something new is a great way to get creative ideas flowing. The process of trying something new often refreshes our thoughts in a way that inspires ideas that may have been blocked. Our minds enjoy learning and thinking about what inspires us. Take time to research new techniques and look at the work of other artists that you admire. I personally believe when we shut down and can not think clearly, it is a subconscious coping mechanism our body uses to try and keep us calm and safe. Learning something new can spark all kinds of thoughts and allow your mind to open up to new creative ideas!

Move Your Body

Working out, doing yard work, or taking a walk can help when there is a need to release some energy and rejuvenate blood flow. Anger, frustration, and stress cause us to tense up both physically and mentally. Exercising and moving our bodies can release that pent-up energy allowing us to feel refreshed.

A study at the Journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience shows that participants that exercised regurlary seemed to do better on creatiivity tests than those who didn’t. It suggest that “More exercise may enhance convergent thinking, at least in individuals with a higher degree of physical fitness. It would also be important to include other physiological measures such as volumes of oxygen to further investigate the neural mechanism by which exercise may affect creativity.”

Find your own way to release some pent-up energy from the stress of life and you may find your thinking pattern changes. That alone might be the key to getting your creative juices flowing!

Eat Healthier Foods

Diet is something we are constantly reminded of everywhere we go. Because we have different beliefs around food, choosing a diet that fits you personally requires some exploring. Eating healthy requires our own experimentation based on how we actually feel internally. The stress from trying to be vegan when you enjoy meat could mentally counterbalance any benefit of not eating meat. It is well documented that there are mental benefits to eating vegan, vegetarian, organic, low sugar, and low carb. I base my diet on being mindful of the food I put into my body and the relationship of how it makes me feel later. While I enjoy splurging from time to time, I don’t feel as good when I include too much sugar or carbs over a balance of fresh veggies and lean meats. I also find I have more anxiety and inflammation which creates stress. Choosing a healthy diet can make you feel better internally, balance fatigue, and offer the ability to think clearer.

Laugh And Do Something Fun

My final goto for revitalizing clear thinking when I am stuck as an artist is to laugh and have fun. Laughing is a great way to relax the body and clear your mind from stress.  When I experience laughter doing things I enjoy I feel as if I am bulletproof. The endorphins of having fun and laughing simply make the body feel good. Having fun and laughing is a great way to reboot and let go of stress offering some space for revised creative thinking.

Being stuck creatively is frustrating but these are things are where I start whenever I am experiencing a block. Most of the time the issue goes away by being patient and being kind to my body. I hope these things help offer something new that you can use the next time you are struggling. 

Tell me what you do to overcome blocks in creativity when you get stuck, I would love to hear from you! Thank you so much for reading. Be sure to sign up and join this creative tribe! 

More is on the way!!

Do you have something you are struggling with creatively? Are you looking for tips on something specific regarding art and creativity? Reach out via email or social media, I may be able to help and I’m always looking for new connections.

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Photographer, artist, writer and educator, Sheri Oneal views life as a blank canvas, a story waiting to be told. Her desire is to help others find motivation and purpose through creativity.

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