A lot of the times, I get stuck, creatively. I reach for ideas that do not magically appear. I stare at blank slides or word documents, struggling for ideas. After a while of staring blankly, I realized that this was not productive so I started to study how others around me ‘inspire’ creativity. I tried it out myself and have come up with a method that has always helped me in some way that I thought I’d share with you.
The next time you are stuck, try these things:
Steal other ideas
Whenever I need inspiration for slides, graphics or structure, I like to go into a search engine and search for “subject that I’m interested in” and “infographics”. I look at what other graphic artists have done and then I see what hits me and how to depict information in a different way and then I steal it for my own purposes. I don’t blatantly just take the idea as is though, I usually put my own spin on it so that it has a unique signature to it.
Look to the past
I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the past but when I am hoping to get some inspiration, I like to look through some of the things that I have done and see if anything that I have done previously can be re-purposed into something that I can use today. Having a database of things that you have done also helps you understand what not to do.
Take a walk
Studies show that spending time outdoors helps with your stress levels – especially if you can connect with nature while outside. I find that walking and movement in general helps get the brain juices flowing and makes you more receptive to ideas from the ‘universe’.
Depending on when you work, you may just need a bit of rest to clear your mind so that you can be open to new ideas. If I’m working late into the night, fatigue will certainly play a role in my creativity. So I try to get some rest if I can and work on it first thing in the morning.
Sometimes, the best way for me to generate ideas is when I don’t think about the problem directly. If I’m trying to think of the right message and structure for some information that I want to communicate to an audience, I’ll often think about something different but related such as interesting book designs or cool magazine concepts that I have seen. I find that if I think about the problem directly, it gives me a lot of pressure and I feel like my mind rejects ideas that are not ‘good’ enough but of course, the important thing is always quantity and not quality when it comes to ideas.
Maybe related to distracting yourself or taking a walk but what I’m talking about is getting in a really hard and solid workout and not thinking about anything other than completing the next rep. It’s strange but I get some really good ideas when I am in the gym and struggling to breathe or trying to push through a repetition.
When I sit down to try to be ‘creative’, I feel distracted whenever I see that my desk is messy or that there’s dust on the floor or if the plants have not been watered. It’s like my mind is at the same time as my desk or my surroundings, cluttered and it cannot function optimally with so many outstanding tasks sitting there. Have you ever used a computer or browser for a while and felt like your computer slowed down because you had too many applications or browser windows open? Yes, it’s a little like that feeling.
Take a dump
That’s right. I said go to the washroom. James Altucher, when he feels like he cannot sit down to write, goes to the washroom and literally unblocks himself by going to the washroom. Does that seem weird? Yeah it does to me too but whether it’s a literal or a metaphorical thing, it works for me.
I guess reading won’t really work if you are trying to do creative (and not write). Or will it? When your mind is focused on solving a problem, it will actively seek out solutions from whatever you are absorbing at the moment. Maybe you are trying to figure out what career to work in. As you read any sort of book, you may consciously or unconsciously pick up things from the stories that you read or the advice that is provided.
Don’t be afraid of bad ideas
One of the biggest things that I learned from implementing James Altucher’s practice of coming up with 10 ideas every day is to not be afraid of bad ideas. Come up with a lot of bad ideas and from those bad ideas, good ideas often come up. Practice idea sex – combine different bad ideas together into good ideas. Or us those bad ideas and tweak it slowly until you come up with a better idea. For example, a very bad idea if you own a flower shop is to have Tom Cruise hand deliver all of your flowers for you. But a slightly better idea is to hire someone to hand deliver flowers for you. A slightly better idea from there is to provide a discount to those that can pick up flowers and deliver the flowers. Even though it may be the worst idea ever (and it’s surprising how much it frees you to be open to any idea when you accept that it will be a bad idea), you can tweak it so that it is a good idea.
The next time that you are stuck, try out one of these ideas or try them all out. It will get you unstuck!
What are some things that you do to get yourself unstuck? How do you get inspiration?