Feel stuck in a rut or just plain tired of doing the same things you’ve done in the past? Are you in need of a new idea, a different approach, or an innovative take on a long-standing problem? Maybe you want to write a newsletter, a blog, or an article for publication. Possibly, you are pondering a new strategy for teaching a skill or introducing new content. Or maybe it is a behavior challenge that you want to solve, rather than just punish. Or it might be that you have an urge to create something larger, more significant, and life changing.
Regardless, the truth is that we do not always feel creative, or at least as creative as we would like to be. We may be facing a block that’s getting in the way of our writing. We may struggle to think of options and opportunities outside of our lived experiences. Or we may just have a vague feeling that we are on the verge of creating something unique and useful, but it remains just beyond our reach.
Our challenge, then, is to engage our brain and stimulate our “creative juices” to move our thinking forward in a productive direction. The good news is that there are several research-based and experience-proven strategies we can employ to help “unstick” our thinking and, as a result, free us to create. Here are six actions to consider and try.
- Take a walk. It does not have to be a long walk. In truth, it does not necessarily have to even be a walk at all; the key is to engage in moderate exercise that allows us to think, reflect, and imagine. Activating our muscles, appreciating nature, and observing what is beautiful and interesting around us can help us to get into a creative flow.
- Step back and relax. Anxiety and pressure are the enemies of creativity. Pressing to find an answer may lead to an acceptable outcome, but it is likely to be less than we really want to create. In fact, when we press too hard, we are more likely to fall back on what we have done in the past and try to make it work than create what meets our goal.
- Just try something. Often, just by us making an attempt, even if we may be fairly certain it won’t work, we learn more about what might actually work. We can hold on to what has potential while adding, adjusting, and adapting in areas that need more work. Falling short is not failure; it is an opportunity to sort, examine, and learn.
- Think about something unrelated. Shifting our focus to something other than the problem we are trying to solve or the solution we want to create can give our brains time to process and prepare to return to our challenge. Meanwhile, we may discover a new insight, develop new a new perspective, or make a connection that leads to a breakthrough.
- Try talking it out. Verbalizing our struggle can help us to connect the dots and arrive at new insights. We may just need to organize what we know in order to see patterns and possibilities that point to our destination. We might engage a friend or colleague as a listener, or we might just find a quiet place and talk out loud about our thinking and explore options and possibilities. Talking about what we are trying to figure out can reveal that we know more than we realize and are closer to a solution than we imagine.
- Take a nap. If all else fails, sleep on it. Even though we may not be conscious as we sleep, our brain continues to work. Our subconscious mind is busy trying to find an answer to our dilemma. Free from the distractions present when we are awake, our brains can be remarkably creative. We may find that when we wake up, we are ready to tackle our challenge, and we will likely see possibilities we previously did not notice.
Of course, these same strategies can also be helpful to our students when they struggle to find a unique idea, design a project, or develop a solution to a learning or life challenge. Anyone can struggle with finding and tapping their creativity. Feel free to share with those in your life who might need a little creative boost.