Getting Dirty to Get Unstuck…and Other Useful Tips
How to move past that plateau and get back on track.
I love to write.
Actually, I love to express myself. Which can come in handy when I’m trying to write but feel stuck.
When I hit a wall, creatively-speaking, my favorite way to get unstuck is to walk away from the computer and get dirty.
No, really. I’m talking paint-splattered jeans, sawdust in my ponytail, soil under my fingernails.
The good stuff.
There’s something oddly satisfying — and freeing — to me about working on a home improvement project. I get giddy with anticipation. I scour Pinterest and pin thousands of images. (If you don’t believe me, check out my boards here.)
Ironically, I was working on this very post when a case of writer’s block struck. But instead of running off to change a light fixture or install more shiplap, I decided to reach out to you, my super awesome network, for advice and strategies to complement my own. (And let me tell you, you guys delivered!)
So when you’re feeling stuck, or have hit a plateau, here are a few ways to help you get back on track:
Music: Turn it up or Change it up
One of the most popular ways to get out of creative drought is through music. Science suggests that certain types of music may even trigger the creative centers of our brain, promoting innovation. But when having Beethoven on in the background isn’t doing the trick, many find that switching it up, genre-wise, helps them stay motivated.
Just. Keep. Writing. (Or doing whatever you’re doing.)
Sometimes you just need to power through a block. Even if you feel like your writing (or project, or presentation, or whatever you’re working on) is stiff and clunky, keep going until something takes shape. You could even switch back and forth between subject matter. The important thing is just to keep moving. You might surprise yourself with a gem you wouldn’t have created if you had given up.
Be aware what helps you get into the zone
We all know when we’ve hit a plateau, but how many of us know what we need to do to get us back in the zone? The next time you are jamming something out, pause and ask yourself what you were doing before that streak started. Make a practice of noting these triggers and soon patterns will emerge. You can then use these themes to createw a space where your words and ideas will flow.
Reach out to others
Feeling stuck? The first step is acknowledging it. The next is to reach out for help. Like many of you, I find my network to be extremely engaged and selfless in offering suggestions and assistance. (Case in point: the 30+ comments received regarding this post!)
A trusted friend or mentor can also offer words of encouragement in a supportive and non-judgemental voice. Chances are, they’ve been there before and help you find your way out
And when all else fails, check in with your creative friends who will give you a gentle, but much-needed, kick in the pants.
Try a change of venue and activity
Raise your hand if you’ve ever found yourself staring at your computer screen, waiting for inspiration to strike. Ugh. It’s the worst, right? In those instances, one of the best things you can do is to get up and walk away. Clean out your junk drawer. Play a video game. Take out the garbage. Whatever you do, aim for something completely unrelated to the task at hand.
You can also try a change of venue. Usually work in your home office? Try hitting your local coffee shop or moving outside.
The change of venue and activity will allow your gray matter to rest, so you’ll be recharged and ready to tackle your project.
Sleep on it
If you’re like me, you have an active imagination, and a brain works overtime, even when it’s supposed to be resting. More than once, when I’ve made the conscious decision to let go and allow my subconscious mind to take over, I’ll find inspiration strikes. This is also why I keep a journal and pen on my bedside table, so I’ll be able to jot down dreams and ideas when they occur.
Get your sweat on
Along the same lines as sleep, having your brain switch from mental to physical mode can refill its creative juices. I can attest the brain-clearing power of a volleyball game or an intense run. When you’re busy sweating, you’re not thinking about that undone article. If you’re stuck, try doing something active: practice yoga, take your dog for a walk or hit the gym.
Connect with nature
Hoping for a less intense solution? Try taking a walk in nature where the only reason you have your phone is to use its camera function. By literally focusing your attention on the beauty of your surroundings — and capturing it in photographs — you’ll allow yourself to relax and make room for creativity to again flow.
Help others and practice gratitude
One of the best ways to deal with feeling stuck is getting out of your head and helping someone else. Proactively offer assistance to those struggling. Put yourself in their shoes. It’s amazing the shift that occurs when you move from a selfish position to one of service. When you help someone solve a problem, you feel better which changes your mindset and paves the way for more good.
Another way to do this is to practice gratitude. Write a thank you letter to someone who’s had an impact on your life. Make a list of things for which you are grateful. I’ve found that this is a virtuous cycle for positivity and good, and a win-win to help get me back on track.
If all else fails, have a glass (or two) of wine…
Though I haven’t tried this tip yet, many of you attest to the inspirational powers of vino.
…or get naked.
Probably the most unusual suggestion received to get unstuck was to undress (in a safe environment). Something about stripping down to the bare essentials (sorry, I couldn’t resist) allows you to make way for new thinking.
Finally, hit the showers. No, really.
Want to be more like Einstein? The next time you’ve hit a roadblock, take a shower. Science tells us there is a direct connection to creativity and showering. A whopping 72% of us get our best ideas in the shower. A study conducted by Scott Barry Kaufman — a cognitive scientist and co-author of Wired to Create — speaks to the importance of relaxation for creative thinking:
“The relaxing, solitary, and non-judgmental shower environment may afford creative thinking by allowing the mind to wander freely, and causing people to be more open to their inner stream of consciousness and daydreams,” Kaufman said.
And with that, I think I’ve stumbled upon the perfect formula for getting my creative mojo back:
- Get “dirty.”
- Take a shower.
Want to get unstuck? Feel free to rinse and repeat.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
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