How to Dig Yourself Out of a Dip in Creativity

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It’s only temporary.

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“If you’re alive, you’re a creative person,” best selling author Elizabeth Gilbert helpfully wrote in her book Big Magic. “We have the senses for it; we have the curiosity for it; we have the opposable thumbs for it; we have the rhythm for it; we have the language and the excitement and the innate connection to divinity for it.”

Thing is, we might feel the furthest from it at approximately 3.12pm when all our energy is drained from a lunchtime meeting and a morning spent preparing for it. If your life admin to-do list is putting quite the dampener on your creative spirit, you can jump-start your creative process again. Here are a few of our favourite ways to do so:

Change your space and surroundings

In the 17th century, when people starting switching bars for coffeehouses, the accompanying innovation in society wasn’t just due to the increase of caffeine (but it sure does help), theorises author and theorist Steven Johnson, it was also due to the architecture of space and how that helped ideas bloom and grow.

If you don’t find your work cubicle or your kitchen table particularly inspiring, don’t waste any time there. Take a jaunt into a different space to see how it changes your thinking. The ambient noise of a café, for example, can increase creativity for a large portion of people according to several studies, so why not head down to your local for a few hours?

Imagine an alternate reality

Most of the ideas that change the world are concepts we never imagined would become realities, which is why taking time to imagine almost impossible scenarios is the key to creativity. With any scenario, you should always consider the ‘what if?’ factor. Don’t be afraid to take it to the ridiculous, or where you’d never expect to end up. If you allow your mind to take you to the furthest reaches of possibility, you might discover something new waiting somewhere in the middle.

Put yourself under pressure

If you work better under pressure (like the majority of people), why not recreate those conditions? Time yourself for two minutes and force yourself to come up with as many alternatives to a problem in front you. Being under pressure allows ideas to flow without too much self-criticism, which is a common killer of creativity. If you’ve got an iPad, Paper Essential is a pretty awesome tool for writing, drawing and collecting your quick free ideas – it won Apple’s App of the Year award last year.

Share your intellectual property

Often, ideas are like puzzle pieces, one of which only someone else may have.

“If you’re in the right environment, they turn into something larger than the sum of their parts,” Steven explains to the audience during his TED Talk, ‘Where Do Good Ideas Come From?’. “We often talk about the value of protecting intellectual property, you know, building barricades, having secretive R&D labs, patenting everything that we have… But I think there’s a case to be made that we should spend at least as much time, if not more, valuing the premise of connecting ideas and not just protecting them.”

Connect with a friend or colleague and take your idea to them – who knows what they could add to the discussion?

Look at others

We’re not advocating you steal a car (or someone else’s idea for that matter), but let’s face up to this fact: there’s no such thing as an original idea. Innovation is more about reinventing the wheel than coming up with a new alternative altogether. I mean, if scientists can have a lightbulb moment over lunch about turning a spinach leaf into beating heart tissue, your possibilities are truly endless. Here are some other geniuses who have borrowed from a different field.

Top up the tank with quality fuel

It’s no secret that our brains don’t function properly when we’re running on empty. Irregular blood sugar levels (like spikes or drops, according to what you’re eating that day), actually have negative effects on the brain and your productivity levels, says this study. Avoid the temptation to reach for a sugary snacks – while they pep you up in the short term, they’re not doing your body or brain any long term good. Instead go for something with less sugar and more protein: apple slices with peanut butter, tuna and crackers or a handful of carrot sticks eaten with a Chobani Mezé Dip are all solid, high protein snack choices. Sometimes a little energy boost is all you need to kick start your imagination.

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