Anyone who has done anything creative for an extended period of time will eventually experience some form of dry spell or innovation lapse.
It simply comes with the territory.
As a writer, I'm very familiar with creative droughts. I stared at the blank screen this morning for an inordinately long time as my mind was blank trying to come up with my first Entrepreneur article for the new year.
Thankfully, I was a news reporter years ago with multiple deadlines throughout the day and had to deal with writer’s block regularly. I got kind of used to it.
You might think it would have been easy to write about news makers and “the news of the day” but that was not always the case, especially when I was assigned a low interest, low visual, low emotional story about something like a county drainage proposal, rezoning considerations or tax easement issue. Ugh!
I don’t care if you write like Hemingway and Edward R. Murrow combined, such assignments challenge even the best writers. I soon discovered it was easier to write about what I cared about. The best strategy for me was to come to the daily editorial meetings with my own story ideas to pitch to my editors and hope management would let me cover at least one of those ideas that day.
However, that was easier said than done. Coming up with two or three different and interesting story ideas each day is a challenging creative exercise. What I did, and continue to do today, to break through the creative block workers for any creative process.
1. Consider publications, ideas and opinions with which you philosophically disagree.
The intent here would be to get a spark or kernel of a concept that might be flipped on its head into an interesting angle for a story or new product idea. For example, perhaps a health teacher was passing out condoms to elementary-age students because she believed preteen kids were "going to have sex anyway.”
Maybe that's true, maybe it's not---as a father of two young daughters, I sure hope not. Regardless, that health teacher's actions might be juxtaposed with the idea that perhaps a driver’s education teacher should pass out radar detectors since “students are going to speed anyway.”
To me, that’s an interesting discussion to engage and story to follow.
2. Stream-of-conscious writing.
While it sounds weird, this can be a very effective breakthrough tactic. When I don’t know what to write or where to begin I’ll just start writing the first things that come to mind.
I’ll continue doing that, going down whatever rabbit trail may appear. You’ll be surprised how quickly you may unintentionally coin a clever turn of phrase or make a mistake that connects to an idea that had been kicking around in your cranial database for some time spurring the breakthrough you need.
Give it a try.
3. Take a break.
Get up, stretch, do some Qigong, take a quick walk –- do something. In much the same way that a computer seizes up and needs a reboot, my creative CPU acts the same way sometimes. Often a quick change of scenery or light physical activity provides a useful reset to the creative system.
4. Start a unique hobby or interest.
This is more of a preemptive tactic that helps keep the mental channel full of potential ideas. For instance, a few years ago my daughters and I started taking karate classes together. We’ve now shared a variety of experiences, laughs, insights and lessons that I would not have known absent those classes. I did the same thing with marathons, launching a profitable online business, teaching communication courses, inventing a product, creating animated movie shorts, public speaking as well as writing ebooks.
Each experience has helped fill my writing repository to draw from, while driving innovation and efficiencies in other areas of my life as well.
5. Be present and mindful when you engage people
Beyond writing, it's very difficult to brainstorm by yourself but I have found people are the single best source of content and ideas.
Everyday, whether I’m at work, the gym, the grocery store or church, I make an effort to engage somebody and find out something interesting about them, what they're doing and what motivates them. Innovation and creativity tend to thrive in the presence of community, and engagement is the key to community.
Each of these tips can be applied to drive creative breakthrough in any area. However, "busting the block" requires intentionality, perseverance and effort, but that is nothing new for entrepreneurs in the new year.