Ever feel like throwing your computer out the window? Yeah, me too sometimes. Even “creative people” can experience times when ideas stop flowing, aka writer’s block. It goes something like this:
It’s due tomorrow, but you have no idea what to write. It’s been hours. The blinking cursor on the blank screen mocks your stuckness, striking fear in your soul.
“Ugh! You’re not good at this,” the inner critic says.
Sound familiar? Many business owners and entrepreneurs feel stuck when faced with creative tasks like writing a blog post or a sales brochure, or coming up with a presentation for a meeting with investors or your team.
It’s as if your brain has shut down, ceased functioning. The ideas just aren’t there. Words escape you. Frustration sets in, followed by fear, anxiety and sometimes even anger.
What’s likely happening is that you’re accessing the more creative right hemisphere of their brain and, like a muscle that’s been unused for a while, it’s slow to get moving again.
Luckily, there are simple and effective ways to re-activate the right brain—kind of like stretching exercises for forgotten muscles.
Creativity is the use of imagination to generate original ideas. As Einstein said, it’s “intelligence having fun.” Creativity is essential to life and business, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not. For example, finding a new way to do anything—even in what we think of as “left brain” businesses like accounting or law—is using our right brain.
Creativity is not limited to watercolor painting or sculpture or any artistic endeavor. Rather, creativity is everywhere, in every day, in every profession. It’s a natural part of our humanity. It’s just that some people develop it and practice it more than others.
Personally, I believe that we all have creativity within us. And, I believe creativity can become a habit. All we need to do is train our brains. Well, half of our brains, anyway.
In biology class we learned that the brain has two sides or hemispheres: left and right. The left side (logical) controls analysis and reasoning, writing, language, science and math. The right side (imagistic) is home to more creative functions, imagination, intuition, music and art awareness. Amazingly, when we strengthen the weaker side, the entire brain works better and we’re more productive!
According to Professor Robert Ornstein of the University of California, when the “weaker” of the two sides “is stimulated and encouraged to work in cooperation with the stronger side, the end result is a great increase in overall ability and … often five to ten times more effectiveness.” Sound good so far?
8 Ways to Boost the Right Brain
There are a lot of ways to stimulate and strengthen the right brain (and in turn, sparking your creativity!). I chose the following eight activities because they’re simple, free or very low cost, enjoyable, accessible and repeatable. These aren’t “one and done” activities. Any of them can become a habit. Most of them you can do at home any time of day or night.
Each of these activities helps create an invitation to imagination by setting up your brain to receive creative input from who knows where. Honestly, I have no clue where creativity and ideas come from, but I do know we need to prepare for and make space for them. It’s like getting your house ready to receive guests at your party.
You can practice them daily (like staying positive or listening to music) or make them more situational, when you’re in a creative dry spell.
Here are eight ways you can jumpstart your creativity:
1. Be positive.
“Negativity is the enemy of creativity,” says surrealist filmmaker David Lynch of Twin Peaks fame. Love or hate his style, he knows a thing or two about the creative process.
Be aware of those self-defeating thoughts like, “I can’t do this,” “I hate this,” or “Why do I have to do this?” Acknowledge those thoughts and then remind yourself that you may not know in this minute how you’ll finish this project, but you are taking action to find the way.
2. Give your brain a break!
Feeling frustrated with a creative project, not knowing where to start, just sitting there banging your head and “willing” your brain to work is stressful. (And it doesn’t work.)
Sometimes you must get up, step away from the problem and relax—even if it’s just for an hour. Take a nap. Meditate. Do some yoga. Anything that lets your brain unplug.
3. Get artsy!
The right brain is incredibly visual, so it makes sense that visual stimuli will help wake it up and get it flowing again. Yes, we could go and look at art, but engaging in the creation of something visual activates multiple parts of the brain.
If pulling out loads of crafts supplies and paint brushes feels too involved, keep it simple and color in a coloring book. Experts say that the act of coloring distracts you from worries, while calming you with its rhythmic movements.
4. Listen to music.
Our brains love music! Music has the power to bring unresponsive dementia patients back to life, and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Learning to play music has scads of emotional and cognitive benefits.
Music can stimulate both sides of the brain at once, with the left brain focusing on the structure and lyrics, and the right brain focusing on the melody. So, for our purposes in stimulating right-brain creative activity, instrumental music is best. My go-to is Mozart.
5. Get out of the house or office.
If you’ve been sitting at the computer for hours or days, literally get out! Go to the park. Go for a hike. Take a walk in a garden. Go to bookstore and read magazine headlines.
No matter what you do, be present in the moment. Your creative problem is likely being solved while you’re consciously disengaged from thinking about it.
6. Do something familiar in a new way.
Doing anything familiar in a new way opens up and activates the right brain. Be curious and explore new ways of doing things. You could write for a while with your non-dominant hand. Find a new route to your office, the gym, or your child’s school instead of driving on auto-pilot. Change up your work surroundings; work out of a coffee shop or in the conference room.
What you’re doing is creating new neuropathways in the brain—literally lighting it up with new activity!
7. Have a brainstorming/collaboration session.
This idea of “two heads are better than one” is far from new; the first written account of it is in a book of English proverbs published in 1546! The Bible even makes reference to the thought in Ecclesiastes 4:9: two are better than one.
So, find another mind and brainstorm ideas for your creative project. Choose someone who believes in your work—this may not be the place for family or friends who don’t get what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. No Negative Nellies here! This isn’t to say ideas shouldn’t be debated or analyzed—to the contrary, it’s in that exploration that new ideas can emerge.
8. Do something you love to do.
Remember fun? If you’re like many entrepreneurs and business owners, your hobbies often take a backseat to the priorities of work and family. But in times of creative struggle, our hobbies are a godsend.
Distract your brain by doing something you love, that is second nature, and that is somewhat “mindless” for you. Play ball, go fishing, knit a scarf, repaint that antique table you’ve been meaning to get to … whatever it is that you absolutely love to do when work and life aren’t devouring your day.
To easily remind yourself of these eight creativity-boosting activities, be sure to download the free companion guide, The Spark! List creativity checklist.
You’ll get even more insight on each tip, the science behind each tip, as well as a fun way to make creativity a habit. Click the graphic below for instant access!
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