Whether you’re a business owner, an agent, or a creative professional, being creatively stumped is a bad place to find yourself. It can make any problem feel like an immovable brick wall and stall our productivity with any given project. The good news is there are ways around creative problems like this (specifically seven ways in handy numerical order). If you’re still attempting to get those creative juices flowing after reading our article on how to be more visually creative, or you need an extra brain-boost before developing some explainer video ideas, read on!
1) Talk to a rubber duckie
Stay with me for a second. If you’re the main decision-maker or creative force for this project, one of the best things you can do to get out of your own head for a while is run your ideas through different people. But sometimes we’re pressed for time, unable to resolve schedules with listening ears or, heck, just don’t have many friends willing to listen to be an explainer video sounding board.
That’s where Rubber Duck Debugging comes in. In computer programming this refers to a method of debugging code whereby the programmer must explain their code out loud, line by line, to a rubber duck. In the process of explaining the problem the programmer will find themselves evaluating the solution from the perspective of teacher rather than developer, often coming across the solution while explaining. Your ‘rubber duckie’ can be any inanimate object, as long as you’re talking through your creative roadblocks out loud (though the ever-smiling, non-judging face of a rubber duckie is certainly an understandable choice).
2) Do some doodling
Regardless of whether or not you’re the one sketching up your final explainer video ideas, drawing is a surprisingly useful practice to bring into your creative regime. For one, drawing is thought to function well as a warm-up for writing, especially amongst children and second-language learners (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09500782.2012.704047#.UzeeNRaNtUQ). Writing improves when we draw first because the drawing acts as a type of ‘first draft’ in expressing the semiotics we want, meaning our ‘second draft’ of writing is more sophisticated in syntax and vocabulary without the warbling thoughts of the first one. Drawing has the added benefit of memory retention when it comes to studying, meaning your brainstormed ideas can be more firmly retained by sketching them than if you were purely taking notes or passively looking at images.
3) Go for a run
If your creative productivity is feeling temporarily thwarted due to the dreaded brain fog – mental fatigue that causes us to space out, forget words, or lose concentration – then going for a brisk jog could be the trick to get your brain back on track. Aerobic exercise is proven to increase the size of our hippocampus (the memory and learning bit of the brain), along with improving sleep and lowering stress, all of which are integral elements of good creative function.
Short on time? Check out a short-form workout app like 7 Minute Workout (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.popularapp.sevenmins&hl=en_CA). While it won’t do the work of a full cardio exercise it’s better than nothing, and may be all you need to get that brain blood pumping on a rainy day.
4) Eat and drink something good
Alongside physical activity, the other health aspect that has a huge impact on our creative energy is our diet. Simple carbohydrates (such as white bread, cookies, chips, and foods high in added sugars like lollies and sugary cereals) are considered a poor fuel source because they create extreme spikes and subsequent crashes in energy. I’ll be the first to admit I used to think of sugar spikes as a good thing – throwing off the cautions of internet nutritionists and assuming that, surely, having a huge surge of energy all at once was akin to some kind of superpower drug. But I came to realise (eventually…) that the creative work I produced under such a poor sugar-heavy diet was wildly inconsistent, and the sugar crashes that came after always led to hours-long periods of brain fog and difficulty in focussing on brain-heavy tasks such as creative brainstorming.
Complex carbohydrates on the other hand (such as whole wheat breads and pastas, a wide range of veggies, brown rice, and legumes) provide a much more steady energy source as they take longer to break down in the body, releasing reasonable amounts of fuel over a longer period of time. Alongside our carb choices, it’s important we eat enough lean proteins to gain the macronutrients we need for our brain’s neurotransmitters, and enough healthy fats to aid energy levels and support our cell and organ health.
5) Change up your work location
If you’re finding yourself stuck in a rut when it comes to creative ideas, it’s possible your regular workspace has become repetitive to the point of confining. Wherever you usually do your work, pack your laptop/notepads and head somewhere different – a work-friendly coffee shop you’ve never been to, a local co-working space, or a park bench if the weather is looking good. New surroundings can help our brains make new connections and prevent us from getting too comfortable. Being out of your own living space has the added benefit of forcing us to look presentable, which can help with productivity and problem-solving (https://www.themuse.com/advice/a-silly-little-change-that-can-make-you-more-productive).
On a grander scale, a long-term solution to creative block if you can afford it is to get out of your comfort zone entirely and travel to somewhere you’ve never been. Get fresh perspectives on other cultures, viewpoints, and ways of doing things. Gain an understanding of which values stand true across language and land barriers, and which fads lose all importance past the customs gate.
7) Practice being mindful
When we’re pressed with a creative deadline often the last thing we think would be useful is sitting still doing nothing but breathing. On the contrary, mindfulness meditation and other mindfulness practices are shown to be highly effective in cultivating focus and lessening our stress levels. The increased focus we get from learning to be present and grounded in these practices allows us to produce higher-quality creative drafts efficiently because we are more easily able to filter out unhelpful distractions while feeling mentally comfortable enough to come up with a wider, more unique range of ideas (https://hbr.org/2017/08/can-10-minutes-of-meditation-make-you-more-creative).
Written by Maree Railton.