Hitting a brick wall
The ability to transcend traditional rules, relationships, patterns or the like, to create meaningful new ideas can be wonderfully fulfilling, but creativity can be an elusive thing. If you’ve ever found yourself in a creative cul-de-sac you’ll know it’s not a comfortable place to be. Creative blocks come in all shapes and sizes; not being able to pick up your instrument, or write the first word on a blank sheet of paper, or just the feeling that you’re stuck in a rut because of a lack of imagination.
The good news is that there are things you can do to improve your creativity. Studies show us that the brain is actually “plastic”, which simply means that it’s continually shaped and molded by experience. The brain can create new neural connections and learn different ways of thinking, so you can improve its ability to think creatively by simply providing the proper stimulation, environment and habits. Here are a few things that you can do to feed your creativity:
- Take control of your inner critic
- Get in the flow
- Build supportive & positive routines
Do you remember when you were a kid, left to your own devices for a whole afternoon or even a whole day with not much to do? Maybe you were a bit bored, so you started playing with some toys – you got really into it and began inventing new stories and games – the time just whizzed by. Creativity is all about playfulness, so have some fun and don’t dismiss anything during the creative phase. How many solutions have come about from jokes and ‘silly suggestions’?
Tip 1: When you’re looking for solutions to a challenge or brainstorming ideas as a team be playful, always make sure at least 3 or 4 of the suggestions you come up with are a bit off-the-wall.
Take control of your inner critic
The fear of criticism, the anxiety to get it right or having a fixed idea of what the outcome should look like, leads us to function from the ‘fight or flight’ part of the brain. That ‘survival’ mode is the opposite of creativity. Anxiety and fear are signals from the part of our brain that deals with threats and dangers. But it’s not the intelligent part, it is black and white thinking, all-or-nothing and responds in the same old ways. Reducing general stress and anxiety by not having a fixed expectation allows us to be present in the more flexible, creative part of our mind, the part that knows how to learn new things and come up with different ideas.
Tip 2: Reduce anxiety and negative emotions. No expectation = no fear. No particular goal = free creativity.
Get in the flow
When we feel free from the pressure of expectations and guaranteed outcomes, we are more likely to be able to ‘enter the flow’. Flow is effectively a trance-like state where distractions disappear, anxiety is put on hold and the artist is absorbed in the art, the musician in the music, the horse and the rider are one. Creativity and flow are very closely linked, they are the times when all external influences can be ignored and there is only the enjoyment of the task itself. It’s a quality of awareness that is nourishing and feels good – being takes over from thinking.
Tip 3: Plan ‘creative havens’ in your week; moments where you will not be distracted by normal, daily tasks. Try to get away from your desk, allow yourself the luxury to hangout in places that stimulate your creativity – some people like writing in cafes, others go for walks. Where and when did you last get in the flow?
Build supportive, positive routines
Then of course there is the art of showing-up, regularly. Great masterpieces were not created overnight; the pianist practices her scales every day before her genius performance, and Monet painted hundreds of water lilies before settling on the ones that many of us know so well. Routines can be very supportive to creativity because your brain will know what’s expected at those particular times and will therefore get into gear more easily.
Tip 4: Having healthy routines such as planned exercise, mindfulness, fun-time and good sleep rituals are all beneficial to our creativity and general well-being.
By Stephanie Betschart – clinical hypnotherapist, solution-focused coach, resilience practitioner and QiGong teacher. Working with creative people using solution-focused hypnotherapy to reduce anxiety and emotional blocks around their work, enhance the natural creative abilities of the mind and set-up supportive conditions to their process.