But, as with every rule, there are exceptions.
Once in awhile, a person might embrace the creative habit and get no results. Some people have more rapid energy rhythms than other people, meaning that their cycles of work and rest turn over rapidly. Other people have such unhealthy lifestyles that they need to make fundamental changes in order to unclog the dream machine to get it humming. Building an effective lifestyle is one of the themes of this blog, but fundamental changes are the stuff of different posts.
Today, we are going to explore some exercises to give your creative routine a kickstart if you encounter problems.
- Set a Deadline. Some people perform their best when they sense pressure. Setting a deadline subconsciously adds pressure. Added pressure motivates some people to perform at a higher level.
- Exercise. If you’re guilty of having an unhealthy lifestyle, adding 20 minutes of exercise before you begin your routine will make a huge difference, getting your blood pumping and raising your energy. If you’re healthy, but feeling blocked or frustrated, stop and do 100 jumping jacks or take a walk. It’ll lower your cortisol levels and increase oxygen flow to the brain. You might find yourself developing a creative “second wind”.
- Change Expectations. Sometimes, when we have a “hot streak”, it can feel discouraging when we have an “off” day. An ordinary “okay” day can feel gruesome after floating on clouds for a week or two. When you notice this happening, remind yourself that your goal is “an inch a day.” Don’t worry about knocking it out of the park in every at bat. Make contact.
- Micro-Goals. When you have a tight deadline and hit a cold spot, the enormity of the project can feel overwhelming. When this happens, take five minutes to break down what you have to do into smaller pieces. Each step should feel manageable. When you start again, knock things off your list in order. After knocking out a few micro-goals, you’ll feel the accomplishment and it will translate into momentum.
- Cat Naps. Some people have rapid activity rhythms where they are energized and stagnant in rapid succession. Learn to recognize your “down” periods and make the most of them with a little 10-15 minute nap. When you awake, energize yourself with a little exercise and keep going. Naps can also be useful for smoothing out the frustrating patches if you have long stretches with a hard deadline.
- Manage Your Time and Energy. Just because you are flying high in the creative realms doesn’t mean you should waste time. Be efficient and eliminate time-killers from your schedule. If you are slowing down, stop or take a break to manage your energy. 10 strong minutes are better than 20 weak minutes. Most 10 hour work days can be accomplished in 5 hours or less with proper time and energy management.
- Lubricate the Wheels. I would never recommend substance abuse, dodging responsibility, or endangering your health or sobriety. That said, if you have no problems with substance abuse, impulsiveness, or addiction, it can be helpful to lubricate the wheels if you are truly stuck and have a hard deadline approaching. The key here is self-control. A glass of red wine, a small sniff of sherry, or a puff or two of cannabis (ideal, but only if it is legal where you live), can un-stick goopy mind machinery. You don’t want to get inebriated; just a tiny release of the inhibition that being stuck during a deadline can wreak on your subconscious.
- Breath of Fire. In Yogic practice, Breath of Fire is a very useful Pranayama practice for creative people. It has a remarkably refreshing effect on the mind. I don’t want to risk teaching you incorrectly, so I would recommend googling “breath of fire”. But the basic idea is to concentrate on your abdomen and rapidly push the diaphragm in and out and allow your breath to come in and out through your nose. A good way to start is to let your tongue hang out and pant like a dog (while doing the diaphragm thing) and eventually graduate to the nose. The point is to relax and refresh, not to hyperventilate. Exercise caution and enjoy.
- Word Association. One last tip when experiencing creative frustration is to play word association. Pick an object near you and say the word out loud. Say the next word you think of. And then say another word based on that word. And so on, until it starts to feel silly. If you’re laughing, you’re doing it right. After a few minutes, resume your creative activity. In most cases, you’ll find a sort of mental looseness afterward and creating will seem to flow easier.
There are probably more tips and tricks to help you get un-stuck, but I’m not trying to write a book here. If you have a few tips of your own, let me know in the comments below!
This 2-part post on the myth of creative block has really got me thinking about the fundamental lifestyle choices that can help us build a stronger foundation upon which to build our the castles we dream up. Soon, we’ll dive into some serious fundamentals that might help you build a more exhilarating creative life.