Creativity Without Borders

Innovation from East and West

In a Creative Slump? Here Are Five Ways to Help You

What can you do to overcome creative walls?

Writers face it. Business people face it.  Even coaches, zookeepers, chefs and real estate agents.

We’ve all been there. You need to finish a project (or start one!), you need to solve a problem (or find the real one), and you need fresh ideas.  But, darn it, you’re stumped. 

NOTHING seems to be coming to you. You panic. Will you ever come up with something new again?

As uncomfortable or even frightening a creativity block can be, it’s normal.  It feels like a wall smack dab in front of you. But there are ways to deal with it and you’ve probably used some without even realizing it. 

Push through the wall: Some people just keep on working, pushing, trying a different solution, rethinking and retrying. It works for some, but not for all. Sometimes you need to really break out.

1987, Ronald Reagan, Berlin Wall, from blog.heritage.org

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Tear down the wall: In 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood in front of the Berlin Wall and made a famous demand to Russian President Gorbachev: Tear down this wall! In November 1989, that wall did indeed come down. 

Can you find a way remove the wall or obstacle that you face? It could be a negative person (as in “if you fail, it’s on you; if you don’t, I’m happy to take the credit”), or a limitation (“no resources for that tom foolery”) or an attitude (“we don’t do it that way”). Figure out a way to get rid of the wall.  It may mean enlisting help from those who know how to do it, finding resources from unlikely places, or even leaving the environment for a new one. 

Go around the wall: To paraphrase a pretty good problem solver, Albert Einstein, “you can’t solve problems with the same thinking you used to get into them.”  Said another way, “don’t keep doing what you’re doing if you get the same wrong solution.”  Find a way to change patterns and tactics to get around the obstacle.  

 

Wile E. Coyote, from feministe.org
Paint the wall: Remember the old Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons?  Just when the Roadrunner was about to be history, he stopped in front of a wall, painted a door in it, and then ran through it, completely changing the game. Think about your creative block that way—how could you just turn it upside down, think of a disadvantage as an advantage, and go right through it.

Ignore the wall: Sometimes, you can change it, you can’t go around it, you can’t tear it down, but you can just ignore your wall. Some might say this is similar to going around the wall but in that case, you have to acknowledge there IS a wall. If you just ignore anything that might thwart you doing what you want to do, you just get it done without even recognizing the block.

So find your best approach, or try all five when you just can’t make a move. Many people tell me that once they face those walls head on, they can get beyond their creativity blocks and make real progress.   

Creativity Walls! You are on notice! 

Nancy K. Napier, Ph.D., is Professor of Strategy and International Business at Boise State University.

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