How to brush aside the creative block

The creative block... Humph!

No matter what you do or what your title says everyone experiences creative block. So how do you work around it?

A large body of evidence suggests that too much focus and direct attention on a problem narrows creativity and stifles your ability to produce ideas. To unlock your block you must distract the conscious mind and unleash the subconscious mind to make new connections.

Salvidor Dali was a believer in this technique. He knew that when he was entirely relaxed he had his most creative ideas. Dali would doze off to sleep while holding a spoon above water. At the moment he drifted off, the sound of the spoon dropping would wake him up and he would paint whatever he was envisaging at that time.

Ap Dijksterhuis and Teun Meurs from the University of Amsterdam have studied the link between the unconscious mind and creativity. In a particular experiment they studied whether people might become more creative when their conscious minds were distracted. Volunteers were asked to create new names for pasta. The control group were presented with already known pasta names which end in ‘i’ before starting their three minute brainstorm.

A second group was given the same task; but were asked to complete a mini task before starting the brainstorming. They were first asked to track a dot around a computer screen and click the space bar every time the dot changed colour. They followed the dot for three minutes before listing new names.

The control group gave pasta names that predominantly ended in “I" suggesting that they were following the precedent they were set without utilising their capacity for creative thinking. The second group however increased the variety of ending letters and also doubled the number of names for pasta versus the control group.

The participants of group number two were utilising their subconscious while following the dot, allowing themselves to think creatively and create and new neural connections.

Professor Richard Wiseman in his book “Did You Spot the Gorilla“ Outlines three principles to simulate this effect and unleash your creative subconscious next time you encounter creative block.

PRIMING: Work feverishly on the problem at hand then immerse yourself in a new experience. Eat something new, go to a new neighbourhood, anything to create new experiences and pathways!

PERSPECTIVE: Image how someone else; a child, a friend or an idiot would approach the problem. How would they tackle the challenge? Or think of smilies which describe the problem. For example “Growing my business IS LIKE a street performer attracting a crowd”. How is that situation solved and how can that solution be applied to my issue?

PLAY: Become too serious and the brain becomes constrained. Do something fun… like one or two beers perhaps!

At Channelzero we’re big fans of overcoming creative block by engaging the ‘two-beer idea’ strategy.


Image Credit: Daniel J. Simmons. 1999

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