Call it what you like: writer’s block, mental block or artistic rut. When the creative juices have clogged, it can seem like they will never flow again.
PR pros and marketers know the horrors of creative slumps, of struggling to meet deadlines in a world where maintaining an innovative and imaginative edge has never been more vital. The demand for effective and creative visual marketing is at an all-time high, and we’ve seen some pretty inspirational video campaigns from some well known brands over the last year or so.
What do you do when the ideas stop flowing and inspiration seems nowhere to be found?
The good news is that the brain, like the rest of the body, can be re-energized, even when you’re suffering the worst of writer’s blocks. There is no need to hit your head against the wall because your mind feels like a limp rubber band. Employing just a few of the following proven techniques can rekindle your artistic spark and help get you back into your creative groove.
Bounce ideas around. Ever notice how many brilliant, albeit strange, ideas arise when you are joking around with friends? Gather some friends or colleagues and rub your heads together for a great brainstorming session. You can even throw around a soft ball or cushion. Whoever catches it has to say the first idea that occurs to them, no matter how absurd.
Change your environment. If you stare at the same boring walls all day, it won’t take long for your mind to seize up. Try working from a coffee shop, or (if leaving the workplace isn’t practical) rearrange your office. Visit another department in the company and see how it operates. Shake things up a bit and see what falls out.
Look for ideas in unlikely places. Inspiration often arises from the least likely sources. This could mean reading the gossip column, going people watching or even viewing an exhibit at the museum. Creativity, after all, is two unrelated concepts coming together in a new way. Google did a terrific job of this when it used homemade videos to market the “Chromebook: For Everyone” campaign.
Take a break. Take some time to breathe a little. Work on a different project, go see a movie or take a walk. Like any muscle in the body, sometimes the brain just needs a moment to relax. You wouldn’t expect your legs to lug you through a marathon without several breaks (not unless you are an extreme athlete). A recent study found that 52 minutes was the perfect amount of time to work before taking a break. Though this might not be entirely practical for everyone (most notably, your manager) you should nonetheless learn to recognize when your brain is feeling fatigued and take five.
Exercise. This is rarely a favorite, but it really works. A plethora of research studies have shown that exercise elevates cognitive creativity and productivity. Whether it is running, swimming, biking, or simply walking, activity will provide you added physical confidence, increase your endurance, boost your brain’s chemical levels and make you smarter.
Find out what’s trending. It could take a little research (or a whopping 60 seconds on Google) to figure out what words and topics are popular in your neck of the woods. Then you can put your own unique spin on those keywords and use them to focus your ideas. If you need help with the research, there are plenty of online tools that analyze the Web for you and find the key words and phrases that are trending in your field.
Have fun with it. This may be the most important one on the list. Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” You will be a lot more productive with a smile on your face than with a frown. Try incorporating games and props to your creative process. Stress will shut you down. Let go of it, relax, and you will be surprised at the inspired results.
You may find that your mind responds quickly to one of these techniques, but chances are you will need to alternate between several of them. Remember that creativity and the mind both thrive on variation.
John Lanyon is Creative Director at Hurricane Media, a video production and content marketing agency based in Bristol, Englad. John directed the short documentary “Who’s Lenny,” which won Best Short Film at the Royal Television Society Awards in 2012. You can follow Hurricane on Google+, Twitter or Facebook or check the firm out on YouTube.