Top 5 Creativity “Rut Busters”

What do you do when the well runs dry?

I mean the creativity spring, the idea river, the fountain of wit…

Maybe you are one of the few lucky ones and this never happens to you (liar!).

Fortunately, this doesn’t happen too often to me…but it does happen.

And it’s often when I am physically tired or mentally pre-occupied (usually with kids, home, etc.).

I know it will pass, after all, it always does.

But even though I know it’s temporary, when it does happen, I seem to lose sight of this right away and I go right to…I WILL NEVER HAVE ANOTHER CREATIVE IDEA AS LONG AS I LIVE.

And naturally this makes me panic, and of course this panic blocks my creativity even more and so on, and so on…

So what’s a girl (of guy) to do?

Well once you climb down from the ledge, you might want to try one of these tips…none of them are ground-breaking, but maybe they are worth remembering. And of course, what I really loved to hear is your ideas.

Top 5 Creativity “Rut-Busters”

1. Give up and Walk Away

2. Watch a Mindless Movie

3. Go to Sleep (or at least take a nap)

4. Shop Til You Drop

5. Get Down on the Carpet with a Kid

1. Give Up and Walk Away

The more I try and force ideas to come. The less they appear. So often I just have to say “enough. I’m done”. I’m stopping for the day, the hour, whatever time I need. I have to really believe this, not just do it to psyche myself out. I have to also say “It’s okay, the ideas will come when they are ready, and they will come in time to meet my deadline (and be good). They always have in the past and they will this time too.” This mantra. This “giving up” is often the most productive thing I can do to move forward. I think sometimes our minds just need a break, and they tell us.

2. Watch a Mindless Movie

I like deep, meaningful, message movies (I studied them in College in fact) but when I’m creatively clogged the best thing for me is a mindless flick. Often something that will allow me to engage my emotions (laughing, crying) and specifically to turn off the more analytical part of my brain. The emotional release and the relaxation this provides often end up leaving me feeling refreshed, and often full of new ideas. Some of my favorites Parenthood with Steve Martin, Bridget Jones Diary, almost anything with Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada, Princess Diaries…definitely NOT Rachel at the Wedding), or anything guaranteed to make me cry (Brian’s Song, Terms of Endearment, etc.)

3. Go to Sleep (or at least take a Nap)

I was never one of those caffeine or “no-doze” pills studiers in college. I remember once I took some pills to help me stay up and I was so wired and jumpy the next day I couldn’t concentrate on the subject matter and did much worse than if I had just gotten a good night sleep and truly randomly  guessed at the multiple choice answers. I’d rather go to bed and wake up really really early to work on something. Funnily enough, often I will dream about the solution (always keep a pen and paper by the bed).  A power nap can often have the same effect.

4. Shop Til You Drop

On line or in the mall, there is something about shopping that always makes me feel productive, and gets me inspired. Maybe it’s seeing all the different possibilities – the colors, cuts, and styles. Maybe it’s the people watching in the stores or the random offers that are served up by Google but shopping for me is about promise and possibility. Two things that get the creative juices flowing.

5. Get Down on the Carpet with a Kid

The getting down on the ground is an important part of this. It changes your perspective and some of the most relaxed moments I have are shooting the breeze with my son. Surrounded by Pokemon cards, Lego’s, or whatever he is collecting at the moment I literally enter a different world. And when I talk through the challenge I am stuck on with him he often comes up with some really great ideas.

Those are my top 5 “rut-busters”. Chocolate would definitely make it to number 6.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

How do you bust out of your creative ruts?

7 thoughts on “Top 5 Creativity “Rut Busters”

  1. There are a lot of great improv games that you can play if you’re in a room with colleagues. Creativity loves company. But if you don’t have the luxury of partners, open a book, put your finger on a random few words, and start making sentences. They will lead you nowhere useful for your project, I guarantee, but this can free up the pure creative pathway and get you unstuck.

    But it’s better to brainstorm together. Improv games are great. Play roles. Ask for stories from colleagues’ pasts (or recent weekends) and try to come up with alternate endings… “wouldn’t it have been great it…”

    These are just about getting juices flowing. Creativity happens when you open yourself to it and take the immediate pressure off.

  2. There are a few great books —

    The Creative Companion by David Fowler (writer at Ogilvy)


    A Technique for Producing Ideas (Advertising Age Classics Library) (Paperback)~ James Young (Author)


    great post!

  3. I agree that distraction really works for me this often means ‘switching off’ for a while – taking a walk, resisting the temptation to check my phone and emails while I do and allowing a bit of day dreaming. Sometimes the best distraction is removing all the usual ‘distractions’.

  4. Great piece and something I’ve spent my creative life thinking about.

    The 5 you site are all in the same category, “distract the mind, so the subconscious can do the work in the background” and is a very effective technique.

    Simply being playful works well for me, be silly, speak the ridiculous “I can’t say that” thoughts that spring to mind.

    Professionally speaking, briefing people in a playful way is so important and worth going the extra mile on. I was at a major client briefing yesterday, and it was like someone was reading a tax return to me. With all the will and tricks in the book, my mind fell asleep…

    Given that the right creative idea can literally be the difference between success and failure, being mediocre or making million, I amazed that the briefing part of the process is so badly thought out.


    For the past year or so I’ve been posting my own Creative Tips over at twitter, so far I have 108!

    Check them out if you’re so inclined:

    I hope you and your readers find some of them useful!

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