The upside to being a creative freelancer is impressive. You get to work at what you love, you don’t have to go to an office, and there’s no daily schedule that is forced on you. It sounds great, and it is; but even the most innovative and productive freelancers find themselves stuck from time to time, tired of the work, unable to come up with anything fresh and new, worried that they’ve lost their talent. If this sounds familiar, here are some activities to improve creativity and help you get your focus and drive started again.
1. Don’t Panic
The first thing to do when you hit that famous creative wall is to remember that being stuck occasionally is a normal part of the creative process, so don’t over-worry the situation and don’t beat yourself up about it. After all, you chose this path because you like this kind of work and are good at it, and even a temporary slump doesn’t negate the positives about your skills or your chosen field.
It’s common advice because it works. Regular exercise is good for your body and is one of the best ways to increase brain power and creativity. You don’t have to become a gym rat or an avid, daily kayaker, but 20-30 minutes a day of walking, cycling or swimming will boost your energy and your creative productivity. If you are in a creative slump and you don’t exercise regularly, challenge yourself to start; if you already workout, change your routine or change your activity from biking to jogging or walking to dancing. Yoga and tai chi are also excellent ways to increase brain function by helping you learn to focus on the task at hand.
3. Don’t Stop Working
You only get better at what you do by sticking to it. So even if you are facing the great wall of “no” force yourself to do something related to your work. If you’re a painter, keep a sketchpad with you and doodle or draw; if you write, then write a few lines even on your worst day. When you do break through this temporary block, you won’t feel like you’ve forgotten everything you once knew! Think of creativity as a muscle that will atrophy if you don’t use it, but will be strengthened by use even when it’s just practice.
4. Change Your Routine
The downside of being able to stay in your sweats or p.j.’s all day is that routines can get old, dull and tired. Shake things up to help stimulate your brain. Change your work surroundings, even by moving from one room to another. If you normally take a break at noon for lunch, change the time and go out and meet a friend for lunch. If you’ve been working on a series of paintings in blue, try doodling with a red pen. Small changes help start to unblock the blockage and get moving again.
5. Puzzle Yourself
There’s nothing childish about puzzles. Whether they are jigsaw puzzles, a serpent puzzle or Rubik’s cube, they challenge you to expand on your usual approaches to problem-solving. Try Sudoku or a crossword puzzle and let your brain stretch itself and get stronger. The serpent cube solution may remain out of reach, but you’ll still receive the benefits of being forced to think in different, more abstract ways than you normally do.
6. Brainstorming with Other Creatives
We creatives often tend to be solitary creatures, so it can be surprising to learn how many good ideas come about as the result of collaboration or simple brainstorming. Talk to other people who do what you do: get some writers, designers, musicians etc. together for coffee or at a happy hour and have some fun. The talk is bound to turn to projects,and the more you discuss what you love to do – even if you don’t love it at the moment – the more you’ll discover how your intellectual and creative energies are fed by the enthusiasm of others. Also, the commiseration of others who have faced the same kind of blocks you are facing will help reassure you that it’s possible to knock through the obstacles and get your mojo back.
7. Methodical Approach
Even if it sounds like an anathema, your approach to creativity should be as logical as a math problem. Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it doesn’t do well – no matter what outsiders think! – in chaos. Forget the “madness and creativity are only separated by a thin line” nonsense and get practical. Our brains simply don’t function at their best when we mix idea or information gathering with the actual process of creating. So do your research, write or draw your ideas, and have a finished product idea in mind before you begin. That way, you will be able to use your full creativity when working.
8. Touch the Sky
One of the best ways to improve your creativity is to let some air into your head by getting out of the house and getting in touch with nature. The sight and smell of flowers, the different greens of trees, the feel of the grass on your bare feet – all of these things readjust you mentally and give you a more expanded view of the world, including your part in it. Find a park if you’re in an urban area, go out on your patio or deck and look at the sky, or just go for a walk. This is not the same as exercise – this is exercise for the soul.
9. The Sound of Music
Scientific research has proven that listening to music strengthens brain performance and creativity. Whether you listen to Bach or electronica, music enhances our thinking process. Certain frequencies known as binaural beats and isochronic tones are not particularly melodious, but are the most effective at actually helping creativity and thinking.
10. Attitude Adjustment
It’s easy advice that can be difficult to follow, but being positive really does help us do some of our best creative work. Of course, when you’ve hit a block it can be difficult (even annoying) to think you have to jolly yourself up into a different and seemingly unattainable mood. Do it anyway. Watch a comedy, teach the dog a trick, talk to someone you share good memories with, bake your favorite cookies – anything that lifts your mood and helps you move from negative to positive will open the door to clearer thinking and more creative ideas.