Most people are all too aware of that feeling when you sit down at your desk, ready to tackle a project, only to realize you’re lost in a fog of stimulation overdrive.
It’s a lot like a deer in the headlights. That deer clearly knows he should do something, but with too many thoughts running through his mind (and adrenaline through his body) the only thing he’s left capable of doing is freeze.
Freezing at your desk isn’t a matter of life or death, but it can ruin an otherwise fairly productive day. But what can you do to overcome this creative ADD so you can get your focus back on track?
Try these effective, albeit unconventional tips.
Our sense of smell is our most primitive sense, and shares living space with the part of our brain that affects our creativity. Whenever you feel like you’re in a creative rut, consider lighting a candle or incense to get your juices flowing.
But which scents should you use? It really depends. If you have nostalgic ties to a smell, start with that. For example, if your childhood home always smelled like pumpkin pie in the fall, try lighting a pumpkin candle. Children have a knack for being extremely creative and unencumbered. Tapping into your inner child might be exactly what your adult-self needs at this moment.
Often times, creatives only record or follow-through on thoughts that are cohesive and sensible. In other words, we constantly self-censor, edit, and monitor our streams of consciousness.
Sometimes that’s a good thing. But when your mind is already stuck in traffic, there’s no reason to add to the gridlock by pulling up the emergency brake.
Even in your most distracted, foggy mental state, your brain is thinking about something (unless you’ve achieved full enlightenment, in which case, give us a call. We’d love to know your secret!).
Jot that thought down!
Who knows, that random thought might be enough to pull you back into a creative fervor, or it could come in useful for another project you’ll work on one day.
These random thoughts might be your brain’s way of trying to release the block. Regardless, the very action of jotting something down will make you feel productive.
Our brains never stop working. They’re always thinking about something, and more times than not, they’re thinking about a lot of things (again, unless you’re enlightened. Seriously, call us.).
It’s a miracle we don’t suffer from creative ADD most days! Our brains must be exhausted. That’s perfectly okay for when we want to accomplish basic tasks like driving, cooking, or even engaging in a superficial conversation.
But an exhausted brain is not the ideal environment for nurturing creativity.
To give your brain a rest, pull away from your work environment and take a break. Most folks who take a short break opt to go for a walk outside, or listen to a song to get rejuvenated.
Both are fine (especially getting outdoors whenever possible), but what about literally doing nothing?
Folks call it meditation. You can call it what you want. Consider sitting in a room or space, free of technology, noise and distractions, and just sitting there, listening to your own breath or heartbeat.
Sure, your mind will still race. Let it. The last thing you want to do is stress out about the sporadic nature of your mind. Just take a few minutes to be.
Yeah, we know, this sounds a bit out there, but this self-imposed time-out could go a long way to helping you recapture your creativity.
Fixation is the antithesis of creative flow. When we specialize in a field (let’s say writing, design, music or art) we tend to get fixated on the little details. A writer might obsess over dangling participles, for example, forgetting that in the end what matters most is if his story moves people.
The best way to break away from this fixation is to tackle a completely new project, ideally something that includes physical labor – a little bit of exercise can go a long way for your body and mind.
A writer might consider doing a puzzle for a few minutes. An artist might write a poem (even just a haiku, which is extremely short). A musician might finally fix that leaky faucet in the bathroom.
It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as what you do is completely different from the project you’re working on.
Think of your creativity as a Jeep, and your brain like a mud road. When we go over the same path over and over again, we begin to build deep ruts. Over time, our Jeep will get stuck in these ruts. You can spin your tires all you want, but sometimes the only solution is to turn the wheel to the left or right and travel down a new path, even for a short while.
Then, when you have your car back on cruise control, you can head back toward more familiar pastures.
As kids, we tend to overreact when it comes to catastrophes or setbacks. When we broke up with our boyfriend or girlfriend, the whole world was over. When we missed the winning shot in the big game, we couldn’t show our face at school.
As adults, we generally avoid such overreactions, except when it comes to our creativity. The moment we encounter our first signs of a creative block, we begin to panic. “The mojo must be lost,” we think to ourselves. “The jig is up. I’m a fraud, and now the world will know!”
But rather than fall into a flurry of what-ifs, try to remember that creativity isn’t a light switch. It isn’t automatic. If you’re struggling to be your best behind your desk, take a moment to breathe and remind yourself that this creative ADD will pass.
Follow the tips above, and you might find that it’ll pass even quicker than you’d expected.