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3 tips on how creative stagnation can be managed

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There are days that feel really good. You get up early and you’re immediately ready to get to work. You get plenty of ideas and the creative flow doesn’t come to any interruptions. Those days are rare. Most of the time, you feel stuck. You’re doing your best to push yourself through a creative project, but you feel tired and useless. You can’t get any valuable ideas, and it seems like you’re straining yourself without achieving tangible results.

You’re in a creative stagnation. Welcome to the club! Claude Monet destroyed many artworks out of frustration, and he didn’t paint any masterpiece for two years after his wife died. When he emerged out of that blockade, he painted his most ambitious project. Pablo Picasso hit the block after the divorce from his first wife, Olga. He no longer went to his studio, and it seemed as his friend Jaime Sabartes said that “the mere sight of his pictures and drawings infuriated him.” So it happens. To the best! The good news is that creative stagnation can be managed and you can overcome it. We’ll give you three tips on how to do that.

  1. Understand the Stages

Creativity is not a straight line. According to psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, there are four basic stages of the creative process:

  • Preparation
  • Incubation
  • Illumination
  • Verification

During the preparation stage, you still don’t have a precise idea. It’s cooking, somewhere at the back of your mind. During this stage, your brain is in planning mode. Since you don’t have a precise idea, you might feel stuck. In the incubation stage, you stop consciously thinking about the issue you’re trying to solve. You fell like your mind wanders. You feel stuck. The illumination stage is your “eureka” moment. Your idea finally gains substance. But you’re not done yet. There’s a lot of work towards realization. You guessed it: you might feel stuck again. During the verification stage, you’re finally making things happen. When you understand how the creative process occurs in your brain, you realize that you cannot be in a constant verification phase. Creativity emerges from your subconscious levels, so give it some time. Relax and don’t force the ideas. They will come!

  1. Calm Down!

Baba Shiv, marketing professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, explains that high levels of serotonin and dopamine are necessary for the best creative work to occur. That cocktail of chemicals makes you feel calm, but energized at the same time. To achieve this creative state of mind, you have to reduce the levels of stress. When you’re stressed out, you block the flow of creativity. We’ll illustrate that through an example: a student who needs to complete a creative writing project by a very close deadline. They have too many other assignments to cover, plus classes to attend. The pressure is immense and they stress out. When this student finds the time to work on the urgent project, they face a creative stagnation. They cannot complete a good paper, so they decide to get college homework help. This helps them calm down. They know the project is going to be ready by the deadline, so they take the afternoon off. Guess what: that’s exactly when the ideas will hit the surface! When you feel you’re stuck, take the time to relax. Get some sleep, take a walk, and don’t think about the project at all. The more you stress out, the less likely the solution is.

  1. Take the “What If” Test

Maybe you’re blocked because you’re stuck in your old ways. When a graphic designer gets blocked, for example, maybe it’s because they’ve been using similar concepts for all their previous designs. Now that they have to come up with something new, their creative flow hit a blockade. There’s no universal recipe for the success of a creative project. If something worked for you before, it won’t work forever. If something works for someone else, it won’t necessarily work for you. So play the “what if” game; it will help you get out of the comfort zone.

  • What if I invested more money in this?
  • What if I changed this particular aspect?

l  What if I changed everythingfrom the very start? Of course; your “what if” test will involve more specific questions, depending on your situation. This is a powerful method that tricks your mind to take a different approach to the task. It helps you see things from a fresh perspective.

Remember: You Can Get Through This

Don’t blame yourself for being in a creative stagnation. It’s a natural process. The mind cannot be in the verification stage all the time. Even Stephen King, one of the most creative and productive modern writers, has faced the problem throughout his career. Here’s how he explained the problem: “Some writers in the throes of writer’s block think their muses have died, but I don’t think that happens often; I think what happens is that the writers themselves sow the edges of their clearing with poison bait to keep their muses away, often without knowing they are doing it.” The solution? Stop focusing on the stagnation. It stresses you out even more. Try the three methods we suggested above and see what happens. Hopefully, you’ll find them liberating.

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