Getting Unstuck When it Comes to Creativity


I recently discovered something fascinating. After a period of being extremely ill, I started to really feel like myself again. Soon after that, I moved to Ireland for four months. Shortly after moving to Ireland, and with my health back on track, I realized that my brain was on fire. I was coming up with multiple new ideas for all sorts of things – businesses, blogs, products – every day!

Now, I am the kind of person that gets my best ideas when I can externally process my thoughts. Having a conversation with someone or writing down my thoughts are two examples of this.

The frustrating thing is that I really like this part of me. So much so that I greatly prefer the coming up with lots of ideas to the implementation process.

The majority of the world is the opposite, they are better at getting stuff done than coming up with creative ideas. So I got this idea that implementation is more valuable than ideas. And even worse, I got the idea that I had to be the one to implement things (more on this in another post).

I found myself filling a whole notebook every week or two with ideas, and I started wondering what the point was in writing these wonderful ideas down if I never did anything with them. I rarely even looked at them a second time.

The temptation to feel piles of guilt and shame was strong…but this time I resisted. Instead, I started to think “Okay, there has to be a way that I can act on my ideas in a way that works for me.

I pulled out one of my notebooks from the past few months and started to re-read some of the things I had written. I hardly remembered writing some of the things!

What I found though, is that about 1 in 5 things aroused a new curiosity and inspiration in me, while the rest was just mildly interesting. This goes along with the Pareto or 80/20 Principle – 80% of my inspiration and excitement came from 20% of the things I had written down.

Now, what I realized is that when I had originally written down the idea, I could not act on it. I think this might be because I was trying to take something spontaneous and random, and immediately trying to force it into a structure, demanding “NOW BECOME SOMETHING REAL!” I was paralyzed to act on my ideas when I first got them. It was kind of like in a nightmare where the bad guy is coming after you and you open your mouth to scream, but no sound will come out.

Immediately my beautiful idea turned into a cowering child in the corner, desperately trying to come up with something else, but completely incapable of taking the idea into the real world.

However, when I wrote the idea down and then left it alone, I noticed that my mind had actually been working on the idea in the background, in my subconscious. When I came back to the idea later and found it to be inspiring, I was actually getting an idea for the next step to make it a reality.

I feel like this is basically cycles of creativity:
1. Getting the initial thought and writing it down. When you don’t write down an idea it is lost to the ether, so this is a very important step!
2. On looking at what was written down at least a few weeks later, take whatever sticks out to you. You’ll get new ideas springing from the initial idea but with a fresh excitement fueling it. Step 2 is anything that can take the idea further. For example, it look like bringing the idea to someone else that could give useful input on it.
3. Repeat step 2 as often as necessary.

The huge key for me here was that by working on my ideas this way, I was allowing myself to work with my natural tendencies

Instead of feeling stressed out and guilty for my lack of implementation and organization, which admittedly never got me anywhere, I feel excited. For once, I am actually doing things!

Now based on discussion with a few friends, there’s a good chance this will work for 25-50% of people. But for everyone else, I’ve studied my friends who process differently to me and formed a different theory for getting out of a creative rut. More on that soon…