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Kathryn Jacob's Observations on Unblocking Creativity

Back To Creativity Un-Block

Date Created:
Last Updated: March 2nd 2009


Kathryn JacobsKathryn is a trainer, a girl scout, and a parent, who enjoys science fiction, writing, bad puns, word search puzzles, and games. She trains computers, presentation skills, outdoor cooking and many other things. She is a 'Kathy' of all trades who loves learning and sharing.

Professionally, she has a 15+-year career as a computer consultant and trainer, working with clients doing training, testing, project management, writing and editing. She currently runs her own training and consulting business in Phoenix, Arizona. An index of her writings can be found here.

Kathryn's life philosophy can be summed up as - "Life is meant to be lived. But, if we live without making a difference, it makes no difference that we lived."



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Overcoming Brain Block: Lessons From An Expert

you ever notice that brain block is most likely to happen when you can least afford it? I have found that I can be running along with ideas on a subject, as long as no one needs it. But, the instant someone asks for a piece on the subject - POOF! There go all the ideas!

So what do I do to overcome my brain block? I forget, at least temporarily, about the assignment at hand. The following tips should help you to break through the blocks in your creativity - They sure do mine!

  1. Take a nap. Oh, I know, you don't have time. Well, for this exercise, you really don't need any time. Go lay down somewhere quiet and calm. Keep a notebook and writing utensil at your side. Picture yourself receiving a reward for the great job you did on the project. Now, write your acceptance speech. As you dream your way through it, write down the pieces you like. Final step: Take those notes and use them to break through the block.

  2. Think of something else. Set a time for 15 minutes. For those 15 minutes, make yourself think of everything else except your project. When the time is done, go back to your work. You will find that the ideas you couldn't express before will start to bubble through. (I will tell you - I very seldom make it to 15 minutes. Somewhere around 8 minutes into the exercise, the major breakthrough comes and I can't resist going back to work.)

  3. Play. I keep Tinker Toys, Legos, and other building toys around to fiddle with while breaking blocks. I let my mind run while my fingers play. This allows the logical side of your brain to concentrate on your building project, while the creative side is freed to wander.

  4. Clean. Find an area of your office or home that needs mindless cleaning done. Chores that work for me include: cleaning the bathroom, gathering recycles, loading the dishwasher, vacuuming the house, or sorting socks.

  5. Draw a picture of the impact on the world. The impact does not have to be a large impact. Sometimes, the picture you draw will be as simple as how you are going to spend your paycheck. Express what you want to accomplish in a medium other than the one you normally use. Then take that expression and use it to generate ideas.

  6. Find an end user and interview them. Get their ideas on what to say, how to say it, extras to use, etc. Make sure you don't steal their ideas: Give them credit as justified. You may even find that merely formulating the interview questions will spark the idea you need to start breaking the block.

If all else fails, imagine yourself explaining why you couldn't do the assignment. You may find that there is a legitimate reason for not working on this project at this time. Role play your way through the conversation. Look at both sides of why you don't feel you can start the task vs. why the other person thinks you are the only one to do the task. Take note of what the other person might say: They may have a solution that you would never let yourself try.

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Related Links

Walter Donavan writes about professional creativity blocks ranging from those concerned with writing or graphics. Read here...

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