How to Break Free of a Creative Rut

Creative ruts can spring from anywhere, even success. When we do something well we naturally attempt to recreate the magic by following the same formula. The process can work in the short-term, but often the scale of the achievement, as well as the joy in producing it, diminishes over time. Before long, you can find yourself struggling to produce even lackluster results.

Some believe creativity has no guidelines, but if you ask great musicians they’ll say you need to learn to classical before you can play jazz. Put another way, you have to know the rules before you can break them. And breaking them thoughtfully is the key. If you want to get in the groove and out of your rut follow these simple steps.

  1. Shift into Learner Mode:As a writer, I read incessantly before starting a new book. The endless flow of new styles and ideas serves as the ultimate palate cleanser. Adopt the technique by immersing yourself in your field to shake off standard modes of thinking.
  2. Shift Gears:I’ll switch from fiction to non-fiction to humor and back again (timtoterhi.com/books) so I’m always fresh for the next project. You can do the same by developing complementary skills that support your primary profession. If you’re a data guy, spend time honing the presentations you’d typically hand off to others. If you’re an HR professional, dive into the departmental budget. The practice will not only enhance your overall competence, it will strengthen your core activity as well.
  3. Embrace the Whitespace: When you give your brain some downtime ­– on a run, in the shower, etc. you allow yourself time to hear the ideas that are typically blocked out by daily distractions.

It’s a simple formula when you break it down. The way out of a creative rut is to learn, do, be. So go on and be awesome.

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