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Matt's Music Blog

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Things To Do When You Have A Creative Block

Here are a list of things that may help "unblock" you if you have a creative block.

1. Actually Take A Minute (or 10) To Think About Your Problem Carefully
When we're in a panic, we want solutions to come right away, and we get anxious when they don't.  We think very quickly, but only going around in circles, getting nowhere. Slow down and actually think the problem through clearly. Clearly define the problem in your head - perhaps write it down. Consider (and perhaps write down) any important details or hunches you may have. Make a list of plausible solutions. If you can't think of any plausible solutions, make a list of implausible solutions. There's always something.

2. Talk It Through With Someone Else
Beyond the fact that a different person will offer a fresh perspective, this is another way of accomplishing (1).

3. Go For A Walk, or Get Some Exercise
Bring a notepad and pen with you.

4. Let Yourself Play
Forget about whatever anxieties you have around this creative act. That's all silliness. Embrace John Cage's sixth rule: "Nothing is a mistake. There's no win and no fail, there's only make." Just make some stuff, and have fun! Have a sense of humor about it. Perhaps allow yourself a designated amount of time to play with any idea that comes to you. Even if what you're creating doesn't end up being used in your final product, it will get you in a creative mode, and it will help you explore your problem and work with the materials involved.

5. Watch This Video Of John Cleese Talking About Creativity
It's great. http://youtu.be/f9rtmxJrKwc Or this TED talk. Or, (less so, in my opinion) this TED talk. Actually, here is a list of 10 TED talks about creativity.

6. Have Some Faith In Your Unconscious Mind
When we're stressed, we want to control everything and know all the answers, but our unconscious mind can only start working on a problem when we allow ourselves to relax, and learn to tolerate the discomfort of not knowing.  Keep your mind gently around the problem, but don't push or strain. If you can, sleep on it or allow the problem to mull around in the back of your mind for several days.

7. Leave a Record
As you come up with ideas, record them in some way - perhaps by jotting them down in a notebook - even if they seem like bad or unhelpful ideas.  This helps in a lot of ways: it slows down and helps you work through your thinking process; it makes you feel like you're doing something; and it the ideas may end up being useful at some point down the road, often in unexpected ways.

8. Just Get To Work
I once asked Dave Holland how to overcome composer's block. He told me "Just get to work." If we're honest with ourselves, a creative block is often not actually about not having any ideas - it's about procrastination. If you have an idea that works, and nothing else is coming to you, go with that idea and get 'er done.

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