What to do When You Hit a Creativity Wall

brick-wall-whnWhy do we only get so far before we hit a wall? We know the wall will eventually come,and every time it knocks us on our ass.

This happens because we let our frustration overpower our curiosity.

We forget to love this wall. Hug this wall. It’s there for a reason.

They show us how much we care. If we just gave up when we faced a challenge it probably mean that our hearts weren’t in it in the first place.

We hit a wall and we kick it for being “stupid.” This is just a wall. A wall can’t be stupid. But we are afraid to label ourselves as stupid so we pick something outside of ourselves to label.

Internal Dialogue

Out internal dialog has all gone out of whack. We stopped owning up to our own challenges. It’s just easier to blame “the wall” instead of ourselves.

At other times we do blame ourselves. Why are we so dumb? This thinking will also never lead to positive results.

In fact, it’s even worse because we are killing our confidence and our creativity.

Creativity Link

Last night I got stuck writing a blog post and couldn’t get the message right.

I growled, blamed my chair for being uncomfortable, then went to get myself a cup of tea.

The old me would have let frustration take over and I would have given up. Maybe I would try again the next day or give up entirely. But the present me uses my emotions to push me forward. It’s really just a game, finding the right combination to allow the right solution to appear.

I noticed that my brain was still working as I was preparing my tea. I was still searching for the link to get me to where I wanted to go.

Emotional Ride

That’s the difference between a successful project and a failed project.

The failure comes when a person stops linking his/her thoughts to new options.

We do need breaks. No one can keep linking to new solutions forever. Our brains and bodies get tired and we need rest to refresh our minds.

A successful person will use a break to pull his emotions out of frustration and allow the subconscious to chew on the problem for a little while.

Then when that person comes back to the project, the emotions are calm and a solution is eminent.

By allowing the brain to keep linking consciously and unconsciously, the creative motion keeps moving forward, your walls will only be speed bumps that allow you to enjoy the emotional ride.

Your Linking System

What do you do to love your wall when you are frustrated?

Once you can separate yourself from the need for a solution then you will be working with your energy instead of against it. It’s this love that will allow you to see more than one solution to achieve your desired results.

So go hug your wall. Watch how it makes you feel. Be that Katydid from the photograph above that doesn’t know that a wall is a terrible thing, just a resting place until she is ready to climb over the wall.

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* We need to develop more ways to play at work. I’m glad Katie is spreading the word.

If you enjoyed this post then you will probably like this one too:

> How to be More Creative

> Unleash Your Creative Beast

Image courtesy of Martin LaBar (going on hiatus)

17 thoughts on “What to do When You Hit a Creativity Wall”

  1. As someone who used to be in newspapers, I recognize that sometimes you HAVE to keep going (think: deadline!). You simply must. If you have the luxury of time, or if you are starting to panic because of time, then you have to take a break. I sometimes just have to go away from my desk and simply settle myself down, if I’m panicking. If I’m just stuck, I let it go for awhile, and usually, while I’m not actively solving the problem, an idea comes into my head. It’s all in the way you look at it! I love many of the work-related insights of Denice Kronau who is writing a book (not yet published) about how to be happy at work. There’s even an excerpt online, about how she had to walk away at one point. I think a lot of people are like me — they read what she writes and think, “she’s writing about me,” so we feel like we know her. Good grief, recent studies show that 55 percent of people hate their jobs. We have got to find a way to turn that around, for our own sakes!

  2. Hey Karl

    Great to hear you found a way around it. I think anytime we put too much pressure on ourselves it can get difficult to be in the flow.

    Hence, yes, when we embrace what is, we become open to many possibilities and begin understanding the purpose of what is in our life and why, and are able to work through anything.

  3. Karl, this brings up two great things in my mind: surrender (which Stacey Shipman talks about on her blog this week), and recognition/awareness.

    Whenever I hit a wall, I definitely don’t muscle through it. I recognize that it’s there for a reason, and then back away. I do something else so that, just as you said, my unconscious mind can keep plugging away while I’m occupied in some other – more productive – way.

    I’ve noticed that my “walls” come in cycles, too. Much like the ocean tides. Sometimes I feel super creative, and other times I can’t string three words together in a cohesive way. It’s the way of it, and I’ve grown to accept that.

    Wonderful post today!

  4. Hi Karl,

    I love how you said that “Once you can separate yourself from the need for a solution then you will be working with your energy instead of against it.” Perfect! And it’s all about working with–and following–that flow of energy.

    That idea really resonated with me because it’s easy for me to get caught up in the “end in mind”…while forgetting to enjoy the process along the way. And that process is “life”; we’ve got to be there and show up for all of it. Thanks for this reminder today!

  5. Hi Karl,

    Some friends and I were just talking about various blocks or walls that we’d encountered over the last month, how we resolved them (or not) and what the take home lesson was for us in these cases.

    I’ve learned that for me sometimes it helps to give myself five to ten minutes to rail at the problem, watch that it doesn’t take a sharp turn into beating up on myself (If I can catch that tendency right at the beginning I can usually short-circuit the negative self-talk.), and then I just kind of let the wall sit there for a bit while I go and find some other task to do as a break from “the wall”. Often times, once I’ve taken the pressure off myself, the wall disappears. If it’s still there, having a conversation with the wall and asking it a few pertinent questions can sometimes resolve the stuckness if you ask what made it suddenly appear and what purpose it thinks it’s serving. So,I guess honouring the wall and listening to it is my way of loving the wall.

    A friend of mine recently had some frustrations with some software he was trying to figure out. He took a break and wrote a semi-humorous blog about it and even claimed that he was about ready to start eating his shoes in frustration (that made for a hilarious mental picture). He noted that choosing to laugh about the situation rather than get any more frustrated about it was a huge help to him–and it was a great reminder to not take ourselves too seriously.

    Have a great day, everyone

  6. Usually I take a break. But during my alone retreat this week, used for work related purposes and planning, I, for once, chose a different tactic…I kept going. I was writing a business plan, new website content (for my services/home page, etc) and none of it was “right”…I kept writing, pages and pages, to let all the thoughts out. Then I went back to find the “good stuff” and now I have something I’m sending over to a communications consultant I’ve been working with for a final edit/review. Getting EVERYTHING out, helped me get over the wall, at least for now. That was different for me.

  7. Hi Megan, Surrender is an excellent tool that we forget to use. I want to hug the wall, but my emotional hurricane won’t let me do it. Sometimes I have to wait out the cycle and love my wall when I’m more calm. Thanks for the encouragement.

  8. Hi Sue, It looks like you take a meditative approach to the wall. That’s a great techniques. When we stop raging against the wall and honouring it, that’s how we learn from these situations. I like that your friend used his wall to write a humorous blog. Sometimes the wall can spur creativity in a new direction. We don’t always have to bust through it. We can choose to do something else then come back to the wall.

  9. Hey Karl,
    Hitting a “wall” always makes me think of this quote:
    “Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people.” ~ Randy Pausch
    I think it really does come down to how badly we want something. And there may be things where it’s just not worth the brick wall in front of us – and that’s okay. For those things that really do have deep meaning, though…this is really an opportunity to work through how to move beyond the wall. And when we do…wow! We can come out on the other side in really a great place.

  10. Evita told me in January not to write guest posts because I felt I had to to gain more readers…write them because you love writing them. Since I’ve slowed down. I write when I enjoy it and rarely hit a wall anymore. If and when I do I back down. I found out hitting my head against it hurts;)

  11. Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com

    I go to the silent place inside for a while and then come back and the creativity is flowing again.

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