How to Get Out of a Creative Rut

February 2022
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We all know what it’s like when you try to brainstorm or do something innovative, but instead feel like you're failing to access the creative part of your brain. 

If you’ve felt uninspired or experienced this sort of slump, remember: “Creativity can’t be forced. Take breaks and zone out to find new inspiration,” says an article from NPR’s Life Kit

Don’t expect an aha moment each time you’re coming out of a creative rut. Instead, find ways to recharge your creativity.

“We’re all creative people,” says Sarah Urist Green, author of You Are an Artist: Assignments to Spark Creation, but “how you use that [creativity] is up to you. “You don’t need to have particular skills; you don’t need to have particular materials.”

It helps to use a broader definition of creativity — this can mean finding a quicker route to get home, doing a craft or adding a new ingredient when cooking.

Practice nurturing your creativity to become a better decision-maker and avoid burnout. Dr. Wendy Suzuki says “mind-wandering is a critical step in creative thinking, especially for those who have hit a roadblock.” Doodling or thinking of random things during a meeting is creativity at work. “Your brain, quite literally, needs time to relax and wander to reignite that creative spark; conversely, not having enough time to mind-wander may fuel a creative rut,” according to NPR.

Digital anthropologist Rahaf Harfoush adds that “creativity is a stop-start cycle, meaning if you’re pushing yourself to hustle, you must also take time to float and take breaks.” She says that our brain needs periods of destimulation to process everything that it’s consumed, and suggests staring at a wall or into space for 15 minutes every so often to add moments of rest to your day.

Although deadlines can fuel creativity and force us to push forward, don’t let this become regular practice, she cautions. Relying on stress and pressure to motivate you can lead to anxiety, depression or burnout.

Another tip: Do creative activities that feel good to you, like painting or coloring,
improv, cooking, singing or learning a new skill — just have fun and enjoy the process.

Here are more ways to find inspiration and escape a creative rut:

1. Remind yourself that everyone can be creative.
2. Understand how creativity works in your brain.
3. Take intentional breaks.
4. Don’t force yourself to keep going.
5. When you feel well-rested, start by doing something.

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