It’s happened to all of us. The blank screen. You’re presented with a problem requiring a creative solution, you sit down to get started and it stares back at you, mocking you with its white emptiness. There it is… the rut.
Turns out, there isn’t just one type of rut… there are a variety of different things that can cause your creative juices to stop flowing. Lucky for you, none of them are permanent.
Whether you’re attempting to come up with an idea to meet an innovation challenge or just solving an everyday problem in your own home, we’re going to identify the types of ruts and provide you ways with how to overcome them to bring you one step closer to inventing success.
The Mental Block
This is where you get trapped by your own thinking. You’re so locked into a familiar way of looking at the world that you fail to see other options. You make assumptions and approach a problem from a limiting premise. Or maybe your inner critic rears its head and stops you from thinking straight. When we engage in a project, whether it is the beginning, the middle or the end, our inner critics (or judges), like to get involved. These judges are thieves, robbing us of our goodness, worth, talent, values and ability. They make us believe in illusions, wreak havoc on our spirit and cause chaos in our minds. It’s that voice when you see an idea declined that says “I told you that idea was no good, you’ll never be successful at inventing.”
How to break free:
It may seem impossible to “get out of your own head,” but there are ways to quiet that “inner critic” and move forward. First, ask yourself these questions:
- So what?
- Who cares?
- Big deal!
- Why not?
- What if it doesn’t matter if I’m ________ or not?
Then, change your mind. Question your assumptions, ask yourself “What if…?”, and adopt different perspectives. Go somewhere new, or read/watch/listen to something new. Talk to people you can rely on to disagree with you, or offer an alternative point of view. This is a perfect time to engage and lean on the Edison Nation community in the Forums for their support.
You need to have focus to be creative. It goes without saying that it is hard to concentrate if you are having personal challenges.
How to solve the problem:
There are two ways to approach a personal problem(s) that may be interfering with your creative work – either solve the problem or find a coping mechanism until it passes. It may be worth taking a short-term break from your work in order to resolve the issue and free yourself up for the future. In both cases, it helps to treat your work as a refuge – something you can control and get creative satisfaction from in the midst of bad things that may be happening in your life.
The Emotional Barrier
Faced with the unknown, you may be scared of what you’ll discover or reveal about yourself. Fears are just different forms of resistance, leading to procrastination. Here are some common psychological barriers that may lead to procrastination:
- Fear: Fear can be paralyzing. We can be afraid of failure, rejection or even success.
- Boredom: If you lost interest, it is easy to put it behind to focus on other more fascinating tasks.
- Lack of confidence: If you secretly believe you can’t do something (see “Inner Critic” above), it is only natural to dread it.
How to break the barrier:
Face your fears and come through the other side. Here are some actions to help overcome resistance, all very helpful particularly as they relate to inventors:
- Be stubborn: Once you commit to action, the worst thing you can do is stop. Refuse to quit and stay in it till the finish. If you truly believe in an idea that may have been declined, update it keep trying until you find a fit.
- Have blind faith: Believe in something you cannot see, hear, touch, taste or feel.
- Have passion: Fear saps passion. When you conquer your fears, you discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion.
Work habits that don’t work
You may be trying to work in a manner that is not compatible with your creative process. You could be working too early, too late, too long or not long enough. You may not have enough downtime or alternatively, enough stimulation.
How to change your habits:
Take inventory of how you’re working and how you feel when you’re working, and identify pain points.
- If you don’t have enough energy, perhaps you are working at the wrong time of day.
- If you feel paralyzed by freedom, introduce more structure and order into your day.
- If you feel constrained by routine, find more room for improvisation.
Find the right balance of routines, systems and spontaneity for your creativity to thrive.
Poverty does not necessarily mean money, although lacking funds is a common problem. Poverty can also be related to time, knowledge, equipment and more.
How to overcome:
There are two types of possible solutions:
- Save up the time/money/other resources required.
- Make a virtue of necessity and set yourself the creative challenge of achieving as much as possible within the constraints you have.
Blocks can happen between people as well as to individuals. If you work in a team, tensions can arise, making it hard to do your best work. Sometimes you can be blocked by “phantoms” – imagining your work being rejected by audiences.
How to improve:
Work to improve your communication skills. Learn to be adept at understanding and influencing the right people, even though this may be challenging, particularly if you’re shy or introverted (like yours truly). Sometimes it is accepting that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, and, particularly for inventors, growing a thicker skin for rejection and criticism.
Want to learn more about overcoming creative ruts specifically as they relate to the inventing process? Check out this article by our CEO, Louis Foreman on “getting unstuck.”