In parts I and II of this series, we have identified the possible causes of our artist’s block and have taken good care of our body. Now let’s look at some simple and effective methods to stimulate the mind and let our creativity flourish again.
Dare to doodle
Have you ever found yourself drawing abstract shapes on the corner of a piece of paper during a long phone call, or caught yourself drawing a rather symmetrical pattern of lines and curves while listening to a lecture?
If so, you are in good company. During important meetings, Theodore Roosevelt used to doodle animals, while Ronal Reagan enjoyed drawing cowboys and football players. Were they not paying attention?
While it may look like distracted scribbling on the surface, doodling helps the brain retain more information. A study comparing how much of a dull and rambling voice message was remembered by a group of both doodlers and non-doodlers revealed that doodling increases attention and improves content retention.
Because doodling is spontaneous and pressure-free, it allows your conscious mind to relax and retrieve information and memories that would otherwise remain hidden in your subconscious. By keeping us awake and attentive, we are able to receive loads of information.
Go for a walk, seriously
Like any break, going for a walk can refresh our brains. Physical exercise has additional benefits over sedentary breaks, although a full workout is not necessary to reap the mental benefits of exercise.
When we go for a walk, our hearts start pumping more blood and oxygen to all of our organs — including the brain. This promotes the creation and strengthening of new connections between neurons, allowing messages to be transmitted more effectively.
Walking also increases the volume of the hippocampus — a key brain structure for learning and memory — and can prevent the deterioration of brain tissue that often occurs with aging, making it especially beneficial for artists in their later years.
Yet walking enhances mental performance in a way that strenuous exercise cannot. Since walking requires no conscious effort, the mind is free to wander and conceive new ideas based on the rich stimuli received from the environment or the abundant information stored in the subconscious.
In addition, the pace of our walking can influence the rhythm of our thinking. Just as music prompts us to move faster or slower depending on the tempo, the natural rhythm of our feet can regulate our inner speech, making it possible to analyze each idea unhurriedly as we deliberately slow down.
Take a power nap
Although research on the link between sleep and creativity is constantly evolving, we have no shortage of evidence on the potential of naps to bring out the most creative ideas. In fact, the prodigious inventor Thomas Edison had his own napping technique.
According to a Georgetown University Medical Center study, the creative outburst is due to an increase in the activity of the right hemisphere — responsible for creativity — during sleep. As explained by Andrei Medvedev, author of the study, it is during this time of rest that the right hemisphere talks more with itself and the left hemisphere than usual.
The trick is to wake up in a way that you will help you recall valuable inspiration that comes during rest.
Albert Einstein developed a peculiar way to nap that, beyond refreshing the brain, was aimed at “catching” creative ideas. Throughout the day, he would take short cat naps on his armchair while holding a spoon in his hand.
After he drifted off, his hand would relax and the the spoon would slip and chime against a metal plate that he had purposely placed on the floor. The abrupt sound would wake him up, preventing him from entering into deep sleep. It was during these naps that Einstein got many of the innovative ideas that led to his discoveries.
According to a study published in the journal Science Advances, it is when the brain enters light sleep that it can find solutions to problems that may have been elusive during wakefulness. Transitioning into deep sleep, on the other hand, may cause grogginess.
So next time you want to recharge your body or simply “fish out” some unconventional ideas, consider taking a nap! Keeping a timer and a notebook handy will set you up for creative success.
When choosing a method to recover your creativity — be it walking, napping, doodling or any other — you may have noticed that they all have one thing in common: they allow our minds to wander.
In fact, creativity is not a switch to be flicked on and off, but a stream of ideas that surfaces only when we loosen our tight grip on our everyday concerns, stresses and thoughts.
Meditation can help us achieve this goal. When we meditate, we consciously let go of the thoughts and emotions that occupy our minds, leaving space for new ideas to emerge.
So if you are experiencing artist’s block, take a look within to see if you are emotionally stuck somewhere. As your mind wanders, let go of fear and attachments and watch your creative thoughts arise.
Stay tuned for Part IV, and more suggestions for overcoming artist’s block.
Click here for Part II of this series: Overcoming Artist’s Block Part II – Ensure Your Physical Well-Being