Working from home is not a new phenomenon for many of us. What may be more novel, however, is the idea of being restricted to the house. As a copywriter and marketer, whenever I’ve felt lacking in creative energy, I’ve taken a walk around town or browsed bookshops to help me stumble upon some extra ideas fuel. I’ve bought magazines to regard the beautiful imagery or found a change of scenery such a Costa or the library to be enough to ignite some inspiration. Now, though, bookshops are closed. The library is closed. My favourite cafes are all closed, so no luck getting creative ideas from a Danish pastry or a flat white. I’m even less inclined to pass by a shop to pick up a magazine due to the anxiety it provokes – Stress, the ultimate blocker to any higher thought. It’s not just me, hey? I’m guessing that in-house marketers, writers and designers, will be feeling the same sense of stagnation locked in their homes most of the day.
So, what can you do when sensing there are no more fresh ideas?
I personally take comfort in this quote from Maya Angelou:
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
These are wise words and ones that ring true – I find the more ideas I can give away to my clients, the more I generate. If I keep them inside for a rainy day, they seem to go stale and lose their power. The fact is, if you’re suffering from a case of writer’s block, or designer’s block, you haven’t run out of creativity – It’s still there, you just need to tease it out. Fortunately, there are a few ways we can recalibrate to get the juices flowing again.
Make your workspace your zone
Working from home is difficult if you don’t have the right setup. Make an effort to glam up your work area even if it’s just the dining room table. I don’t have a special desk to work at, but I have a cuddly toy flower I’ve had for many years now. I decided this lockdown I was going to use it to be my desk plant so if I have it on the table, I know I’m in the office. If you can do just enough to make it feel like your desk is home for the next eight hours, this should help focus you. Add some green to your work station if you can – A plant or a desktop image. Just seeing green can increase your motivation and creativity.
Get your happy playlist on
Not everyone can work with music on, but not everyone can work in silence. A bit of music played quietly can drown out other distractions so you can focus on work. More than that, putting on happy up-tempo tunes that make you feel good can actually lead to generating more ideas compared to silence. Melancholy tunes don’t have quite the same effect, however, so if you’re feeling blocked creatively, it has to be feel-good danceable tunes.
Peruse gorgeous websites and books
While we can’t change our scenery as frequently, we can indeed vary what we are looking at on our laptops. Meander through the Pinterest jungle for aesthetic vistas that will spark new ideas or flick through some of your coffee table reads. It’s okay to find inspiration from what’s already out there and put your own twist on it. Not even Shakespeare’s ideas were all original.
When feeling stuck, try moving around the house. It sounds like a daft suggestion, but movement has been shown to increase ideas flow, so it’s not such a crazy idea. Sometimes I’ll move to a different room if I feel my ideas are stagnating, and this can really fire up the creative energy. Studies have demonstrated the power of simply walking for summoning your creative genius, by establishing new neural pathways. According to Psychology Today: “Spontaneous, undirected thinking is creative and occurs more readily when you move” so if you’re fast approaching a deadline and you still haven’t written a word, try going for a walk.
Turn off your laptop and go old school
Ditching the technology can prove advantageous when you’re in an ideas desert. Go retro with pens and a notepad and write your thoughts down. If you’ve still got nothing emerging, then start doodling. According to a study by Indiana University, using a pen to write has been shown to fire up pathways not ordinarily tapped into any other way. Also, when writing by hand, you’re engaging lots of areas of the brain simultaneously – those involved in language and working memory primarily. As my colleagues and even some of my clients will testify, I’m a stationery junkie and a fan of making most of my notes by hand. When researching this very article, I’ve been scribing ideas and sources, and when I get the time, I dabble in calligraphy, so I’m delighted to see the science backs me up on this one!
Take up a new hobby
With an abundance of offers on online learning websites, take the opportunity to learn something new that you’ve been putting off for years. Browse Udemy for ideas or search on Google. It’s long been my opinion that creatives need to indulge in a range of creative pursuits.
A study carried out by San Francisco State University revealed that people who took up a creative hobby and practised it regularly actually performed 15-30% more effectively than their non-creative counterparts, and what’s more, they were able to access this creativity for work tasks too! By taking up a course in something that has intrigued you, you don’t know when that knowledge might stir up new ideas for your work life. And it just so happens that the scientists would agree with this one too!
Never look on hobbies as a waste of time or unproductive – Besides digging you out of a creative hole, they can also benefit your mental health and stave off burn out. As marketers and designers, the world is relying on us to get the word out for brands that are suffering the effects of lockdown, so doing everything we can to nurture our creativity and protect our mental wellbeing is essential.