by Hannah Hunter, instructional writer
When you work in a creative profession like e-learning, you’re bound to encounter the occasional pesky creative block. But honestly, who has time for that? When I find myself drowning in confusing content or staring slack-jawed at my computer screen, these tricks never fail to get me back on track:
1. Take a break and do a short, fun activity
Sometimes all your mind needs is a little break—set aside your block and do something else. When I’m hopelessly mired in writer’s block, I like to draw. My notebooks are full of little doodles of my limited repertoire: cats, bugs, plants, and ancient Egyptians. I also have a whiteboard at my desk and whenever I am super stuck, I write and illustrate a new “Fact of the Week,” or more appropriately, “Fact of the Creative Block.”
If drawing isn’t your thing, that’s ok. My coworkers do crossword puzzles, read blogs, go for walks or play a few rounds of ping pong. Short creative or physical activities relax you and give your mind a chance to reboot. When you get back to the task at hand, you will likely have a few more ideas than you did before.
2. Finish something
I face my worst creative challenges when I feel overwhelmed. When my ‘to do’ list gets too long, it is difficult to concentrate on one task without thoughts of every other unresolved issue getting in the way. I find that taking a half hour to complete a smaller task that has been weighing on me, like cleaning my desk, editing a script, or answering a few emails, frees my mind and gives me better creative focus when I get back to my project.
3. Get a little help from your friends
Every Monday the instructional designers on my team meet to discuss our plan of attack for the week. If one of us is feeling challenged by a design or unsure of how to treat a piece of content, we take it to the group and brainstorm different solutions together. These meetings are well worth the hour they take—I’ve learned so much from my colleagues and have gathered some great ideas that I never would have been able to think up on my own. It can be valuable to look outside your own role as well. Media artists, developers, instructional designers, and other teammates all offer unique perspectives.
4. Change your scenery
Redecorate your workspace with images and quotes that inspire you. Go work outside for awhile or try moving to a conference room or coffee shop. Sometimes a little change of scenery is all it takes to shake the cobwebs loose.
5. Sleep on it
Your brain does some of its best thinking when you aren’t even aware of it. I was once faced with the task of writing a course on advanced statistics. I have never actually taken statistics nor do I have a lot of innate mathematical ability. I became stuck pretty quickly and, because I couldn’t think of a better plan, I decided that I would let the script go for now and sleep on it. “I will understand statistics in the morning.” I muttered to myself, less than confidently.
Well, it worked. I spent a week writing that script and whenever I got stuck, I would stop my work and sleep on it. And, every morning I understood the content a little bit better. Sleep is critical to the creative process. While you sleep your brain processes information from the day and organizes your thoughts. It helps us make memories and assists in making connections between concepts. The old adage is true—if you are suffering a creative block and are able to do so, sleep on it.
Creative blocks are a fact of life for any e-learning professional, but fortunately, they can be easily demolished through the use of a few simple tricks. What are your favorite block-busting tips? Tell us in the comments below!
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