Get Unstuck from Creative Blocks, Problem-solving Snags, and Conflicts

So you’re wondering how to get unstuck. Found yourself in a particularly sticky situation that’s caused your brain to feel like it’s hit a wall? Maybe writer’s block has you in its grips. Or a creative project just won’t seem to flow the way it usually does. Hit an impasse trying to solve a problem? Or worse, you can’t move past a disagreement with someone. 

When what you usually do isn’t working anymore, and you feel like you’ve exhausted every option, and yet you’re still sitting in the same spot, things can get pretty frustrating. 

Let’s get you unstuck — whether it’s writer’s block, creativity block, problem-solving difficulty, or a conflict you can’t seem to move past. 

How To Get Unstuck from Creativity Blocks

There are so many different types of creativity, and it’s not just writers who feel “blocked” from time to time. Designers, painters, filmmakers, actors, musicians, and poets alike all feel the keen sting of a creative block from time to time. When it gets bad, it’s enough to leave you wondering if your creativity has left you permanently. Artist’s block can be a result of many things, from overwork to depression.

If you’re feeling stuck when it comes to your art, here’s what to do.

How To Get Rid Of Art Block

Getting over an art block can feel like a massive challenge. If you’re like many creatives, your art feels like a part of who you are, and if you can’t produce your work…you feel like a failure. But these mental blocks to creative thinking don’t have to take up permanent residence in your head. 

Try these artist block ideas instead.

  • Try getting inspired. Inspiration is one of the best antidotes for artist’s block. If you’re feeling less than creative, checking out someone else’s work may just be the spark you need to get making again. Visit a museum, see a movie, or stroll through a botanical garden. You never know where inspiration will strike.
  • Move to a new setting. If your creative mojo is missing where you are, try going somewhere else. If you usually work at home, go to a coffee shop. If you work from a studio, try working outside for a change of pace. 
  • Create even without inspiration. In his books about creative resistance, The War of Art and Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield [1]https://stevenpressfield.com/books/the-war-of-art/ talks about “going pro.” He says that if you really want to create, you have to do so even if you don’t feel like it. He furthermore posits that the harder your resistance is pushing back against you, the closer you are to a breakthrough. So just make your art. Do your thing, without editing or judging yourself. Even copy a great work if you have to get your creative muscles moving again. Just make them move.  
  • Fall in love with the process again. Sometimes when you’re experiencing a creative block, it’s because you’ve forgotten what you truly love — the process of creating. Allow yourself the freedom to create, separate from the outcome of the creation process. Don’t think about the finished piece, just stay in the moment and revel in the joy of creativity.  
  • Try getting physical. Studies suggest that walking boosts your creativity.[2]https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xlm-a0036577.pdf So go for a run, take a hike, walk to the corner store. Jump on the treadmill or take a bike ride. Just do something that doesn’t involve creativity whatsoever. Bonus points if it makes you work up a sweat. Sometimes getting outside of your mind and working out is the best thing for jumpstarting your creative brainpower. 

When You’re Experiencing Problem Solving Blocks

Sometimes, blocks appear in the form of a problem that just can’t be solved. You’ve exhausted every bit of your mental capacity, and yet, the answer to your problem doesn’t materialize. 

When your critical thinking skills are put to the test like this, it can feel so disheartening. But there are ways to sharpen your problem-solving skills and move past these types of blocks.  

Problem Solving Strategies

When a problem just feels too big for your brain, there are things you can try to get unstuck and discover the answer.

Try The 5 Stages Of Problem Solving

If a query is proving difficult, go back to the basics. Most experts agree that there are 5 basic steps to problem-solving.

  1. Define. First, get really granular. Pretend you’re explaining the problem to a child. Define the problem from every possible point of view. Make sure you’re not just putting a band-aid on the problem, look at the root cause of the issue.
  1. Brainstorm like crazy. Don’t judge or edit your ideas. Just let them flow. The crazy ones. The more refined ones. As long as it’s an idea, put it down on paper. 
  1. Choose wisely. Choose *one* and only one idea to go forward with. Allow both your rational mind and your intuition to guide this choice. Once you’ve made a decision, stick with it. 
  1. Implement. Put your chosen solution into action. Test your idea and see how it works.
  1. Evaluate. Look at the results from your chosen course. If you’re happy with how things ended up, great! If not, go back to step one and start all over again.

Evaluate Your Problem Solving Obstacles 

There are a few cognitive blocks that are common when problem-solving becomes difficult. Try working through the following suggestions to move past them. 

  • Assess your mental set. This is your own bias about solutions that have worked for you in the past. Psychologists refer to this as a ‘mental set.’ When you experience a problem, you are unconsciously looking at it through the lens of your past experiences. If a solution worked for a similar problem in the past, you might have a hard time coming up with other creative solutions because of your mental set. Take a step back and see if your fixed thinking is what’s keeping you stuck.  
  • Look at your emotional blocks to problem-solving. Sure, you may not see yourself as ‘emotional’ in this instance, but there could be some emotions that this particular problem is stirring up for you. Maybe you’re afraid of looking stupid for suggesting a particular solution. Or possibly you have some deep-seeded fear about solving the problem and that’s what’s holding you back.  

What To Do When Writer’s Block Strikes

Whether you’re a professional writer or not, chances are you’ve got a lot of writing to do regularly. There are emails, captions for your social media accounts, blog posts, presentations, reports for work … the list goes on and on. And sometimes, words just don’t come easily. You don’t necessarily have to be a novelist for the dreaded writer’s block to hit you. 

So what do you do about it? How do you get past writer’s block?

What Is Writer’s Block?

To understand how to overcome writer’s block, first, we have to define it. 

Writer’s block is a term used to describe the feeling writers experience when they are stuck. 

Really, for each writer, the meaning of writer’s block can be something different. For some, it’s a form of procrastination or resistance. For others, it’s a lack of ideas to propel a story. Sometimes, writer’s block is a result of depression, anxiety, overwhelm, or grief.

No matter why you’re feeling stuck in the writing process, if you’re staring at a blank cursor, all you want is some help to make the writer’s block go away, right? Feeling stuck just isn’t any fun.

How To Get Over Writer’s Block

If you’re feeling stuck when it comes to the writing process, great news! There are a ton of practical ways to get unstuck and help your writing start to flow again. 

Try any of these proven ways to help put an end to your writing dry spell.

  • Stop trying to write. Take a break and do anything other than writing. You know how your best ideas come to you in the shower? That’s the idea here. Walk the dog. Do the dishes. Stop putting so much pressure on your brain to write for a while, and when you come back, the words may start to flow.
  • Remove all distractions. It’s hard to concentrate and write when the ping of an email or DM calls to you every few minutes. Shut everything down — use a distraction minimizing app if you have to, and watch your productivity soar. If you can, remove the distraction of deciding when to write. Just set a routine or a calendar appointment to write, and stick with it. That way, you don’t have to wait for inspiration to strike before you sit down to write. Studies suggest that writers who stick to a routine are more creative and prolific.[3]https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0005796783900451
  • Try freewriting. As Julia Cameron suggests with her “Morning Pages,”[4]https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/ just sit down and write something. Not about anything in particular. Don’t write with a goal in mind. And certainly don’t judge yourself. The goal is just to get something, anything down on paper. You won’t show this to anyone. You could even discard it when you’re done. Cameron recommends shooting for three handwritten pages each morning. Many writers and creatives swear by this method to get the writing juices flowing again.   
  • Read. Nothing strengthens the old inspiration muscle like reading someone else’s excellent writing. Read something that makes you laugh or cry. It really doesn’t matter. Just keep reading until an idea hits you. At the very least, you’ll never regret the time spent reading quality work.
  • Evaluate your basic needs. Sometimes writer’s block is the result of feeling overworked and tired. If you’re struggling to write, make sure it’s not because you haven’t had enough sleep or need to eat something nutritious. Sleep’s effect on the brain is well documented, and some studies even suggest that REM increases creativity.[5]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2700890/

What To Do When You Can’t Seem To Move Past A Conflict

Possibly the most difficult scenario to find yourself stuck in is in a conflict with someone else. When you’re facing this type of management and leadership challenge, it can be hard to find a way to resolve conflict peacefully and respectfully. 

Brushing up on your interpersonal skills and being prepared for conflict resolution is a great way to avoid project management issues.  

Types Of Interpersonal Conflict

There are 4 basic types of interpersonal conflict, and finding out which type you’re dealing with is the first step to getting unstuck from the mess.

Here are the 4 types in a nutshell:

  1. The conflict for the sake of conflict. This is where you just can’t see eye to eye with someone else. They like pie and you like cake. The disagreement is kind of silly if you take a step back and are able to look at it without the emotional attachment to the issue, but either you or the other person refuses to back down.
  1. Confusion or interpretation differences. These types of problems arise because two people interpret the same thing differently. Maybe they’re both given the same set of instructions, but they each view the instructions in varying ways. It’s a conflict of confusion. 
  1. Conflicting values. Conflicting values are tough to navigate, and there just might not be a resolution to be had when values clash. It’s important to remember to respect the other person’s values, as you’d like them to respect yours. 
  1. It’s a matter of pride. When you’ve got a conflict that you just can’t resolve, check in with yourself to see if it’s because you don’t want to take a hit to your ego. Sometimes conflicts arise between people because their egos just get in the way.

Conflict Resolution Strategies

Honing your interpersonal communication skills is a great first step in moving past interpersonal blocks. Learning to empathize with others and see their point of view is an essential leadership skill. 

Here are a few more strategies for managing conflicts that just don’t resolve easily: 

  • Make sure you’re getting to the heart of the matter. Is the conflict really about what you think it’s about? Is there a deeper problem underlying the conflict at hand? 
  • Clear up any confusion. If the problem is stemming from the fact that two people are interpreting the rules or directions differently, create clarity. Once the confusion is resolved, the conflict will be too.
  • Agree to disagree. Maybe the answer is to just concede there is no good answer. Especially if there’s a conflict in values — you might not be able to reach common ground, and sometimes admitting that is the resolution you need. 
  • Check your ego at the door. Is the argument so silly you could really just let it go if you weren’t afraid of looking weak?
  • Let the other person “win.” Ask yourself what you get out of being right. If the stakes are low, perhaps it’s better to smile and nod and let this one slide. 

Getting People Unstuck Is What We Do

Hopefully, this guide to busting through creative and interpersonal blocks has helped you get unstuck and start cruising toward your goals. Try turning on your creativity with these 6 supplements.

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