Creativity is a fickle mistress. When you have it, you’re unstoppable—the world bends for you and caters to your every whim.
But when you lose it, it seems that you have never had it, you’ve always been a fraud, you’ll be stuck out in the lifeless, bland cold— forever.
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel wrote “Cecilia” specifically about this very creative block. The song refers to St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. “Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart, you’re shaking my confidence daily,” as it appears the saint has withdrawn her favor and put obstacles in front of them, only to be turned to “jubilation” when she “loves [them] again.”
Traveling between having creativity and feeling shut out from it can make even the sanest person feel a little crazy.
So what happens when it’s not just you, but your entire team is feeling the block all at once? When everything the team suggests has been tried, isn’t feasible, or doesn’t even sound cool? Here are a few tips for your team to try out when you keep running into the same brick wall—repeatedly—and need to get back on track with more creative ideas for marketing.
Seriously, just stop. Stop doing whatever you’re doing. Maybe do something else. Or don’t do anything at all. Just don’t do what you have been doing. If you’re in a meeting that isn’t going anywhere, that isn’t fruitful or productive, hitting one creative block after another—call a recess.
Creative ideas for marketing don’t exactly thrive under intense pressure, and pressure is created when the demand for creativity is constant. We choke it until it’s lifeless and then can’t understand why it’s not helping us.
So don’t make your creative side a victim to your panic—stop, even if just for a few minutes.
2. Breathe, Eat, Sleep, Take a Walk
To elaborate on the previous idea, there are a lot of things you can do to distance yourself from your creative block for a minute when you stop demanding that it show up. Breathing exercises are very effective at clearing your mind and putting you in a calmer, more relaxed, more open state.
Sometimes “hungry” turns into “hangry” and we can’t think anymore, so stepping out to grab a bite can satiate the beast so we can later return to normal. Sometimes you’ve been at it all night and you just need rest for renewal. Or, if you’re in the office, get up, stretch your legs, and maybe go outside for some fresh air. No matter what, some time away from the situation will do everyone a little bit—if not a lot—of good.
3. Take an Internet Field Trip
At Dfuzr, when our creative team is in a bind, their first inclination is to head to Pinterest or other similar sites for inspiration. You can also hit up StumbleUpon, Etsy, and AdWeek among many, many others to see what other people are doing or have done and what has and hasn’t worked for them.
Go in with a specific goal in mind, such as, come out with five things you found really interesting to present at your next meeting, even if the ideas don’t seem to fit your business model.
This goal helps twofold:
1) It stops you from going down a Pinterest wormhole, tempting you to plan your dinner menu for the next week. You have to come out of this field trip with actual takeaways, and
2) Even if the ideas don’t seem to fit your business model, someone in the meeting room might have a brilliant idea for how to make it something that fits your business model!
4. Take an Actual Field Trip
Maybe you’ve had meeting after meeting, after breathing exercise, after lunch, after internet field trip, after meeting, and still, nothing is happening. I promise that you’re not doomed. You’re just a victim of an extended creative slump, and sometimes this happens.
How do you fix it? I know one agency that takes monthly trips as a team, which serves as both a team-building exercise and an “inspiration walkabout” of sorts. They might go to the art or science museum, go for a hike, visit a new restaurant or retail store, go to a historical landmark, take a wine and painting class, or go skiing.
No ideas are “off-limits” unless they’re terribly cost-prohibitive, and everyone comes out with a new experience.
Remember to bring notepads with you in case creativity strikes while you watch beer being made or play on a swing set!
5. Reconvene for a More Structured Meeting
Like I mentioned in the internet field trip idea above, a more structured meeting involves asking your team to arrive at the meeting with a certain number of ideas. No ideas are too big, too small, too stupid, too boring, or too irrelevant. The point is that you have ideas on the table–or wherever, if you take your meeting on a field trip!
As your team members list off ideas out loud, write them on index cards and tape them to the wall. Then start writing down any new ideas that come up as a result of hearing the first ideas. Write down sub-ideas pertaining to original ideas and place them underneath those big ideas, and so on and so forth. The objective is to get ideas out that will provide a chain reaction to the idea you’ll finally settle on. You might start with branding a big red ball and end up with a comprehensive guerrilla marketing campaign.
The possibilities are endless, but you have to allow for all ideas to be possibilities first.
Creative slumps are trying for teams. They can turn team members against one another and create a lot of self-doubt. Don’t let your team fall victim to a block—take this advice to take the pressure off yourselves and breathe life back into your creative process!