Some days your brain might as well have an “out of order” sign. You feel about as creative as a bad pun, and no amount of coffee seems to make a shred of difference.
It’s infinitely frustrating and can happen to the best of us. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it. There are actually a few workarounds to help you overcome the dreaded mental block.
We could go back in history and cite hundreds of creative process examples, like Igor Stravinsky who stood on his head or the poet Friedrich Schiller who stored rotten apples in his desk. But for now, we’ll focus on a more modern icon: Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs was an admirably creative individual who seemed to have a surprising answer for every question. However, even he had his moments of zero inspiration. Here are a few of his habits you can borrow to stir your own creativity.
1. Think while you walk
It’s no secret that exercise is great for keeping your mind in shape as well as your body. Plenty of successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Oprah mention running or yoga as an essential part of their daily routine.
Steve Jobs would often tap into the power of a leisurely walk to clear his head or spark an “aha” moment. He’d even conduct “walking meetings” where he’d go out for a stroll with a group of people while brainstorming new products.
According to Stanford research, walking can increase creative output by an impressive 60%. So next time you’re in a mental rut, try stepping outside for 10-15 minutes or just walk around the office to spur your own inventive ideas.
Meditation is a lot harder than it sounds, but there’s a reason the most successful people in the world rely on this peaceful practice to keep their lives in order.
Jobs was very open about his love for meditation. It all started in the ’70s, when he dropped out of college and traveled to India. There he immersed himself in a spiritual quest for higher learning and harnessing the power of meditation. He told the author of his biography,
“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes things worse, but when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things — that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more.”
Jobs’ practice of meditation encouraged his most creative thinking along with a strong sense of empathy which inspired the design of his most famous Apple products. It takes time, but meditation can change your life for the better. As Jobs says, “It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.”
3. Pursue a different interest
This one sounds more like a distraction than a method for inspiration, but Steve Jobs insisted that “creativity is just connecting things”.
Jobs was famous for taking seemingly unrelated courses throughout his lifetime. He once enrolled in a calligraphy course just because “it interested him.” While it didn’t make sense to anyone (probably not even to him at the time), he revealed years later in his Stanford commencement speech that the course was responsible for the Macintosh’s beautiful typography.
The concept behind this practice is you can’t think outside the box if you never leave the box. Step out of the routine and allow yourself to discover new things. Study businesses that are different to your own. Read a book that interests you even if it has nothing to do with your current problem. You never know how one sentence can spark an idea of your own.
You have to believe that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
— Steve Jobs