I sat down at my computer to work on my next article for this very Inc. column. After a moment or two, I was still just sitting there -- staring at the menacing blinking text cursor that was dancing on that dreaded blank page.
I was stuck. After years of writing various business, career, and self-development advice, I felt like I was totally tapped out of ideas. A creative block of mythical proportions wrapped its way around me, and I began to wonder if I'd ever be able to come up with something fresh to write about.
At that point, I contemplated implementing all of the advice I've read (and even written!) before. I should go for a walk. I should do some breathing exercises or take ten minutes to meditate. I just needed to step away for an hour or so until I could re-approach that problem with a fresh mindset.
Instead, I did something different: I feverishly typed keywords into my browser's search bar to see if there was any science or research out there that would give me something else to do -- something tangible that would help me actually kick this creative block to the curb.
It was at that exact moment that I stumbled upon this older "The Science of Us" video from New York Magazine.
It was short, so I figured I could afford to take a minute and a half to watch it in its entirety and see if it had any helpful tips to offer. And, I wasn't disappointed.
How to Overcome a Creative Block
Ultimately, the video only offered one piece of advice to conquer a creative block -- but, it was a tip that was supported by all sorts of credible science and research.
What was the tip for getting past that block? It was almost deceptively simple: Just keep pushing through it.
I know -- groan, right? That's way easier said than done. But, just take a minute to consider the supporting studies and research that suggest we're all way too quick to give up when we encounter a roadblock in our creative thinking.
The video states that plenty of studies have shown that the longer people spend mulling over a problem, the more creative their solutions and ideas become -- proving that immediately walking away for some fresh air might just be backfiring on you.
In just one study from Northwestern University, researchers asked participants to come up with as many answers as they could during a series of tests. The researchers then stopped the participants and asked them to estimate how many more solutions they thought they could generate.
At that point, the subjects were given a chance to actually come up with some more ideas. In every single test? Participants not only exceeded their estimate of how many more solutions they could come up with -- but their solutions became even more creative.
Had they given up at the first inkling of a dried up well of ideas? Well, they would've sold themselves short and ultimately never even have thought of their most innovative suggestions.
Just Keep Thinking
With so much advice out there that warns you to get some space or sleep on a problem, it's easy to think that distance is the secret to increased creativity.
But, as this research proves, the best method might be just the opposite. So, the next time you find yourself faced with a creative block, try your best to keep your nose to the grindstone and keep at it.
And, if you're wondering if this strategy actually works, just look at me as your example. After all, I'm here writing this very article, aren't I?