Shifting Gears to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

What sparks creativity? Recent studies from around the world examined how switching to a totally different task while you’re brainstorming can dissolve “writer’s block” and other kinds of mental blocks.

Here’s what the researchers know: Your first phase of problem-solving is deliberation, when you devise possible solutions. Next comes appropriateness, when you sort the solutions based on practicality.

What this means: If you become stuck, try working briefly on something that occupies your brain a completely different way, allowing you to free-associate about the earlier challenge. Here’s a for-instance: What if you’re thinking up a new advertising slogan? Scientists dub that a verbal task. You could help ideas flow by redesigning the layout of a webpage, because that is a spatial task, occupying your brain a completely different way. As you revise the webpage, the brain’s back burner ponders the ad slogan.

So how long should this change of pace last? That probably depends on how complex your original problem is. Researchers saw good results with a three-minute switch for a simple one. But sleeping on it isn’t ideal, according to the research, because a nap (as good as it sounds) might last so long that it shuts down those creative juices. Make it your goal to get unstuck and get creative.


Betsy Simnacher is a freelance writer who has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. She lives in the suburbs of Dallas.

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