When Your Brain Says “No” to Creativity, Try This Instead

If you’re a creative person, you know that usually the mental “juices” flow well. The ideas slide into your brain as fast as a baseball player sliding into home plate, and it seems as if nothing can stop them.

But, inevitably, there are the times you sit in front of your blank canvas, your blank craft table, or your blank Word document and just have no idea what to do. You want to create SOMETHING, but…it’s almost as if your creativity is constipated, for lack of a better analogy. 😛

What do you do? Before now, I’ve often just sat there and tried to make an idea come forth, wasting minutes (or sometimes hours) trying to be creative and feeling utterly useless. But I discovered a trick, quite by accident, that can help you get unstuck pretty quickly: doing housework.

Whaaaaat? Doing HOUSEWORK Makes You Creative?

Well, no, doing housework won’t make you a master of the arts in ten seconds flat. But it does give your brain critical time away from the arduous effort of trying to be creative. In the minutes while you’re cleaning or just straightening a few things out, your brain can relax as you focus on getting these small tasks done.

An example: the other evening, I was finally tackling the kitchen, which had become a little (read: a lot) messy. Wiping down the counters, sweeping crumbs off onto the floor for later pickup with the broom, bagging up trash, unstacking and restacking the dishwasher…I knew it all by rote, and so I could kind of zone out, not particularly thinking of anything.

I was in the middle of finishing the task, sweeping up all the crumbs and randomness on the floor, when I realized I was humming a little melody. And I didn’t have any music playing, nor was it any melody from an established song that I could recall. It seemed that in the 10 minutes since I had begun my kitchen-tidying, my brain had come up with the beginnings of a new composition, without my actively thinking about it at all.

This could have been considered a fluke, except that something similar happened a few days later while I was finally clearing the front porch of last year’s fallen leaves and other detritus. While I was bagging up the trash from the front porch area, I suddenly had an idea for a new character in my novel…it was totally unrelated to what I was doing, but it popped into my head nonetheless.

The Key Here: Relaxing/Refocusing Your Mind

Often, we say we’re relaxing, but our minds are still doing 140 on the mental autobahn. I know at least for me, trying to relax by being in a still, quiet room doing nothing doesn’t really help my brain turn off (see: my 4am actual falling-asleep-time); I lay there jittery, feeling like I should be doing something instead of laying there useless. But, somehow, when I’m doing little tasks like housework, my brain slows down a little, takes its foot off the mental gas, and actually takes a breath for once.

Try this if you feel absolutely stuck in a creative rut and have no ideas. Instead of forcing yourself to keep plugging away and getting nothing accomplished, try doing a little housework, or something less mentally intense. You might find that you clear some mental clutter away as you clean and straighten your physical environment!

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