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Flipping the Switch When the Lights Are Off: Methods for Facilitating Creative Thinking When You Have Hit A Wall

This Legal Problem Solving post is by Christian Albano, Vanderbilt Law School Class of 2019.

Creativity can be a powerful tool in solving some of the toughest problems. Although many people do in fact offer “get creative” as words of advice when someone is confronting a difficult task, these people often do not explain what that entails (and may not even know themselves). Getting creative may sound as simple as flipping a switch, but many of those who have tried to do so have found that this can often be just as difficult as the task at hand. This post offers both traditional and non-traditional methods that can be used to facilitate the creative process when you feel yourself hitting a creative wall.

1. Guided Meditation

Guided meditation is a traditional facilitation method that will allow you to clear your mind, focus, and remove any outside distractions that you would otherwise bring with you into a task. People who engage in guided meditation meditate in response to guidance by another, either in person or through some form of media. There are many benefits to guided meditation that can make it preferable to self-meditation.

 

Like creativity, meditation is another process that seems simple. However, facilitation can help the inexperienced meditator get the most out of their session. Finding someone to guide you through meditation can be easy. A simple google search can provide you with many resources for guided meditation, including videos and sound files. Some are even designed specifically to help you get creative.

Another benefit of guided meditation is the ability of the facilitator’s voice to act as a focus point during the process. Inexperienced meditators may struggle with their distractions creeping back into their minds during a quiet self-medication session. The facilitator's voice acts as another layer to block these thoughts out. Meditation does not need to be long, so this method provides an opportunity to get creative more quickly.

2. Applying Creativity to Different Tasks

Sometimes jumping right into the creative process can be a tall task. Many people do not think to “warm up” their creative skills before using them on a large problem. Have you ever been told to start your car and let it warm up for a few minutes in the dead of winter before you start driving? This non-traditional method of facilitation is akin to warming up the car. Certain tasks are easier to get creative with, and provide relatively lower stress, than others.

Imagine yourself waking up one morning with a large and difficult project on your mind that you need to address at work later in the day. You know you will likely need to get creative to get it done, so you sit down at your kitchen table, take a sip of your coffee, and start thinking. Nothing comes to mind. What do you do?

This situation provides the perfect opportunity to shift your creative focus to smaller, more attainable tasks before you head to work. Ask yourself some questions to get creative about everyday tasks. How can I redesign the breakfast on my plate to make eating more efficient? Are there any routes that I can take on my commute to work today that might make getting their faster? Answering questions like these can hone your mind and put it into “creative mode” by the time you approach your task at work.

3. Hiking

Hiking provides another traditional facilitation method, but is often a lengthier process than guided meditation. For some, the length can be an advantage, and hiking provides the added benefit of isolation.

Mother nature can be a powerful facilitator of creativity. A famous example of her power is that of Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau is a famous 19th century author who wrote Walden; or, Life in the Woods, which is a book that details his experience living in a log cabin that he built himself alone in the woods. During his more than two years living in isolation in the woods, he was able to not only to write Walden, but also his first novel.

While Hiking does not need to be as lengthy of an experience as that of Thoreau’s, it still gets you away from society and the everyday world, where all of your distractions live. At the very least, it gets you far away from the technology that is likely in your face most of the day (particularly your work computer).

4. Isolation Tanks

Maybe you like the idea of isolating yourself from the outside world, but you do not want to leave the comfort of your own home or finding a place to hike is not feasible. Isolation tanks provide a non-traditional method for people who are not outdoorsy to facilitate creativity in a similar way to hikers.

An isolation tank is used for sensory deprivation, and essentially leaves users alone with their thoughts. Sensory deprivation is achieved by filling a tank with enough salt water to leave the user feeling weightless as they float in the tank. The tank is designed like a slightly larger tanning bed without light beaming down at you. Instead, you are totally closed off to the outside world and are left to float in complete darkness. In this space, you lose all of your senses and perception of the outside world, and are left to think.

Some users of isolation tanks install them in their own home, but there are budget friendly options that are available as well. Businesses exist that allow you to book appointments to use isolation tanks at their facilities. While going to a facility to use an isolation tank may be strange, it is very similar to going to get a tan or a massage.

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