Brainfreeze Thawed

Sometimes when I sit down to write…nothing good happens. Such was the result when I initially sat down to write this missive.

Nothing good takes many forms. Sometimes it’s a blank screen that stays blank no matter how long I stare at it. Other times a few words or paragraphs appear but they are, to be brutally honest with myself, crap. Worst of all, nothing good means I get frustrated and aggravated.

Seeking to break free of the bad state I was stuck in, I engaged in my favorite mind-clearing activity, walking around outside and letting my thoughts run free. It worked nicely. Relaxed me, drained the frustration, gave me uninterrupted time to think about some client issues…and about what I wanted to write.

I found myself thinking about creativity, particularly about the way it appears and disappears, often unwilling to do your bidding on command.

As it happened to me so it happens to everyone from time to time. And the usual response when good ideas aren’t coming quickly to mind is frustration and aggravation.

The result? The more you berate yourself and push yourself to come up with a good idea, the more likely you are to end up empty handed.

Really good ideas require a stress-free mind which allows thoughts to flow and to connect in new ways. The more you push yourself to think creatively, the more constricted, and uncreative your thinking becomes. Your mind gets stuck in ossified patterns and is unable to break through to new territory.

At first, it might seem like you’re wasting time, goofing off when you pop up from the computer and go off to do whatever it is that clears your mind. In my case, it’s taking a brisk walk.

In your case it depends on your situation. If you have the freedom I have, go off and take some time to do something you love to do. If you work in an office, consider taking a short trip to the coffee machine and engage in some light banter with co-workers along the way. Or start working on something completely different that excites you greatly. The key is to allow your thoughts to roam freely, to stop fixating on the issue you were trying to solve.

As I write this, it’s Friday afternoon. I spent this morning with a CEO client and his CFO. They’re facing a major company issue that has required them to quickly change some ways they operate as they go through a rapid expansion.

While some things are moving along well, other things are proving more difficult to figure out. As I listened to their discussion about solutions for these more intractable issues, I realized they were caught in a loop, saying more or less the same things over and over. This kind of repetition doesn’t lead to creative solutions, it leads to brainfreeze…

When I was alone with the CEO after he and the CFO finally agreed on next steps to address immediate issues while tabling other issues where agreement was lacking, I got him talking about his favorite thing. He loves to go off on weekends with his family, put the business out of his mind, and laze around on his boat.

As he talked about leaving for the lake at the end of the day, his face lit up. His body relaxed, he spoke more softly, and he came up with a few possible solutions for issues that moments before seemed unsolvable. Just thinking about the relaxing weekend to come got his creative juices flowing.

Who knows what he’ll tell me when he returns, what he’ll think of while drifting along in the waves as they flow across the water. What I’m sure of is that his creativity will flow along with the waves.









Commenting area

  1. The time required to sit and drink one cup of tea (or whatever), usually feels like an indulgence; but then I find the next hour is much more efficient and more likely to flow instead of struggle. Remembering to do that, however, that’s the hard part.

  2. Thank-you for this lucid discussion on one of my most pressing problems. I am taking special note of brainfreeze, which is a constant ailment for me. I like the way you express the block: the more you press, push and plead with your brain, the more ossified it becomes. I like that image of dessicated and strewn bones. My favorite escape: playing my French horn. Walking in the forest helps too, but in our gray and rainy weather I turn toward the warmth of my den.

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