Whether working as a software engineer, content writer, business owner, or bartender, a rut comes about at some point or another. These days, it's often referred to as burnout. But regardless of what it's called, it's never something one wants to face. Left to its own devices, a creative rut could derail a career and have other negative impacts.
Confronting a Creative Rut
A creative rut is a period of time in which one finds themself feeling detached, unmotivated, and disinterested in their career7#8212and life in general. It's characterized by an overwhelming sense of worthlessness and lack of direction. We all experience creative ruts differently
, but it's important that we do something about them as soon as possible.
Depending on individual circumstances and the feelings one is facing, here are some helpful tips that will allow a proactive confrontation to a creative rut before it gains a stronghold in the mind:
Change up the Office
As much as there is a focus on internal thoughts, it may be difficult to recognize how influential one's immediate surroundings are on creative processing and way of thinking. If wanting to spur a quick change in thought, rearranging or reorganizing the office can be extremely helpful.
Something as simple as moving the desk to the other side of the room, changing the desktop background, or swapping out a harsh white light with a warmer, yellow light could be enough to change the way problems and opportunities are viewed.
Take a Walk
If sitting in front of a computer all day, then creativity is bound to suffer. But taking regular walks may be able to get the creative juices flowing again. This is according to a study authored by Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of the Stanford Graduate School of Education.
"The study found that walking indoors or outdoors similarly boosted creative inspiration. The act of walking itself, and not the environment, was the main factor," Stanford.edu explains
. "Across the board, creativity levels were consistently and significantly higher for those walking compared to those sitting."
When in a rut, taking a brief 15-minute walk may be enough to break up stagnant thinking and promote free-flowing thought. Give it a try.
Don't Give in
"When you're in a rut, it can be tempting to park yourself in front of the TV and wait for the muse to come back to you. But the truth is, this will only prolong your rut," author E.J. Wenstrom writes
Rather than give in and let a rut lead the way, fight back with a vengeance. Get in situations where thinking creatively is necessary. Do a crossword puzzle, solve a riddle, or read a book. These are all more effective options than watching TV or playing video games.
Surround Yourself with Beauty
As previously mentioned, creativity can be encouraged or suppressed by one's immediate environment. When in a stale setting with minimal inspiration, creativity is hard to come by. When in a fresh environment, the opposite is true.
Try being surrounded with beauty on a regular basis. This might look like hiking through nature, meditating in a garden, visiting a museum, or spending time in an eclectic coffee shop or café.
Keep an Idea Book
One generally has more ideas than they realize—even when in a so-called rut. The problem is that these creative ideas aren't recognized, and they quickly disappear.
The best way to combat the quick disappearance of creative ideas is to keep an idea book on hand. An idea book is simply a notebook that is used to jot down thoughts. It doesn't need to be fancy or specific—anything goes.
It's important to remember that the only certainty in life is uncertainty. The person you are today isn't the person you'll be tomorrow or next year. At first, this idea can feel a bit jarring and uncomfortable. But when you think about it, it's reassuring. It promises progress.
The key is to embrace an evolution—not hold it back. Confront a creative rut and rediscover who you are and what you're meant to be doing.
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.