Creatively stuck: Quarantine edition.

Everyone encounters creative blocks at some point. Before the stay-at-home order, a refreshing solution may have been to walk to your favorite coffee shop for a breath of fresh air and a much-needed dose of caffeine, or to stop in to a coworker’s office for a chat. Now that we’re working from home – either alone or amid chaos – a lot of our go-to options are limited or unavailable. It can be hard to focus on work, let alone come up with good ideas, when you can’t remember the last time you left the house. Getting out of a brainstorming rut has become an entirely new task to tackle, and the creative process has certainly evolved. Here’s what has helped me while working from home:

  1. Get out all the terrible ideas first. Laugh at the absurd, nonsensical thoughts and write them down or sketch them out anyway. Once you’ve gotten all the seemingly “bad” ideas out, step away. Take a break before you start to feel drained and frustrated, so that you end up wanting to come back to the process.
  2. When you do come back to continue brainstorming, it can feel daunting to know that some progress needs to be made. Start with a clear working space – just a pen and paper – either at your desk or in a new area of the house. When you are free of distractions and clutter, it makes a fresh start feel, well, refreshing.
  3. Once you’re happy with your ideas, consider having someone else review them, which can help bring new insight on how to push those ideas even further. Since you can’t swing by your friend’s desk at the moment, try having a video call to discuss ideas rather than relying on email or chat. An email requires only a quick response, but a call allows for conversation and better feedback. I have also used screen-sharing a lot lately to show what I have been working on. Even though we may be isolated from our coworkers, it’s extremely important to reach out regularly for help or some input.

These tactics are not foolproof and may not work every time, but they’ve helped me a lot lately. Good ideas don’t only come from the office. They can come when you’re in the shower or doing the dishes. And when frustration hits, I take a walk or run outside (you may even come up with something out there!). Anything to allow some subconscious thinking to occur without the pressure.

Working from home has brought several challenges and required a lot of discipline, but it has also given me the opportunity to fine-tune my own brainstorming process. Now, back to work!