Peter Fitzgerald

Sometimes the most challenging thing in marketing is keeping the good ideas coming. Sometimes, having a good idea on demand is more challenging than it sounds.

Whether it’s coming up with a hook for your next campaign, working out the gritty details of your marketing strategy, or trying to get a spreadsheet to do that one thing that’s going to make your life easier, sometimes you just need to keep the mental engine running at full speed.

If you’ve ever had one of those mornings (or afternoons… or evenings…) where you’re staring at a piece of work and your head is going nowhere, then hopefully this article will help.

Here are 4 tricks I use to keep coming up with new ideas when I’m up against it.

1 – Change Your Scenery

When I’m stuck on a problem, or am struggling to come up with a new hook/concept/whatever, one of the first things I do is move. Sometimes it’s as simple as going to get a glass of water or a cup of coffee.

There’s something in taking your attention off the problem that allows your mental blocks to become unstuck. It’s amazing how often I’ve solved a problem only a few feet from my desk on the way to the kitchen.

Sometimes it takes a bigger change. Whether that means hot desking or finding an empty meeting room, the important thing is that I’m in a different environment.

Sometimes it’s merely the act of unplugging the laptop, moving to a new desk and getting set up that helps to kick start idling creative processes, while other times it’s the change in atmosphere or surroundings that helps you to think in a different way.

2 – Pick Up a Pen (or Pencil)

I find few things more frustrating than staring at a screen and getting nowhere.

The method I use most frequently is to do something physical – and by that I don’t mean go for a run, although if that works for you then more power to you. I’m often coming up with campaign plans and structures, so for me this most commonly means drawing all over a piece of A3 to map out the different audiences, channels and destinations.

However, I’ve found this to be equally useful in other kinds of creative work. Whether that’s iterating titles of a guide, or sketching out a sitemap, or quickly drawing up a page layout wireframe, sometimes it’s just quicker and easier than drafting on a computer.

Plus as an added bonus, it takes away the pressure of it needing to be perfect. Whether you know it or not, often when you sit down and start working on something on a screen, you’re already working on the ‘final’ version.

With your hardcopy sketches/scribbles you know you’re going to have to digitise them, and by putting yourself in the earlier part of that creative drafting process you free yourself up to make mistakes and/or find different ways of doing things.

3 – Talk to Someone

Sometimes the best way to unstick a creative block is to talk it through with another person. Often, finding literally anyone to talk it through with is enough – you’ll find you come to the answer(s) you’re looking for.

Much like the pen to paper solution, this puts the problem into a different medium and makes your brain run it through in a new way. That alone can be enough to let you work it through.

Even better (and if the option is open to you), talk to someone in your field – collaborate and bounce ideas around. Again, this often succeeds because it takes away the pressure of coming up with the finished article. Plus, it introduces a new perspective which can again illuminate other approaches to the issue.

4 – Try Music – Or Try Different Music

Music is a massive part of the creative process for me, if only because it stops me getting distracted by everything that’s going on around me.

If that’s not part of how you work and you’re struggling with an idea, then I recommend trying it.

You may find the music you’re listening to needs to be tailored to suit the kind of work you’re doing. For example, when I’m writing I don’t listen to music with lyrics – I tend to find myself accidentally typing what I’m hearing. If I’m working on a spreadsheet, that isn’t such an issue.

Do what works for you

Hopefully this has given you some ideas for how to overcome your next encounter with creative block.

These are just some tricks that work for me – often in tandem. It’s not unusual to see me sitting somewhere other than my desk, headphones in, sketching out ideas on pieces of paper.

But that might not work for you. Creativity is an individual thing – what works for me will work for some people and not others. Try the above as a starting point, but don’t hesitate to try your own methods. The only thing that matters is that you find something that works!

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