3 Ways To Overcome Your Creative Block
Microsoft’s recent partnership with Toronto-based creatives Hayley Elsaesser (@hayleyelsaesser), Maria Qamar (@hatecopy), and Stef Sanjati (@stef.sanjati) is pretty perfect in that it combines the act of supporting badass local artists, with providing aid to the global LGBTQI community. Hayley, Maria, and Stef are all Microsoft Surface users whose work will leave you feeling empowered AF. Now, all three artists have designed limited edition merch (using the Surface) that directly gives back to Rainbow Railroad. Rainbow Railroad is an incredibly important organization that supports people in international LGBTQI communities who are fleeing persecution, and helps them get to safety. You can learn all about Rainbow Railroad, the #MySurface partnership, and shop limited edition merch here.
I might be biased but Maria's ‘Digital Didi’ (translation: digital sister) sticker is possibly my favourite thing to come out of this collaboration.
Having been stuck in a rut all for a lot of 2019, hearing Hayley, Maria, and Stef share their respective journeys really struck a chord with me. I felt determined to break through my creative block, but that would require some trial and error. By the time I’d gotten to the second ‘o’ in Google’s search results, I had put together a hefty list of solutions that stood out as the most popular. From starting the day at 4am, to meditating, to downloading the top 18 productivity apps, I knew I had to narrow them down. And I also knew I really wanted a simple, tangible, and practical solution — not some vague notion or method for reigniting creativity. This is exactly what I tried, and how it went:
Stream of consciousness writing - Essentially a brain dump. Kind of like writing out your internal monologue. I tried to consciously put time aside first thing every morning to wipe through any underlying stressors or anxieties from the day before that might affect the day ahead. I tried not to sit down with the idea of writing out my grievances and approached the exercise purely from the standpoint of writing down anything that came to mind. Even if that was breakfast. I wasn't always able come to a single conclusion from what I had written, but I always came away from the exercise feeling ready to work with a clean slate. I was surprised at how much clarity I could achieve from putting pen to paper and jotting down my thoughts as they were forming.
Actively listening - Being a better listener is something I strive to do in my daily life, but being more vigilant about actively listening throughout this experiment really helped me get out of my own head. Key word: actively listening. We’ve all, at some point, zoned out and back in to a conversation only to realize we have no real idea what it’s about. I already find it much easier to digest information when I’m reading it vs. when I’m listening to it, so with the stress factor dialed up I find it even more difficult to hone in and have meaningful in-person conversations. Constantly reminding myself to speak less, listen more, and ask more questions, not only improved the quality of my interactions, but also helped rewire and shift my perspective from time to time.
Tinkering - This is the one I half-assed, which is why I feel like it didn’t really work. And I'd really hoped this one would work but anyway, full disclosure or whatever. The big idea behind tinkering is to get your hands busy with a childlike activity that doesn’t require any serious reasoning. Lego, doodling, painting, etc. Seriously, I have tons of half-baked doodles saved on my Surface that are waiting to be revisited. In theory this sounds like a fun stress reliever, and therefore also a great way to clear your mind, but I found myself feeling impatient with whatever ‘tinkering’ activity I took up. It’s kind of like being told to work out to clear my head. I know why it’s good, and I agree with you, but I’m not going to do it. I do think that if I were to put a little more effort into it and give tinkering a second shot, it could actually be a fool proof strategy for getting out of a rut.
Thus ended my experiment with breaking a two month-long creative block. Some trial and error, some success and failure, but I feel as though I’ve come out of it having adopted some legit tools to help jog the ol’ thinker.
Ultimately, I’m privileged and lucky enough to be able to safely express myself in the environment that I choose, and feel that it falls on us all to pay that forward and be allies to vulnerable communities. Make sure you check out Hayley, Maria, and Stef’s limited edition merch to help support Rainbow Railroad. Any effort counts if it means bringing members of the global LGBTQI community to safety.
*While this post was written as part of a paid partnership with Microsoft, all opinions stated herein are my own.