At some point or another, every writer, artist, engineer, musician, or creative-minded professional has run up against a dreaded wall. The wall of being blocked.
Some say there is no such thing; that it is a myth created by lazy minded amateurs. Some insist it is perniciously real, genetic even. Whichever camp you reside in, the point remains: sometimes the old synapses in the brain aren’t firing on all cylinders as much as we’d like them to.
What is the magic cure-all for the dreamer’s malaise? For me, I can sum it up in one word:
Yep, it’s that simple. So simple in fact that most of us write it off. Sorry for the pun—I couldn’t help myself. But it is true. Few things get the gray matter in line better than going for a walk. For two reasons:
The brain needs blood, oxygen, and nutrients to operate at peak capacity.
In today’s world of increasingly sedentary—for those of us with desk jobs—workdays, our bodies spend an inordinate amount of time in semi-hibernation. We wake up from 8 hours of sleep and move about just long enough to get into our cars for 15-60 minutes of commuting, then move about again just long enough to walk to our desk and sit for 8 or more hours. In fact, the majority of our movement is simply moving between points of rest. Not a good formula for brain activity.
Going for a walk, doing some quick cubicle push-ups, or walking up and down a flight of stairs can get the juices flowing and infuse the brain with a much-needed pick-me-up.
2. Mental Disconnect
Maybe that is not the proper medical-psychological terminology. Let me use an example to explain. We’ve all had this happen to us: A friend asks you a question, say “What’s that actors name who was in that spy movie?” And you draw a blank. And the more you try to come up with the answer, the more elusive the name becomes. So you forget about it and move on.
Then the next day, while making your bed—BANG!—the actors name pops into your head. Seemingly out of nowhere. We’ve all had this happen to us, right?
Just like computer RAM, our brain arranges things by priority, saving just enough bandwidth on the back end to handle trivial or day-to-day functions—which is where that actors name question got filed away. Then, quietly in the background, the brain chews on the question, rummaging through its memory banks. And voila, the answer emerges!
I can tell you from personal experience that I get almost all of my good ideas for writing, art, design, and creative projects when I am out walking. The feet get moving, the conscious brain sort of slips into neutral, and the neurons start popping. Step, step, idea. Step, step, idea.
Others say showering, blow-drying their hair, cooking, or even housework are their go-to activities for inspiration. I’ve even found painting—walls not canvases—puts me into a highly creative mindset. Paint rollers are very Zen. In fact, any “low-mind” repetitive tasks will do the trick.
So if you ever find yourself stuck or blocked, just slip on the old sneakers and hit the bricks. Soon you’ll be watching the wall crumbling to the ground.