Why we impossibly, repeatedly, get creatively stuck

There are more than 331,172 books on Amazon right now that deal with creativity. A search on Google for the subject returns 481,000,000 results.

With so many options available, how is it that we ever get creatively stuck?

It seems almost illogical to get stuck today. We could have our most compelling ideas and solve the most daunting challenges any time, if we were to merely seek out the solutions from the millions of options available to us.

But getting unstuck doesn’t always work like that.

Even if we find and pick up the right book or article or guide, we often stay stuck. Unable to overcome a challenge or inspire ourselves to create. What’s going on?

Our minds work very much the same. Your mind and mine are wired the same, and our minds are wired very much the same as those who have come before us: the Einsteins and Graham Bells of history.

Their minds, too, became stuck from time to time. The reason, it seems, has little to do with what we’re each capable of creatively and more with that mental wiring.

Because our brains process information through connections, we often end up feeling mentally stuck as a result of the same neural connections activating repeatedly.

We feel stuck because, no matter how hard we want to feel otherwise, the signals in our brains are firing in a way that doesn’t allow them to fully move on from an existing concept, or belief.

It’s the same reason we occasionally struggle to remember why we walked into a room, or the name of a song, or a specific word we know we know. These mental loops also help explain the experience of deja vu.

We get so deep into our own experiences that it becomes difficult to see the world in any other way.

No amount of prodding or prompting can get our minds unstuck in these moments. Often times the best way forward is to take a step back, give yourself a break or a good nights sleep, and let the mental cycle wind itself down naturally.

However, there is another way to get reliably unstuck: it’s to introduce unpredictability into your thinking. Shake up your mental self. Get uncomfortable.

By introducing unpredictability into your thinking, you throw off the mental loop you’ve become stuck in. Essentially freeing your mind to explore other avenues than the ones it’s become overly familiar with.

Introducing unpredictability into your thinking can be as simple as picking up a book or magazine you would never consider reading and then reading it. Or traveling to a new, previously unexplored, edge of town, or a new cafe or restaurant.

Our minds become creatively stuck because they are wired to connect what we know we know. When we try to break free from those mental processes we end up feeling stuck as our minds recycle information and repeatedly fall back on what we already know.

By introducing uncertainty into our thinking, we break the mental loop.