The Creative Spark – Unstuck Studies

Do you get stuck when studying?  Well, don’t stop seeking solutions.  An answer will appear as fast as a semi-truck driver sneaks shipped bags-of-oats for his pantry.

Here are some tips for busting creative blocks, as partly gleaned from Beth Brown’s blurb in Noah Scalin’s book Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get and Keep Your Creativity Flowing at Home, at Work & in Your Studio:

Tip #1: Don’t struggle with lack of technology.  I have Internet access a mere two hours a day.   So, I work off my cellphone Word app.  I write during the morning dim, tapping my phone’s tiny lit keypad in pure silence.  Later, I nuzzle into chairs Starbucks-style and read textbooks two hours straight.

Tip #2: Reward yourself when you reach your goals.  Indulging gives me guilt.  So, whenever I desire gifts for myself, I’ll splurge on someone else.  Live vicariously, right?  Conscience free.  Buy a gift card at Starbucks to pay for patrons until the card runs out.

Tip #3: Break down your goals into tiny chunks.  When weight-training, focus on five reps at a time.  When doing calisthenics, focus on five-minute increments.  When studying, focus on fifteen-minute brain strains—a tiny task at a time. But don’t stop too soon.  When I clean fifteen-minute stints, I need two daily rounds to make a dent.

Tip #4: Don’t stare down blank pages as you cram-write your essay.  Instead, write a goofy title, sign your name, and jot down sloppy thoughts in square brackets.  Often, the stuff in brackets gets massaged into the final draft.

Tip #5: When crafting your essay’s thesis, imagine your essay just died of a heart attack.  Then think of six words or less you’d put on your essay’s tomb.  Here’s an example: “Moved by the heart in boxing.”  Ah, you’ve got your title.

Tip #6: Pay heed to your personality and talents, too.  If you have a grateful side, choose essay topics that display your gratitude.   If you work as a master chef, slip cooking metaphors into your papers.  If people flock around you, email academics for quotes to liven your articles.

Noah Scalin offers creative tasks to get you unstuck in his book Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get Your Creativity Flowing at Home, at Work & in Your Studio.  What follows is a taste of Scalin’s creative-block busters:

  • Make a visual out of themes. [Or make a model out of essay themes.] Place each theme as a header of a column.  Under each theme, write a list of related nouns and adjectives.  Pick a word from each list; combine them to craft a visual.
  • Use six words to tell your life story. Write the six-word story as if chatting casually to your best friend.
  • Have lots of projects on the go. When one bores, turn to the next.
  • Take a theme and let your emotions turn it into a squiggle on a page. Then make an image out of the squiggle.  Use this trick to make abstract images for logos or cover pages.
  • When stuck for creative ideas, get inspired outdoors.

Imagine your papers dying of heart attacks.  What would their tombs say?  Of course, “Deserves an A!”  A paradox? I call it a creative spark.