Familiar with those moments of utter blankness when you have to think of an idea and all that comes to you is...nothing? You are not alone. All of us go through that, even professionals who have to think of ideas for a living. To do worthwhile things in life, we need to think original and unique. And while some may argue that nothing is original and everything is inspired, ideas need to be thought and processed well, original or not. The Week spoke to some individuals whose works’ basis is to think new: Sushila Karki is a fashion designing graduate and founder of Meraki Hands that works to bring in new decorative items with blends of Nepali and the western influences in its designs, Dipesh Ranjit is one of the core members of the creative team at Thompson Nepal, an advertising firm, and Shreya Basnet, also known by the alias, ‘Lunaray’, runs her own blog and Instagram account (@_spillediink) where she posts her poems. Here they share their secrets of how they come up with new ideas and overcome mental roadblocks when, quite inevitably, they can’t seem to think of anything new.
Often ideas don’t come to you because of too many opinions around you and too many people talking at the same time. In all that clutter, it’s only natural that your own feelings are muted and unattended to. Of course you are having a hard time coming up with ideas, you are not listening to yourself. Karki shares that being alone is what seems to help her the most when nothing comes to her. She retreats into a room and forces herself to work on her designs. She tries to emulate the mindset she used to have when not experiencing this block. While forcing yourself to think of something creative isn’t the right way of doing it, you shouldn’t go easy on yourself either. Too often we use that as an excuse to procrastinate.
Talk to people
This is what often happens in advertising. With companies having to come up with jingles and taglines that not just grab the attention of the viewers but also reveal the purpose of the product or service, the pressure is quite high, especially when they are pressed for a deadline and have to meet all the requirements of the clients. Ideas are a result of the mind being allowed to think and process, and that isn’t something that can easily happen in extreme pressure. Ranjit explains that in such instances it is always wise to consult people who aren’t involved with the same line of work as you. Often people tend to exhaust their ideas because of the regularity with which they have to come up with them. So asking someone very far off the career route as you can give you a surprisingly fresh perspective. Because they are untried, for the most part, their thoughts and opinions might give you a new trajectory of mental working too.
If you can’t write, read
For writers who maintain blogs and have regular readers, not uploading on time may cause them to lose their potential audience. And everything you write ought to be different and written just as well as or better than your previous work. That’s no easy task especially when there are times when you can neither think nor bring your ideas into form. Basnet has the same troubles too. When this happens she stops writing altogether and reads for hours. She doesn’t know how or why but post long reading sessions, she has a torrent of ideas and writing comes easily to her. She also has the habit of carrying a notebook everywhere she goes so that she can note whenever strikes her mind. “People think they will remember such things but 90 percent of what you think, you forget,” she says. So when thinking gets difficult, she pulls out her notebook and tries to develop her untidy scrawls into full-fledged pieces of writing.
Make yourself happy
Anxiety and agitation are phases written about and not written with. Creativity has no room to breathe in an anxious mind. So doing away with factors that cause you discomfort or anxiety is what is most important, adds Basnet. But do something that not just comforts and relaxes you but also makes you happy. For some, it may be a long hot bath or just an episode of How I Met Your Mother or Friends. You could also play some music (jazz works like magic) or have a blast with a round of Candy Crush. Again, Karki reiterates that you have to be alone to do this. Having company when trying to relax only worsens agitation. Also try to identify the source of your anxiety. Is it because of a long overdue project or because you feel guilty about something you did? See how you can work your way through.
Make it fun
You know those occasions when you are assigned hundreds of pages of reading for coursework and the text is (usually) so archaic and dull that you just can’t will yourself to read more than a page or two? And even if you do, the words go just over your head? You’re reading and reading but nothing you read registers in your mind. You don’t have the luxury to not read so you have to get yourself to do it and also make some sense of it. What often works for most people is to read just a few chapters of their favorite book or a short story that is great fun before you tackle your assignment again. Basnet mentions that what this does is get you in your reading zone and as you are enjoying the read you will open up the block in your mind that kept you from comprehending.