Personal Growth

Here's a Simple Strategy for Getting Out of a Creative Rut, According to a Former Nike Engineer

Writing a poem? Decorating a cake? Painting a masterpiece? If you've ever even attempted any sort of creative task, you know the struggle is real. When the fountain of creativity in your mind runs dry, what can you do? A former Nike engineer has a simple trick.

Beat the Burnout

Tiffany Beers worked as a senior innovator at Nike for more than a decade (she had a short stint at Tesla, too). If anyone needs to keep the creative juices flowing, it's her. To do that, Beers has a very simple strategy, which she told to Quartz in an anecdote about a coworker struggling during a team project.

Beers and her team were busy bringing the famous fictional shoe from "Back to the Future" to life, and the maker on the auto-lacing shoe team was on the brink of burnout. "That was someone that every time [we'd] come up with a different concept, he would go make it," Beers told Quartz. "He'd been making HyperAdapts for years." He soon got worn down and approached Beers seeking advice on how to get his inspiration back. Beers gave him a unique assignment: Make a shoe that can withstand a five-mile run, using only materials that he found at Home Depot. The maker nailed the project and got his groove back to help finish off the HyperAdapt.

Related Video: The Neuroscience of Creativity

Put Your Task Down, Flip It and Reverse It

The strategy Beers employed to help the maker get back in the game is simple: Flip it. "Keep it fresh," she said. "When the same things are done over and over, the process, product, and experience become stale. Sometimes you need to force yourself out of that state." Beers advises someone stuck in a rut to question an element of the thing you're working on that you would never think to question or change. In the shoe example, the maker was probably just considering the design and look of the shoe and had the materials already set in mind.

This advice can be applied to just about anything. If you're at a blank canvas with a paintbrush in hand trying to conjure an image to bring to life, maybe try replacing your paintbrush with a sponge. If you're decorating a cake and unsure which color of icing to use, ditch it altogether and go for an inedible element like fresh flowers. If you're working on a new creative essay and no topics are coming to mind, try thinking of what you shouldn't write about ... and write about only that.

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Feeling inspired? Check out Eric Maisel's "The Creativity Book: A Year's Worth of Inspiration and Guidance." We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Joanie Faletto June 25, 2018

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