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The Creative Fortress: Fighting Writer's Block

One common struggle that I’ve noticed amongst my peers in traditionally ‘creative’ fields – art, audio, game design, writing – is with finding a way to summon creativity on demand. Once I enter my creative flow state, I can generate reasonably interesting and usable content for hours at a time, without noticing the passage of time. While I do meet my deadlines, I have found the occurrence of these creative flow states to be unpredictable and that the quality of my work is higher when I made it during a creative flow state. Most interesting of all, as I mentioned, I was startled to learn that many of my colleagues contend with the same issue.

The question, then, is: how can I trigger this creative flow state?

Christiaan Champagne, the professor at DigiPen Institute of Technology for whom I am currently a teaching assistant, provided the students in the game design class with one helpful method: the Creative Fortress. As a sort of warning, Professor Champagne also emphasized the importance of keeping food on hand during this process, as it requires a non-trivial amount of energy. Another instructor at DigiPen, Rachel Rutherford, also emphasizes the importance of having sustenance on hand during work sessions, so there is much truth in't.

From Professor Champagne's lecture, I gleaned essentially this:


Part 1: Vent & Purge (30 minutes)

The participant(s) spends this time writing about everything that is clouding her mind. This includes frustrations about personal and professional life, short- and long-term concerns, and essentially anything that is distracting her from the creative project. So many thoughts can build up even in one day (!), so it's incredibly important to purge them from your system and mind. Thinking through your problems is certainly an important part of eliminating or managing them, but letting them build up without any sort of release can be detrimental to both your physical and mental health (in addition to blocking your creativity).

You can do this cathartic journaling digitally or by hand, but either way, I have found it to have an extremely healing and rejuvinating effect.

Part 2: Shameless Brainstorm (60 minutes)

After flushing out all of the distracting mental clutter, the participant(s) then proposes as many ideas as possible WITHOUT stopping to edit or judge them. These should pertain directly to the creative endeavor. The most difficult aspect of this for me is resisting the urge to edit my ideas in the middle of this hour, but I've found myself growing accustomed to the sensation of vulnerability over time.

If you must do this in a team environment, it's especially important to refrain from judging the ideas and the people who come up with them during this time. This is an important part of building trust and team cohesion. Again, I'm found that this grows easier over time.

Good luck with using this tool, and please do feel free to contact me to chat about your experiences with it. Or even to engage in the creative fortress together! Happy creating!

Copyright Alexanda Lucas 2015

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