Treating Your Creative Problem with John Cleese, M.D.

Have you been feeling uncreative lately? Lethargic? Bogged down by work, social life, and remembering to feed your cat?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering from moderate to severe writer’s block.

And yes, I’m a sufferer too.

But don’t worry, I may have found the solution.

John Cleese’s five steps to unleashing your creativity may just be the cure you’re looking for. But first, let’s discuss what it is.

In this presentation on the difficulties people face with creativity, actor/writer/creative specialist John Cleese claims that by simply following five simple steps people can break down the dreaded writer’s block and harness their existing creative abilities. He states that no one person is necessarily more creative than the other, but is perhaps better at getting in the right mindset for creativity to flourish. Here’s how you do it:

1) Space – To get into the “open mode” (the frame of mind where creativity lies), one must create a separate physical space for thinking, one which is closed off from outside pressures. If your thinking-space is in the middle of the living room, the same room in which your children are playing and the phone is ringing off the hook, you won’t be placing yourself in an environment conducive to creativity. One must create a separate and quiet space for thought.

2) Time – You must be in your quiet space for a certain amount of time, starting and ending at a particular time. Be sure to allot this time for pure, distraction-free thinking. As a recommendation, an hour and a half is generally a sufficient amount of time to allow racing thoughts to cease and to facilitate creativity.

3) Time – Altogether a different step, this time refers to time allotted to pondering an idea. Cleese found that the longer a person plays with an idea, the more original that idea becomes. If a person were to simply take the first idea that came to them, that idea might not be original at all. It is those who can survive the anxiety of not having yet solved the problem, those who have taken the time to expand upon and play with their ideas, who have the most original and creative thoughts.

4) Confidence – Always remember that there is no wrong answer. People who believe that their ideas are wrong or not good will lose confidence and be less likely to be creative. Ideas are stimulated by environments which are free of negativity. If swapping ideas with others, never feel that you have to be defensive about your ideas. Encouragement and playing with ideas is a better and more appropriate way of fostering original thoughts. You cannot make mistakes. There are none.

5) Humor – Don’t forget to have fun with it. There’s no need to get so “serious” about trying to force creative thoughts out. Laugh at your ideas. Laugh at other things. But always laugh. Humor is the quickest way to get into the open mode and its the easiest way to stay there.

Keeping these five steps in mind, allow your brain to play with your subject or topic. Don’t force anything. Original thoughts have the oddest way of popping up in random places if one allows oneself to think.

John Cleese as a civil servant in the halls of...

We’d never have this hilarious bit if someone didn’t sit down to think about it.

Which of these five steps do you struggle with most? Space? Time? Time? Confidence? Humor? And if you have other tips or “medication” for solving writer’s block and boosting creativity, let me know in the comments.

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