Sometimes when we work on the same creative project for a long time, under the same circumstances we can get into what is called a “rut.”
This can happen whether it’s practicing guitar, writing, work responsibilities, painting, etc. It’s the feeling of no matter how much we practice or work, that things stay the same.
It’s a “stuck” feeling…we can’t figure out how to get new life, joy and inspiration back into our work.
We wonder “where did the fun go?”
It’s totally normal, so don’t worry if you are feeling this. It means you’re caught in a cycle.
This article is about how to interrupt the cycle and let some fresh air in.
Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself
You must check out the book “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” by Dr. Joe Dispenza.
It’s amazing. Everyone should read it.
(Warning, this an affiliate link, and I could earn 29 cents if you order here 🙂 )
Here’s a short rundown of one of the basic concepts of the book.
- thinking the same thoughts
- seeing the same things
- saying the same things
- doing the same things
- hearing the same sounds
….we feel the same feelings!
When we feel the same feelings, we think the same thoughts again…and the cycle never ends!
Why is it so hard to break the thinking / feeling cycle?
If feelings were just in our minds, we could probably choose how we handle them more easily.
However, our feelings are stored in the body, not just the mind. Even if we don’t want these feelings on a mental level, the body remembers them and craves them.
When we experience feelings, the body gets flooded with a cocktail of chemicals…and like a heroin addict, we get addicted to the rush of those chemicals.
Even if the chemicals are associated with “unpleasant” emotions like worry, fear and frustration, the body can get addicted.
So to please the “junkie” in us, the mind engages in the necessary thoughts needed in order to produce those chemicals.
My mother was a perfect example, God rest her soul. She was addicted to worry.
When there was nothing to worry about, she’d worry that she wasn’t worrying.
Would anybody say they enjoy worrying? Of course not. But if you’re addicted to the chemical “fix” you get from worrying, you’ll involuntarily look for stuff to worry about.
Are You Addicted to the Creative Rut Chemicals?
I have been, so I know what it’s like. Embarrassing, but true…
If you are…
- in the same room every day
- doing the same thing
- playing the same instrument
- playing the same tunes
- making the same mistakes
- thinking the same thoughts
- feeling the same frustrations
- you are doing a “cycle” of thinking and feeling
That is the source of the rut, and what’s crazy is, yes you might even be addicted to it.
Now, let’s break the cycle.
Here are my “9 Ways to Boost Your Creativity on Guitar”
(and break out of that f#$%@!&ng rut!)
Getting quiet first is key.
I meditate almost every day, lately 45-60 minutes. You can start with 10.
If you get anything from my website, ever…get this: Meditate.
In fact it’s so important I made this silly image, just so you get the point that it’s important, it’s everything.
My favorite technique is to follow the breath. Once I get off in imagination-land, I simply come back to the breath.
It’s like training a puppy to sit. Eventually the puppy becomes still.
To allow the mind to become still is one of the healthiest things anyone can do, and it’s FREE. All you need is your butt, your breath and a room.
It reduces stress which can eventually cause illness, physical pain, and more.
Even if you can’t get “totally silent” that’s ok…you’ll start to see the chatterring of the mind for what it is, and not identify with it.
Use your imagination, and allow a NEW vision to materialize on the “quantum level” first.
“Believe it and you’ll see it.”
By changing what’s on the quantum level FIRST, we introduce a new possibility and our minds and bodies will get flooded with different chemicals, which correspond to the new vision.
Many studies (according to Dr. Joe) show that the body doesn’t know the difference if we experience the “actual thing” physically or mentally only.
The body reacts either way – whether a thought is in the imagination or in the physical world.
There are even cases of people “visualizing” exercise and showing signs of muscle growth. That’s how powerful the imagination is. (Also see his book You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter)
You’ve experienced this….whether it’s
- your mouth watering at the idea of a certain dish
- feeling of arousal in your body at the idea of a sexual partner
- a shock of worrisome adrenaline in your gut at just an idea in your mind
- the delight in the idea of success….
These are all examples of the brain sending chemicals to the body through
Starting with the vision is the way you can initiate a change. By sending the message to your body, you will seek to materialize it on the material plane – unconciously.
If you are looking to the material world first, and reacting, you’ll just be looking into the past. i.e. a beginner saying “I’ll never be able to…” and thus achieving a self fulfilling prophecy.
See what you want, and see it as if you already have it now.
(Hint – you may be addicted to the ‘not having it’ feeling, so give this stuff a chance!)
3) Take a Long Break
If you’ve been pushing yourself, a long break (a few days, a week or longer off) can really allow the mind to rest, and allow the subconscious to work on the problem.
New ideas can pop up by themselves out of the still space.
Problems resolve when you loosen the grip.
By setting the problem aside you interrupt the thinking / feeling cycle.
3) Change up Your Environment
Change the location / Get out of the usual location
By getting a new environmental input, you get new thoughts.
As a matter of fact, I practiced guitar in a different room in the house today and it gave me all sorts of new musical ideas. It was a whole new experience!
(Idea 3.5 – Clean up your work environment and get rid of clutter.)
4) Play Something New
By playing something new, by default you stop playing the old stuff, hence you break the cycle.
This is hard if you are deeply working to master a particular piece or technique,but remember we want to interrupt the thinking / feeling cycle.
Can you set aside what you have been playing, and play something different?
Maybe something new or maybe something you’ve not played in years?
5) Listen to Something New
By listening to something new. you stop listening to the same stuff – and break the cycle.
- Listened to a Mozart symphony lately? A jazz album? Maybe some African music?
- Been listening to nothing but fingerstyle guitar? STOP!
- read a new book
- go to a museum
- see a concert
- grab a lesson with a teacher
- play a game of chess with a friend
- can you walk or drive a different route to work
- walk some new streets in the neighborhood
- shop in a different grocery store
Listen to music you like, of course, but do an interrupt – a change up!
Don’t just listen to the same artist, same genre, same CD, etc.
Get some new input, and see where it takes you.
Recently I listened to a bunch of the jazz accapella group Take 6. If you have not checked them out, start there!
6) Play a Different Instrument
If you have more than one guitar – why not pick a little on the one you don’t normally use?
You’l hear new sounds, feel new sensations under the fingers and get new ideas..
I have a nylon string that I play from time to time, just to break the rut.
If you don’t have a 2nd guitar, maybe swing by a music store and play a few just for fun?
If you play electric, can you play with some effects?
If you have a piano or completely other instrument that you can play, can you tinker with that?
Again, this is all about breaking the cycle of doing the same thing and feeling the same, over and over.
7) Get Brand New Input
Here are some off the cuff ideas….
Sometimes totally different input in an unrelated realm can set off new ideas.
8) Physical Exercise
This should be right up there under Meditation…we are not just heads, we are bodies!
I can’t tell you how often a 30-40 minute run, a trip to the gym or a brisk walk has totally changed my outlook.
9) Think Outside the Box
You’ll have to dig on this one, but once the floodgates of imagination open, it’s fun.
It may take you a little while to get in the zone. It may even be uncomfortable if the pull to old ways of thinking are running strong in you.
From “outside the box” thinking I came up with many of the things that are part of my life today that are game changers.
An example from me was “I wonder if I could beatbox and play the guitar at the same time.” Ok, my fans know I do this – but way back it was just a “crazy idea” that came from creative thinking.
If you must look to youtube, maybe use a different browser where you are not logged in so you can explore with a fresh slate.
Better would be to read an awesome book. Here’s that link again 🙂
If you enjoyed this post, please comment below!
Severin Gomboc says
As always, great article. Very inspiring and motivating 🙂
Paul Reed says
Thinking outside of the box is definitely the most valuable advice. Often players limit their creativity by staying constantly in scales and typical chord progressions. One must loosen up and let his creativity flow while playing.
For me, I have a list of things to fall back on when these things pop up. The list varies from songs, to technique, to theory, etc. Whenever I get stuck without any inspiration or direction, I just go to my list and pick something off of it to work on until the next burst of inspiration hits. More often than not, the inspiration comes from something off that list.
Adam Rafferty says
Great idea Chad!