Creative Blocks from A to Z: Immersion

woman looking at paintingEditor’s note: This article is the ninth in an A-Z series on issues related to creative blocks. This month we look at the role of immersion in creative work and ways to enhance the feeling of being fully engaged in an activity.

It may sound counterintuitive to suggest that many creative individuals are holding back when they are creating. The image conflicts with the widespread perception of an obsessive artist or scientist who has shut out the rest of the world and cannot think of anything other than his or her work/project. In fact, there are some creative types who work this way. The potential risk associated with this creative style is poor balance between work and personal life.

On the other hand, there is the creative type who feels detached, uninspired, and creatively blocked; in other words, the creative person who is not immersed in his or her work. The outcome is often dissatisfaction with the final product or with the experience of the creative process, and lack of creative fulfillment.

Immersion is the feeling of being pleasantly entangled in the web of our creative experiences. It involves surrendering to and embracing the challenges, new thoughts, unexpected ideas, rewards, and the in-the-moment flows that come with creative work. Immersion is important in helping us work through difficult and persistent creative blocks. So how do we achieve the feeling of being in an immersed state during moments of creative expression?

  1. Minimize external distractions: No matter how prepared you might feel to let your mind freely generate new ideas, external distractions can quickly interrupt your efforts. Make sure you give yourself the time and space you need to create in order to fully engage in the activity. The goal is to avoid becoming mentally fragmented due to interruptions from your surrounding environment.
  2. Minimize internal distractions: You may have the perfect external conditions and plenty of uninterrupted time yet still feel distracted—by your own mind. As we will see below, becoming mindful is one way to overcome this. Another technique is to keep a piece of paper next to you while you are creating onto which you can jot down all the random thoughts that come up. In the form of a list, without going into detail, just write down in one or two words the many thoughts that might be bouncing around in your head. This way, these internal distractions will be visually present and outside your mind. The goal is to be able to say, “OK, now I know what keeps distracting my mind; I can revisit these thoughts when I’m done working on my art, music piece, novel, etc.” As time goes on, the compulsion to engage in these distracting thoughts will be lessened.
  3. Choose appropriate task level: Working on something that’s too easy and repetitive can lead to boredom. On the other hand, something too challenging can lead to frustration and discouragement. Both of those feelings can make it difficult to feel rewarded and engaged in the creative work. Try working on the skill of finding “just the right amount” of challenge in order to maximize the feeling of immersion while creating. The goal is to be somewhat challenged but also rewarded by instantaneous accomplishments.
  4. Decide what’s meaningful: Prior to beginning your creative work, it might be a good idea to spend some time thinking about your motivation. What motivates you to bring something to life? Why is this meaningful to you? How does it help your mental health and your body? By feeling certainty and confidence about the importance of your work, you will minimize doubts and inhibitions that limit immersion.
  5. Be mindful: Our brains are constantly working and receiving input. It is inevitable that sometimes our thoughts will wander and take us away from the present moment. All it takes is a gentle mental command to go back to the task. This may sound something like, “I’m here now,” or, “This moment.” Doing this will help you remain focused and will maximize your brain’s capacity to come up with novel ideas.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Olga Gonithellis, MA, MEd, LMHC, therapist in New York City, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Gabby

    Gabby

    January 12th, 2015 at 10:19 AM

    I find that even during my greatest bursts of creative energy I still struggle with breaking things down into manageable parts. I see the big picture and know what I would like to create but I have a hard time with the follow through when it comes to the steps. I guess that I get a little impatient and want the vision to be realized without taking the appropriate steps to complete the work.

  • gwen

    gwen

    January 12th, 2015 at 3:26 PM

    To get the most out of your life, no matter your personality type, you have to be fully immersed in it wouldn’t you say?

  • shara t

    shara t

    January 13th, 2015 at 3:47 AM

    as a musician I too have felt those times when it seems that there is all of this good stuff going on in my head but to get that down on paper or to even be able to hammer out some lyrics? It just feels like it all gets stuck in there and I know that it’s there but getting it out is the trick.
    i have to go somewhere where i feel some inspiration on days like that. this is no normal sit down at the desk with a cup of coffee kinda day, this is one that for me always calls for a little field trip even just to the local park or something, and that is generally all i need to get the words flowing again.

  • ElvA

    ElvA

    January 13th, 2015 at 3:17 PM

    I think that once you can find the meaning behind the action and figure out why this important to you then you will feel the block life and the creativity can flow once again
    How does this make you feel and what do you receive from it?

  • Lyric

    Lyric

    January 21st, 2015 at 3:46 AM

    I have all of the external stuff down pat, a great work environment etc. What I still struggle with daily is the thoughts in my own head that I am not good enough, I am this or that that will make it impossible to complete this job. I know that there is not much holding me back from succeeding besides all of the negativity that I have in my own mind, and I fight against this daily.

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