What Happens when the Idea Machine Breaks Down? 3 Ways to Jump-Start your Creative Problem-Solving


Think you’re not in the creative business? Think again – you solve problems. Period. Problems for your clients, problems within your business, problem that crop up from day-to-day – and problems require creativity.

What happens when you get stuck? Befuddled in your search for an answer? No matter how hard you look for an answer, you just can’t see it. Even if the answer is right in front of your face.

So what do you do when the magical, mystical idea machine breaks down?

3 Ways to Jump-Start your Creative Problem-Solving

#1: Take a Step Back – Ever driven yourself completely mad trying to push a solution when all you had to do was pull? Think trying to open a door by pushing when the sign clearly says: Pull.

Take a deep breath. Stopping pushing. Look for the signs and decide what to do next. Slowing down, or even better stopping, to gain perspective on a creative problem takes the pressure off and helps you settle your frustrations.

Back to our example – that door is NEVER going to open no matter how hard you push. It takes you finding a different way to approach the problem to clearly see the solution.

#2: Talk it Out – Creative people tend to spend a lot of time inside their own heads – thinking and creating which is perfect when your creative energy is flowing.

But when the creative energy isn’t flowing, it becomes a source of frustration and no matter how much you turn the problem over in your mind, you just can’t see it. You need help gaining perspective.

Pick up the telephone or make a coffee date with a trusted friend or colleague and go over the problem with them. Sometimes even the exercise of explaining it makes the answer obvious.

#3: Chart all Possible Solutions – Sit down and write out all possible solutions to the problem, even the most crazy ones. No editing, just get it all down. The idea is to solve the problem of idea underload with idea overload.

Start with a simple list or draw out a chart. The purpose is to get it down on paper so you can involve more of your senses. If you are really stuck, start by simply drawing out the problem.

Now take the random ideas and start making connections, and creating what I call “Second Tier” ideas – the ideas that form from the combination of two other ideas. The solution will start to evolve from the seemingly random ideas and interconnections.

Remember, getting stuck happens. What’s important is not avoiding or fearing being stuck, but having a step-by-step process to get unstuck. Because when the idea machine does break down, you sometimes need to use a mechanical process to get it up and running and before in the creative flow!


About Author

Carla Young, momeomagazine.com Publisher If there’s living proof that women can have it all – and then some – it’s Carla Young. Building her multiple businesses on a virtual work-at-home model, Carla is an inspiration to other mothers who want to start a lifestyle business. During her early days as a mom entrepreneur, Carla made every single mistake in the book (and a few new ones for good measure). Realizing that “doing it all” was unhealthy and unsustainable, Carla started by getting organized to the extreme, developing support systems for both her work and family. After other mothers started asking how they too could enjoy her lifestyle, Carla launched momeomagazine.com to support moms at work, at home and at play (because every mommy deserves a little me-time)!


  1. Great article…..when I have that issue sometimes, I begin a mind map and keep branching off which sometimes helps. I also keep a small notebook with me so when an idea pops in my head I record it so I have a list of ideas already made up that I can turn to.

  2. I love these suggestions! I also like to freewrite–just brainstorm on paper for ten minutes, writing quickly, ignoring grammar and punctuation. It’s chaos at first, but your brain latches onto something fast. Narratives emerge. Our brains hate disorder. Try it. Let go and write without worry or thought. Ideas will happen. Trust me. =)

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