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Bridged: The Art of Taking a Breath and Putting Your Creative Subconscious to Work

My mind was bridged. 

If you’re from the Duluth, Minnesota area you know exactly what I mean. If you’re not, let me explain. A block from our offices is the Aerial Lift Bridge, a century-old bridge that connects Downtown Duluth to the Park Point neighborhood. Several times a day it lifts up to let a slew of boats through from sailboats to fishing vessels to Great Lake tankers.

If you time it just right, you’ll be headed over the bridge when they’re coming through. Down comes the gate and up goes the bridge and in park your car goes. You’ve been bridged.

Well, just like a car on Lake Avenue on the half hour, my mind was not going anywhere. I stared at the half-done script before me. Words whirled, none of them the right answer. None of my ideas were right…but I couldn’t put any one of my fingers on why. I just felt stuck stuck stuck.

This wasn’t my first mind bridging. I knew exactly what to do.

“I’m going for a walk.”

I lollygagged down the stairs to the awaiting fresh air. I meandered to the Lakewalk and just let my mind wander.

The only rule? No work thoughts.

I knew my subconscious mind was busy at work and that I’d only hinder it.

Instead, I appreciated the rare 70 degree September day and took in the views of the Duluth skyline. Slowly, I made my way back, not pressuring myself to walk too fast.

The ideas would come. The more I accepted that, the better they’d be.

Overthinking is the enemy of creativity.

Forced creativity turns into mediocre work.

Only about 15 or 20 minutes had passed by the time I made my way back to my laptop. But what a difference it made. I now had a fresh mind. I read the script aloud and instantly spotted where my problem lay. I moved words around and added new ones and reread it all a few times. So much better.

How to Embrace Your Subconscious
It’s taken me years to have this relaxed attitude toward writing and the confidence to just go for a walk during work hours. I used to sit in my writing problem stuck and stranded, too fearful to get up and shake it off. This was never because of my bosses or workplace but more my own insecurities and lack of experience. As the years have gone on I’ve grown a better understanding of what I need to do for myself to get my best work. Stepping away for a bit is one way.

(Obviously, if we had meetings or pressing matters, I wouldn’t just walk out. But the perks of a tight knit team is trust and flexibility.)

It takes time to learn to trust your subconscious.

To build that trust, first you’ve got to feed your brain. We’re not just talking about being up to date on all things marketing. Think beyond. Find things outside of work that fascinate you and embrace them. Go to an art show. Coach a sport. Start a soap company. Anything that gets your mind working and feels like play builds your creative prowess and finds its way into your work.

Secondly, you’ve got to put in the work. Knowing your client and doing the research is key. Pour all the info you can into your brain, work on the problem, but don’t fret if the answer isn’t immediate.

Great ideas take time.

Our award-winning COVID Ref campaign idea is a great example. We brainstormed together and apart for several days before the concept sprung from our conversation. When we did get brainstorm bridged, we’d separate and chat later with clear thoughts and new ideas. It worked.

So don’t let a bridged brain stall your ideas. Lean into it and take a walk. Or stop and stretch. Or listen to your favorite song. Whatever gives your brain a break and your subconscious a chance. It’s ready and waiting to do some heavy lifting.

What’s your favorite way to take a brain break? Share in the comments.

Interested in learning more about our creativity philosophy? Check out The Power of Play Philosophy.