Seven take-aways for beating block

Seven proven ideas for beating back presenter’s block

by Peter Watts

Presenter’s block can hit when you need to be creative. You need new ideas for a presentation, but all you come up with are worked-over old ones.

My personal view is that we become blocked when we’ve been spending too much time cooped up inside our brain cavities. It’s not that we don’t have ideas, we just can’t access them.

We need to get out of our heads and back into our bodies.

Here are seven physical ways to release the block:

Take a walk

Get out from behind your mental block by taking a walk around the neighborhood. Whether urban or rural, walking releases thinking

Take exercise

If you have a gym membership, now is a great time to use it. Pound out some miles on the treadmill or do some light weights. The perfect workout for releasing block is the type of workout you would do for toning rather than building muscle, with minimal straining and maximum aerobic.

Take a shower

Archimedes had his famous eureka moment in the bath. We can experience something similar in the shower. As the water relaxes our bodies, it also relaxes our minds. As our minds relax, ideas flow.

Take a nap

OK, maybe not strictly physical activity, but still addressing physical need; the physical need for rest. There is an old maxim that when faced with a problem, we should “sleep on it”. In his book “Imagine”, Johan Lehrer describes how during sleep, that vociferous internal critic, the prefrontal cortex, takes a nap along with us. This allows ideas to surface that our cortex critic would normally crush.

Take a sense break

Do something that involves all of your senses. For me, it’s a trip to Franklin Avenue, our local Little Italy. The tiny Italian grocery stores offer the full sensorama experience of Italian food, topped off with frothy cappuccino and seductive amaretti.

If food isn’t your thing, try gardening. Find a patch of space and some plant pots and bury your hands in the soil.

Take-off from your routine

When you pull on your pants in the morning, did you realize that you always pull on the same leg first. It’s habit. Next time you’re getting dressed, try consciously putting on the other leg first. See how odd it feels.

Whatever your routines might be, break a couple! Get up a little earlier. Go to a different coffee shop. Walk by a different route. Small changes shake us back into full consciousness and get us off auto-pilot.

Take a tool

I have all my best ideas when I’m raking leaves. One day of leaf-raking and my mind is as fresh and as naked as the ground I’ve just cleared. Friends ask me why I don’t rent a machine to suck-up the leaves instead, but that wouldn’t have the therapeutic powers of my old fashioned rake! (The Autumn leaf bonfire afterwards is another huge plus as it makes one of the best smells of the year!)

If you don’t have leaves to rake, then take a look around your home. Find something that needs painting or polishing or sanding or digging.

Find something that needs doing!

And that’s the ultimate take-away. When we’re blocked, we sit, and we mash our pencils against the page until our nibs bore a hole down into the desk.

Reverse the process.

Get up from the desk and go do something active instead.

Imagine “How creativity works”

by Peter Watts

“Our most important mental talent: the ability to imagine what has never existed.”

“Imagine” explores the latest mechanics of creative brain science; all our little grey cells and the zaps and flashes of insight zinging between them.

Jonah Lehrer brings together all the facts and lays them out in this relaxed guide. If you are a fan of the New Yorker or similar magazines, you’ll recognize the long-form writing style that makes the book so easy to drop in and out of.

Hard science blends with anecdotes and interviews. Scientists, business people, educators, and innovators all come join the project. I came to particularly enjoy the little word-sketches that Jonah Lehrer uses to introduce and visualize his interviewees, ranging from urban campaigners through to an Israeli technologist who was so chilled that he was quite literally horizontal.

The care taken in writing these descriptions means that the stars-of-the-show, the enviable selection of interviewees, all feel as if they are in the room along with you.

The book touches on to a wide arena of subject areas from neuroscience through to urban planning, education, and even intellectual property law. All of which, it turns out, are having significant impacts on the creative intelligence of society.

A wide source of ideas and inspiration for a wide range of public-speaking topics.

You can find out more about the author by visiting

and you can catch the video promo for “Imagine” by clicking here.

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