Art and business: doodle away to escape a creative rut

Paint whenever you feel frustrated or just want to focus on something different other than work

Close up of mature male artist working on canvas
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I was in a creative rut the past couple of weeks - at a point, where you overwork yourself so much that checking your email, or even discussing work becomes a massive bother. I hate that state of mind and if you are an entrepreneur as I am, then you know that being in a state of flux for long can really affect your business, especially when you have many people depending on you.

I needed to free myself and I did something I hadn't in a while - the only thing that liberates my mind - I painted. It has been a long time since I held a brush and so I was a bit rusty to begin with, but it didn’t matter. The motive was not to create the masterpiece worthy of hanging in a museum; relaxation, pulling myself out of that limbo was the only thing on mind.

I got sheets of paper, some acrylic paint, a timer, and then challenged myself to produce as many artworks under half an hour every day.

The goal of this exercise is to distract yourself, take your mind into another world, and focus on something different from your daily chores.

What happens next is utterly rewarding.  By the second day, I was less stressed, and more excited to go back to my work. In fact, I was inspired to tweak my website, as well as experiment with new ways of creating visual content.

It was so much fun! I felt like me, my old self again. I didn’t limit myself to my morning painting challenge with paint and paper, but also bought myself an apple pencil, and started doodling on my iPad whenever I needed to be inspired or found myself stuck in traffic jam or in a waiting room.

Why take up art?

You might wonder why you should even consider taking up art as a hobby, when you can jog, meet up with a friend, or tune your bike whenever to get out of the rut. A study by Jackie Andrade from the University of Plymouth in the UK has found how doodling or sketching away can free up short- and long-term memory and increases attention span. Moreover, in the business world, we are used to seeing and analysing text-based content, that when we take away ourselves and expose our mind to more visual creating content, it can help us think differently.


Read more:

How to unblock a mental block

Step out of your comfort zone: it's the best thing for your business


In her book Growing Up Creative, author Teresa Amabile states how fostering a creative environment helps children think outside the box.

I’ve personally found that whatever artistic approach I adopted, whether it’s oil paint, or doodling, or just playing around Photoshop trying to merge images together, it all gave me the same results: it freed up my mind.

The best time and place to be artistic

That would be whenever you're frustrated or just want to focus on something different other than work. Don’t think about the work produced, just the fact that you’re doing it. You know how children just grab a sheet of paper and crayons and go at it without thinking of the result? This is how you should be. I wonder why we even stop doing that when we grew up. In fact, I’ve found that doing this exercise with kids joining you, is even more relaxing. Just sketch, doodle, or paint. Get your hands dirty and enjoy it. As for the location, it doesn’t matter really. The last time I was on a road trip and sketched away happily on my iPad.

Should you have a subject in mind?

No. Because once you do that, you will be occupying your mind, and the goal is to free it. You can, however, do something else, which I have been doing, especially when I’m stuck at a problem. You could put it down on paper, trying to sketch it for instance. This will help you to assess it better, and you could jot down different solutions to it. It often helps me see how the problem isn’t as big as I thought, and that I was overestimating it.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages her branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi