Creativity is often described as connecting seemingly disconnected or disparate ideas in new ways. This is where I thrive. I can’t draw you a picture or play you a song, but give me a problem and I’ll find you a solution. I can direct marketing strategy, I can write copy, I can come up with an idea for a brand new product that fits naturally within your brand. This is what I do. And the ideas usually come quickly.
Or at least they did, until I became pregnant.
I strongly disliked being pregnant. This surprised a lot of people because it was a relatively easy pregnancy from a physical perspective. What bothered me was the strange things happening to my mind. I wasn’t really forgetting things or unable to go about my daily life, but when I sat down to work I felt like a different person. This fascinated and scared me.
I did some research to see if anything like my experience has been documented. I found a few blog posts from copywriters and other creatives sharing their anecdotal experience. Mindi Rosser found she couldn’t keep up a creative writing challenge. Elizabeth Earley documented a similar experience with feeling a “vacuous emptiness” in her brain. Interestingly, I found actual research that shows how pregnancy changes a brain and actually makes you more creative after you give birth. I do think I’ve experienced some of this side effect.
So - like everything else in pregnancy, I suppose it really depends on the individual. How are you feeling? Is your brain working as it always has? Is it in overdrive with huge output? Or is it scarily blank?
I remember one day when I needed to write a five email welcome sequence. It was very basic content and I can usually bust out all five within an hour or so. I was sitting in a coffee shop so I was out among people and caffeinated with my one allowed latte per day. Despite all that, I was staring at a blinking cursor. It was the worst writer’s block I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t come up with a single thought. This had been happening more and more and many days I gave into the experience and put work away for another day. But this day, I told myself I was not allowed to leave the coffee shop until I had finished all five emails. Painfully and slowly I got words written. It felt like every single one was a monumental effort to drag out of my head and it took me five hours to complete. That is why I disliked pregnancy so much. It made my work painful to do.
I’ve thought back on that moment many times because I needed to find a solution to the problem. Here are a few ways I’ve found to work around a blank brain.
Take three days to a week and simply go about your normal schedule while observing and recording your behavior, emotions, and work output. You will likely find a pattern where there are certain times of the day that are more conducive to brain work. And you might find times where it is impossible to get the work done. Look at the factors surrounding these times – is morning versus night better, do you get energized or drained after a client call, is it better to be a little hungry or full? You may have done this exercise at another point in your career and think that you know yourself already. But, like everything in pregnancy, your habits may have changed. Prior to pregnancy, I did my most creative work late at night and felt drained after a client call. With pregnancy, I was entirely too exhausted to tackle brain work in the evening and found I was most energized and creative right after a call or interacting with another person.
Review your findings from your observation week and adjust your schedule. If you are at your best in the morning right after a call, then schedule your calls for early morning with a blocked time for brain work right afterwards. Perhaps you need more snacks throughout the day or find you can’t work right after lunch. Did you find it better to be surrounded by people or holed up somewhere quiet? Make changes to your day to set yourself up for what is working for you.
It’s very hard to jumpstart a blank brain all on your own. You can adjust your schedule or force yourself to stay in your seat until the work is done, but sometimes that’s not enough. Ideas are often generated best by a group. You throw out an idea or a problem, someone else makes a comment that builds on it, that comment gives you an idea and suddenly the conversation has fired up your brain. (I have a theory that this is why I did so much better right after a meeting.) As solopreneurs, we only have so many moments during a day to interact and collaborate with others. I strongly recommend finding online groups, networking events, and masterminds to participate in during your pregnancy.
It’s just not a great time to be working on your own. It’s the reason I developed the MomMind mini masterminds. Each group includes five women, all pregnant, all running a business, and all preparing for a maternity leave. The groups meet every other week and allows everyone to collaborate, commiserate, and communicate. Ok that’s a lot of alliteration, but you get the idea.
And finally, there might be some work that you just don’t want to or find you can’t accomplish during your pregnancy. You don’t have to force it. This is where I recommend outsourcing the work. Perhaps you find that long-form sales pages are just too much to tackle or tech issues make your brain hurt. Identify your most painful tasks and find someone else to do the work. Whether it’s work for your business or for a client, you can find a contractor that you trust and send work their way.
I hope the information here helps you work a little easier during this time in your life. There’s a lot of unpleasant things going on during pregnancy so finding you have trouble doing your job on top of everything else is just no fun. To end on a positive note, it’s all worth it. Hands down, no question, best thing I’ve ever done and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way!