9 top tips for tackling creative blocks
You’ve got a deadline on the horizon, but no matter how much this makes you sweat, you just can’t get past that feeling of being totally stuck. Sometimes even when we’ve carved out a big juicy slice of time in our day to get something done, the ideas just don’t flow, and we’re left staring into a big, empty void of nothingness. Whether it’s a lack of inspiration, motivation or simply pure exhaustion, there are many reasons we’re struck by a dearth of creativity.
So, with the help of a handful of our members, we’ve put together some top tips for overcoming the cursed creative block. That way, you’ll be armed with some tried and tested tactics to have ready when blankness strikes at the inopportune moment.
1. Get rid of the blank canvas
It’s an oldy but a goody, and one we always need reminding of, right? That blank page staring back at you is your worst enemy. Especially if the source of your creative block is more than likely to be the pressure to produce the best piece of journalism you’ve written to date or an award-winning graphic design project. “My job consists of lots of copywriting,” explains Emma Pauw, Account Manager at Enviral. “So when I’m feeling like I can’t get in a flow I just start writing. I literally mute all slack and phone notifications and just start typing, then usually after a while, the creative juices start flowing.”
2. Eliminate distractions
Talking about muting phone notifications: research shows that even just having our phones on our desk can affect our productivity, nevermind picking them up and practising our affinity for infinite scrolling. Turn off your phone, and even try putting on an out of office which explains you’ll reply to emails at a particular time of day. It sounds crazy, but as Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post and Thrive Global explains, the auto-response movement is thriving in its battle against always-on culture. Try it! You’ll be surprised by the sheer liberation of it.
3. Give yourself a break
Creative Director of Studio Floc, Florence Cassell, admits, “I normally hit creative blocks when I’ve been working too hard. I find it difficult to practice, but rest really is the best remedy. By rest, I don’t necessarily mean sleep, although that can sometimes help – I actually mean doing stuff I enjoy (other than my job).” Leaping from project to project at lightning speed will soon wring your brain out of all it’s creative juices, and sometimes you need to just simply take a break. If time allows, grant yourself a treat, and time to rest away from the glow of your screen or workspace.
4. Feed your brain
Find new, unlikely sources of inspiration. Go to exhibitions, art galleries, and museums to explore things outside your chosen medium or discipline, take out a random array of library books which capture your attention, or read new stories, and opinions which differ from your own. “Often taking a break and not looking for inspiration in similar work to what I’m doing, helps. It’s ridiculous how certain moments of Tiger King start firing my brain up about solutions to work-related problems” says Leon Puplett, Digital Project Manager at Un.titled.
5. Tackle anxiety
Freelance Creative Designer and Director, Jay Robinson believes, “a lot of clarity in my creative thinking is about removing blocks like the fear and anxiety of delivering large projects as a solo freelancer.” If you’re feeling the pressure, or fearful that somehow the outcome won’t meet your expectations or the client’s, spending time setting more realistic expectations of yourself and actively tackling anxiety will do wonders for freeing up your ideas.
6. Get your blood pumping
Ever wondered why your thoughts wander when you’re out walking or cycling? Both copywriter Kendra Futcher and photographer Nic Kane swear by going for a run, or as Nic puts it: “getting out of the mind, and into the body!” We forget our brain isn’t our entire being and source of inspiration, getting our body moving releases all kinds of endorphins, and gives us space and time to think freely.
7. Mix it up
Sitting sedentary at your desk, in the same place you often spend eight hours of your day in does nothing for our creativity. Mixing up your environment can be the fresh space you need to think. “I like to make sure I change my situation,” explains Jay.” Even just going to the lounge for 10 mins to sit on a comfy chair, and read a good book can kick an idea off. It’s important to get away from your computer and let randomness happen.” Alternatively, if you can, Rob Tyler, Founder at Bristol Mograph suggests rotating your workload: “people get bored of a certain workflow, so we try to rotate fresh and interesting tasks get to those who need it. That includes new software, plugins and creative problems to solve.”
8. Voice your thoughts
“Get someone else to figure it out,” says Ben Marsh at Fiasco Design. “That’s just a joke, well, kind of. I find just chatting creative problems through with someone can provide clear solutions almost effortlessly. Everyone sees things from a different angle.” It can be tempting to internalise your struggles and feel like you need to battle through it alone but sharing your thoughts out loud with colleagues or friends could save you a lot of time and alleviate those niggling thoughts. Kendra swears by taking some time out with friends to indulge in some good conversation with friends: “and having a big night also helps – I find it loosens my mind!”
9. Broaden your horizons
If your creative block feels like a permanent companion week-on-week, it might be time to take a step back and consider a bigger break. Whether that means a holiday, or a whole week of focusing on something else completely, learning a new skill or even moving onto a new job, sometimes we need to take the plunge, and shake things up in a big way. Excuses can make you feel stuck even more. Take a moment to check out Natalie Berger’s recent Ted Talk at a special youth event if you feel like you could benefit from a nudge in the right direction.
While we may feel frustration and anxiety, it’s important to remember we’re all human, and sometimes just letting go of our expectations and getting the job done can be an effective means of dodging the agony of the block altogether. Equally, if time allows, practising a little patience can be the simple antidote your brain needs to ease your creativity back into full flow. A big thanks to our members Emma Pauw, Florence Cassell, Leon Puplett, Kendra Futcher, Rob Tyler, Nic Kane, Ben Marsh, and Jay Robinson for their useful tips and tricks.