For a creative professional, a creative block isn’t just frustrating it is potentially career damaging. When you rely on your creativity to pay the bills and build your reputation, you can’t afford to be short of ideas or the energy to put them into action. There are a number of ways to overcome creative blocks. Different people may find different ways to overcome these blocks and it might be different each time for the same person. In this article, we are going to explore some of these ideas. If you have some other ways please feel free to share them with me.
There may be different reasons for different types of blocks. We will try to analyse these reasons and try to find out the ways to overcome them. Different types of blocks require different solutions.
1. The Mental Block
You get trapped by your own thinking. You are so used to looking at the world in the same way that you fail to see the other options or your inner critic stops you from thinking other solutions.
Adopt different perspectives. Some of the ways for adapting a new and different perspectives are:
- go somewhere new.
- Read, watch or listen to something new.
- Explore other creative disciplines, that you would not normally do. It can give you an inspiration.
- Go against the flow. Try to do the opposite of what everyone else would do.
- Try different working environment to keep things fresh.
- Go and do something entirely different. Ideas may pop up where you least expected them.
- Talk to people you can rely on to disagree with you or offer an alternative point of view.
2. The Emotional Barrier
Creativity can be intense. It’s not a comfortable pursuit. Faced with the unknown, you may be scared of what you’ll discover or reveal about yourself. Maybe your subject matter is painful, embarrassing or plain weird.
You need to face the worst and come through the other side.
- Expect the unexpected.
- Don’t compare yourself with other artists.
- Try to form a routine in your everyday activities. This will help you gain some control over your life, giving you confidence.
- Finish what you have started. There is no such thing as a bad idea.
- Don’t retread your steps. If you just try to reproduce how a good project happened in the past, you will never get the same result.
- Try meditation to control your negative thoughts.
3. Work Habits That Don’t Work
You’re just trying to work in a way that isn’t compatible with your creative process. For example:
- You work too early or too late which is not in accordance with your natural rhythm as different people are more creative at different times of the day.
- You are working too long or not long enough. If working for too long, tiredness starts interfering with your creativity or leads to a block in the long run. If not long enough that means you are distracted easily and are unable to meet deadlines thus losing your confidence and encountering a mental block later.
- You don’t have enough stimulation.
- You don’t have enough downtime.
- Try to find the time of the day when you accomplish the maximum in terms of creativity i.e. you get a lot of ideas or finish at a faster pace.
- Grab some ‘me time’. Working on too many projects at once can stifle your creativity. If you are feeling burned out, take some time to yourself and turn everything off for a couple of days.
- Push the boundaries – experiment in your personal projects to get stimulated on your other projects.
- Set up systems to deal with mundane tasks – email, admin, accounting etc. so they don’t interfere with your creative work.
- Take a break and come back to the task with a clear head.
4. Personal Problems
Creativity demands focus and it’s hard to concentrate if you are going through personal problems – dealing with toddlers/caring for elderly or ill/ moving house/ grieving someone special, etc.
There are two ways:
- Solve the problem – you may need some specialist’s help or support from friends or family.
- Find ways of coping until it passes- by taking a short-term break from work in order to resolve the issue and free yourself up for the future.
In both the situations, you can mark out some time for your creative work, maybe learn new things or expand your knowledge in small steps that will enhance your work when you do it full time.
Poverty may not pertain to lack of cash, it may be lacking the time or lack in knowledge or short of equipment or other things to excel in your creative pursuits.
There may be two solutions:
- Save time/money/or other resources you need, for some time and then go to your endeavour of creativity. This may also help you to find a new angle to your creative pursuit.
- Make a virtue of necessity and set yourself the creative challenge of achieving as much as possible within the constraints you have.
6. Feeling Overwhelm:
Sometimes a block comes from having too much, not too little. Like:
- Taking on too many commitments.
- Having too many great ideas.
- Being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of incoming demands and information.
- Working too hard for too long.
It’s time to cut down:
- If you have taken too many commitments, start saying ‘no’.
- If you have too many ideas, put some into practice and put others in a separate folder to be used later.
- Try slotting your time.
- Take a break from your creative pursuits.
7. Communication Breakdown
These may be:
- You imagine your work being criticised.
- You are not marketing your work properly.
- If working in a group, you may encounter some difficult people.
- Try to grow a thicker skin for rejection and criticism.
- If criticism of your work is what’s keeping creative ideas away, turn to a completely different activity, that you know you are good at. Appreciating the output of that work can be a great self-esteem boost.
- Try to improve your marketing or networking skills. Do a research to improve your influencing skills and mingle with the right people.
- Try to accept that you cannot please all the people all the time and try to give your best.
20 Tips To Beat The Creative Block
- Tap into your unconscious – Any ideas you get in a semi-sleep state, write them down.
- Get it down on paper – Write your main ideas in columns, and list everything that comes to mind. Then you can later mix-and-match these ideas.
- Always carry a sketchbook – Don’t go looking for inspiration. ‘A visually loaded’ word or phrase can jump out from a passage of text or song.
- Don’t be afraid to step away – Take a break and come back to it with a clear head.
- Finish what you have started – This gives a sense of accomplishment and in turn, boost your confidence.
- Put some fun in your place of work – Try to change something in your workplace. Maybe a new multicoloured rug or a new piece of furniture.
- Don’t retread your steps – If you just try to reproduce how a good project happened in the past, you will never get the same result.
- Look in unlikely places – Go and do something entirely different. Ideas may pop up where you least expected them.
- Explore other creative disciplines – Expand your mind by dabbling in other forms of art. Maybe sketching, photography, sculpting etc.
- Go against the flow – Try to approach the opposite of what everyone else would do.
- Expect the unexpected – Sometimes you get inspiration from unexpected quarters.
- Take notes on life – The best ideas often come when doing completely random uncreative tasks. Jot them down as they come to you.
- Grab some ‘me time’ – Working on too many projects at once can stifle your creativity. If you are feeling burned out, take some time to yourself and turn everything off for a couple of days.
- Don’t be bound by the brief – Try to think out of the box, try to think from a different angle.
- Broaden your horizons – Immersing yourself in other disciplines of art that you would not normally do can give you inspiration.
- Push the boundaries – Experiment in your personal projects.
- Get a fresh perspective – View things from a different angle.
- Sleep on it when you can – Try not to think and do on the same day.
- Shake up your surroundings – Try different working environment to keep things fresh.
- Face your fears, whatever they may be – Whatever it is you are afraid of, do that thing. Even if it has nothing to do with creativity.