10 Ways to Overcome the Creative Block

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The creative block. The unspoken hardship that troubles every designer. Whether it lasts five minutes or five months, it can really damage creativity, rendering us trapped in a state of being totally unproductive. 

Creative blocks are particularly detrimental for those who are earning money for their designs, for instance, through one of these seven ways in which you can make money from Photoshop. It can be stressful to have no ideas when you’ve got to get work done quickly for a client. 

But if nobody ever got out of the creative block, then there would be no design out there- in fact, every great designer acts as living proof that you can overcome the rut. So, how exactly can you escape the trap?

1: Wherever You Go, Carry a Sketchbook With You!

I think we’re all guilty of coming up with a great idea during the day and, instead of writing it down, stubbornly committing it to memory, only to forget it by the time we try to recall it. 

But why not write down your ideas? It takes just seconds to scribble down a few words, and it could save hours of painfully trying to remember a small thought that you had during the day. 

With a sketchbook, you could even sketch out your composition ideas, or even a full design. You never know when inspiration will hit, so it’s always best to head everywhere armed with a small sketchbook.

2: Don’t Shy Away From Work When You’re Tired

What you think may be a total creative block, may actually just be temporary constrictions on your creativity based on the time of day. Many people fall victim to the misconception that creative work is best done when they’re at their most awake. But research shows that we’re significantly more creative when we’re feeling tired. 

In this state, our brains aren’t as successful in filtering out distractions. This may seem like a bad thing, but distractions can actually be useful when it comes to finding inspiration. 

We’re also worse at recalling connections between things, which means that we can actually be more open to forging new connections, and conjuring up new ideas when we’re tired. 

So, although it may seem counter-intuitive to work when we’re the most tired, maybe try it out. I know, for me, that I produce my best work when I pull an ‘all-nighter’ and work on designs during the entire night. 

(Remember, though, that you should use this technique sparingly. Sleep is still important!)

3: Don’t be Afraid of Mess and Clutter in Your Studio

We’re often taught that organisation is the key to success. But that’s not always the case when it comes to creativity. Sometimes, having a bit of what you think is useless clutter around the studio can actually be a way of subconsciously creating a working environment in which inspiration is all around.

4: Stop Looking for Inspiration

We’re often taught that organisation is the key to success. But that’s not always the case when it comes to creativity. Sometimes, having a bit of what you think is useless clutter around the studio can actually be a way of subconsciously creating a working environment in which inspiration is all around.

5: Explore Other Fields Of Study- Both ‘Creative’ and ‘Non-Creative’

Sometimes taking a step out of your area of expertise can trigger the best ideas. Whether you shift from modern design to traditional painting, from Photoshop to Illustrator, or even from design to biology, searching for inspiration in other fields can produce the most amazing results. 

For example, Janet Saad-Cook is just one of many scientific artists and produces work that uses reflected images and light to create drawings that react to changes in sunlight and the passing of time. You can see some of her work here. 

Even by looking in subjects that you wouldn’t immediately label as ‘creative’, inspiration can be found. Design itself can be largely based around Mathematics or Physics, so don’t reject other fields of study purely because you wouldn’t ordinarily relate them to creativity.

6: Pay More Attention to Your Surroundings

Very often, designers are highly influenced by the environments they experience. So by immersing yourself in the surroundings of particular environments, you can take in the natural inspirations and allow them to influence your work. 

One good way to do this, for instance, is to go for a walk outside. Think about what you can see, hear, feel, even smell, and allow your senses to pick up inspiration. Once you start fully paying attention to your surroundings in this way, you’ll suddenly realise just how many ideas can be found within the world around you. 

Artists and designers who work in the biomimicry field, producing work inspired by nature, frequently rely on this technique to find inspiration. So why not give it a try?

7: Forget Any Preconceptions and Look at Each Project With an Open Mind

If you’ve ever been working on a project for a client and been completely stuck when it comes to generating ideas, then you’ll be glad to know that there is a technique you can use to combat the rut. 

More often than not, we subconsciously let our preconceptions about whatever topic it is influence our primary ideas. This forces our ideas to be restricted. If we, instead, try to clear our minds of any preconceptions, then we can look at a project with a completely open mind. 

One way to look at it is to be more childlike. Children have the benefit of having a mind that is more open- one that believes anything is possible. This is the sole reason for which we see them as being more imaginative than adults. So clearing your mind of any preconceptions or self-made boundaries is a great way to let your imagination run wild.

8: Go on a Creative Tangent

Sometimes all that you’ve got to do is actively design something- anything- just to get back into the swing of things. So, if you’re stuck with a particular project, try forgetting about it and just doing something completely different. Then head back to it when you’re feeling more inspired.

9: Change Up Your Surroundings

As mentioned in the sixth method, designers are often highly influenced by their surroundings. So sometimes shaking things up in that area can be a great way to get out of a creative block. 

Whether you take a holiday to another country, or just head down the street, working in different environments is sure to bring about brand new ideas. 

Another way to change up your surroundings is to move things about in your studio or work in a different room completely. For me, I know that I definitely come up with completely different ideas depending on whether I’m working at home or in a public studio.

10: Take a Step Too Far Out of the Box Just to Step Back Towards it

And for the last technique, I have saved one of my personal favorites. Picture this: you’ve been given a brief, and you automatically feel restricted by it. It happens way too often, right? 

But there’s no need to immediately feel trapped. Imagine there are no restraints, and just go absolutely crazy with your designs. If you start by letting your imagination take you way too far and then start reigning your creativity back in slightly, you’ll ultimately end up producing work that is ten times more imaginative than it would have been if you’d surrendered to the confinement of the brief. 

And, let’s face it, there’s no such thing as being too imaginative. It’s better to be creative and original than to be boring.

So, hopefully you should now be armed with ten ways to overcome that creative block! Don’t be discouraged if you can’t beat it immediately, you’ll eventually get back to working as creatively as you were before.

BONUS

Want to find out more ways to overcome a creative rut? Check out this video by Kesh that details five other methods that you can try.

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