10 Ways to Fight Creative Block You’re Actually Gonna Use
When I first started writing, I frequently got blocked. I knew I could write, but I just spent hours looking at the blank page in front of me without writing a single word. The ideas never came, so I was frustrated and got blocked even more. It gave me the feeling that I wasn’t good enough.
However, after starting working with other creatives, designers, and photographers, I realized it wasn’t only me. Everyone has been in a rut some time in their lives, some even experience it frequently.
That’s how I started doing some research and asked some of my colleagues about how they overcome creative block. The conclusion is that there’s no one-size-fits-all method, every creative person is different, but there is some good stuff you can do to help yourself in a creative emergency situation.
Here are 10 ways to fight creative block and that you’ll find useful (at least, they helped me!). I also share with you 5-exercises workout to train your mind that you can download at the end of the article:
- Feed your creativity
- Deal with the problem
- Be awesome
- Let monotony kick in
- Give yourself some free time
- Welcome mistakes
- Fight your phantoms
- Find sources of inspiration
- Be ready to welcome new ideas
- Practice makes perfect
Feed your creativity
Creativity isn’t something magical nor something that just a few people have. Being creative implies a process, and behind every creation or text there’s a background. In fact, creativity grows out of everyday experiences.
If you expect to sit down and just find the solution, you’re wrong. Creativity is about interconnections between concepts that you’ve acquired throughout your life. The more information your brain receives, the more connections it will establish.
Feed your mind with things that interest you, inspect perspectives that you didn’t know that they exist, and store everything inside you. Then, one day in the future, your mind will recover memory and you’ll have your aha! moment.
Read, be curious, learn about anything, watch movies, listen to other people, research, etc. In other words, build your own knowledge. The wider your understanding is the great ideas you’ll have.
Deal with the problem
The first thing you have to ask is: why are you having the block? Identify the problem. Is it because it’s not the moment or because something else is distracting you?
There are many reasons why you’re not focused and can’t be creative. People are normally dealing with personal issues, a relative’s health is poor, an argument with someone close, or perhaps a pandemic that it’s threatening our future.
We can’t prevent problems from occurring. They will be always there, and there are always going to be new ones. So, it’s not a matter of solving them to be creative, but a matter of detecting what is affecting us and deal with it. Even if the problem is the creative block itself. Accept it, and move forwards.
There are moments when it’s not the right moment, that’s all. So, instead of forcing yourself to come up with something, just recognize you’re going through a tough time and try to find a gateway to that.
Some people find work reassuring. If that’s the case, set a goal, and enjoy doing what you’re really good at. Ideas will come eventually. If, on the contrary, you love doing something else, spend some time every day doing what you really like (perhaps, at some point, you realize that it’s time to change profession, and that’s okay).
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” Steve Jobs.
If you feel stuck in a job, it’s probably time to change your mindset. A lot of creative people deal with self-confidence issues, especially beginners. The key to dealing with the “no” word is saying yes. Give yourself the opportunity to show what you can do.
Instead of thinking that you can’t, say to yourself that you are awesome and that you can do anything. Not everybody has the same skills, and that’s one of the things that make the creative world so rich. So, don’t compare yourself to your colleagues or friends, what you have to offer is different from the rest, work on it and try hard to find out your talents.
Many people find it difficult to express their ideas in public because they are afraid to receive criticism. The thing is that not everyone will like you, and that’s okay, as long as you trust what you do.
Let monotony kick in
How many of you have come up with an idea actually thinking of that idea? That’s unlikely to happen. The reason is that our mind doesn’t like to be forced. The more you force it, the less information it will give you.
On many occasions, I’ve seen myself pushing my brain and forcing it to give me the exact idea I was looking for. The result? I didn’t get anything. So, when I asked my colleagues at Freepik about how they find ideas for their creations, I was surprised by the answer.
They all agree that it’s when you feel more relaxed that the ideas appear. In fact, getting bored is what helps most of creative people to overcome their creative block.
Cleaning, cooking, sweeping, taking a shower…It’s when we are doing monotonous things when our brain gets busier. Manoush Zomorodi, in a Ted talk, refers to it as the “default mode”. Our brain enters into this mode when we stop thinking hard and give it a break. Our mind, then, understands that it’s time for it to start working on its own and producing the best ideas.
Give yourself some free time
It doesn’t make sense to keep pushing your brain. It’s like when you know something isn’t working in a relationship and you have to let it go to clear things up. Our minds work the same. If something isn’t working, give it a break and do something else.
When you’re mentally blocked, try to switch to things that you enjoy doing and keep you in a good mood. Some people find it comforting to go for a walk, sporting, watching movies, dancing, etc. Just find what works for you.
It depends on what your skills and hobbies are. Are you a writer? Try writing about something completely different. Or maybe you find it fun to do some random sketches, or just go out and take pictures of anything. Let your imagination fly and do the activities that you love. Perhaps it’s time to redecorate your living room with recycled materials or knit a new scarf or even discover a new hobby.
The key to facing a creative block is to do something random, without giving it too much thought. If you haven’t found what distracts you from the real world, why don’t you try doodling? It’s a fantastic way of getting thoughts in order (and remembering old times at high-school).
You’re reading your favorite book or checking the Instagram account of a popular graphic designer, and you can just but held admiring them. You think about how great and talented they are and how much you would like your work to be as perfect as theirs.
Next time it happens to you, visualize that person making mistakes, failing at a deadline or job, and coming back home disappointed and frustrated. Everyone has failed at some point in their lives. Even the good ones. Instead of focusing on how successful they are, think about how they overcame adversity to become an inspiration.
However, an effective way to stop comparing yourself to others is by doing social media detox. Everyone is so focused on showing their best part, that they save failures to their private lives. Try to spend valuable time without your phone nor any social media platform and give your mind the opportunity to reset and disconnect.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. In fact, mistakes and failures are inevitable. No one is perfect, so leave room for errors and welcome them. Once you accept it, there’s nothing to worry about as you’ll demolish one of the walls that prevented you from creating great things.
Fight your phantoms
Most writers and marketers are always striving to stand out, to find the IDEA. And there is exactly where the problem lays. If you try really hard to find the best idea ever thought, you are building a wall that will lead you into a mental block.
When finding an idea, creative people sometimes focus on succeeding rather than developing the idea. It has to feel great that people recognize your work, but it only happens to a few. In fact, many of the most brilliant artists and writers didn’t know they were creating a masterpiece. Follow your instincts, do what you love and what is inside you.
There are no good and bad ideas. Just let your mind flow, don’t restrict any ideas. Criticizing your work can be positive. It means that you want to be good and always make the most of your talent and skills to achieve your goals. But, in many other cases, your inner judge is your worst enemy. It stops ideas from developing even before they appear in your mind.
Instead of looking only for the best ideas, why don’t you try to let everything out? Write them down, and when you’re done, then select only those like the most. Change your mindset, and next time you’re creating, change NO for YES.
Find sources of inspiration
Whether it’s a book, a song, or your neighbor talking about the weather. Every artist and every creative person needs inspiration from somewhere. However, not everyone uses the same sources.
Nowadays, there are tons of pieces of work that we can access online in a few seconds. We sometimes feel so overwhelmed by the huge amount of information that we don’t know where to start. The good news is that the Internet isn’t the only source of inspiration.
Where to look for ideas? Think of people who you really admire, have a look at their work, watch interviews, and learn more about them. It doesn’t mean that you have to copy their work, but that it may wake up some idea you had already in your mind, and eventually spark your creativity.
Whenever I feel stuck, what really cheers me up and boost my energy is watching interviews and reading about empowering women. By just hearing their stories and how the overcame adversities, I feel that I can do anything and that everything requires hard work and effort (Ted talks host amazing and inspiring people).
If you get tired of the screens, you can always read a good book or go outside, explore new concepts.
Sometimes we get so used to the digital world that we forget that we’re surrounded by interesting people who can give us a different perspective. So, find inspiration in other people, exchange ideas, and learn how people approach concepts in a different way. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas with others, what they have to say is often more enriching than Google.
Be ready to welcome new ideas
Has it ever happened to you that you come up with an idea and think you’ve got it but, somehow, a moment later it’s gone? It’s even more frustrating than not having an idea at all, so don’t let that happen.
Being organized and following a strategy to collect ideas is important. It may require an extra effort at the beginning, but once you do it systematically, you’ll see the benefits. Bring always a notebook with you, or use the notes app on your phone. I know that it can be a bit tiresome (I’m sometimes too lazy), but we can’t really predict when our mind will give us an answer, so be prepared!
It’s essential to be methodical and know to manage your ideas. So, next time your brain tells you something, whether you’re in the shower, cooking, or watching a movie, try to retain it and write it down. Then, go through it and see if it’s the answer to your problem.
Practice makes perfect
When doing exercise, experts always warn of the importance of warming up in advance to prepare our bodies and avoid injuries. Well, the brain is also a muscle, but we forget to train it.
Here are five exercises you can practice daily to keep your brain fit and overcome creative block. You can also download them and use freely!
Exercise 1: Draw some color stains with different shapes. Then, try to create anything out of every stain, could it be a person, object, or whatever it evokes to you.
Exercise 2: Listen to a song. It can be your favorite one or an unknown song. Which concept or concepts does it evoke? Then, try to represent this concept in a sketch. (It can also be applied to text, you can write a short story in three sentences or create just one sentence defining this concept).
Exercise 3: First draw four basic shapes: a circle, rectangle, triangle, square, or any other simple shape. Then, turn every shape into an object or concept so that the four of them tell a story together. You can do the exercise in five minutes or just let your imagination fly and enjoy doing the exercise.
Exercise 4: Imagine a non-existent scenario and write a short story about it in 5 minutes. Use a clock to control time. The goal here is to wake up your brain by forcing it to come up with random ideas in a short period of time. After the 5 minutes, stop writing and enjoy yourself with your story!
Exercise 5: Think of a common object, for example, a phone, a pillow, a brush… Then, write down different ideas of how else you can use this object. Keep all ideas, and then, try to represent them in a drawing or a sketch.
There’s no magic trick to overcome a creative block. The answer is inside you, and it’s just a matter of finding out how to reach an idea. Whenever you get blocked, run away from frustration. Accept that it happens, and explore all the available ways to combat it.
Don’t forget to feed your knowledge, as there are no ideas without understanding. Be curious and don’t be afraid to accept new perspectives, perhaps that’s what you need. And, of course, let your mind rest and don’t overwhelm it.
We would love to hear from your experience. Is there any tip that you use to overcome a creative block? What about warm-up exercises? We’re all ears (and eyes!), so write us a comment below!