21 Tips To Get Out Of Every Type Of Creative Blocks
For a person who pays his/her bills by being creative, a creative block is not just infuriating, but also career-damaging. It can have immense detrimental effect on our reputation as well.
However, not all creative blocks are the same. According to this article by 99U, there are 7 different types of creative blocks. But let’s start with what a creative block is.
What Is A Creative Block?
A creative block, also known as art block, writer’s block, or blank canvas syndrome, is the feeling of being overwhelmed by the idea of completely executing a creative concept, which eventually results in an inability to even start. A creative block occurs either because of a lack of motivation to do the task or a lack of inspiration about how to execute the task. Creative block isn’t limited to a certain skill set, it happens to everyone from musicians, chefs, illustrators, animators, and authors.
7 Types Of Creative Blocks:
- The mental block: This happens when we are trapped by our own thinking – by being accustomed to seeing the world around us only with a familiar vision. This may also happen by paying too much attention to the inner critical voice.
- The emotional barrier: This is the fear of the unknown – not knowing how a project will turn out to be. This may also happen by trying too hard to control the outcome – the success of the project, as well as how other people view it on completion.
- Unhelpful work habits: This happens when your workflow is no longer compatible with your creative process. This may include waking up too early or too late, working for too long or perhaps, not long enough, working from home when you work better with a team, etc.
- Problems in personal life: These problems may interfere with the amount of concentration you need to get your task done. It is hard to be creative in the middle of a divorce, domestic violence, or poor health of your own or someone in your family. It is difficult to take out time for your work when being enmeshed with other dysfunctional dynamics.
- Financial constraints or poverty: A lack of cash is a perennial problem for creatives. This may hinder the prospects of the project you are working on or may fill you up with the worry of having to pay the monthly bills.
- Feelings of Overwhelm: A creative block may also come from having too much on your plate. When you take on too many commitments, or you have too many great ideas, or you’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of incoming demands and information, it is normal to feel paralyzed by options and obligations or simply knackered from working too hard for too long.
- Breakdown of communication: A creative may also be caused due to communication gap between you and your collaborators. Or perhaps, when you are working with a team or client who is evidently difficult to work with.
21 Tips To Overcome A Creative Block:
Seth Godin goes on spreading an idea that creative block is a myth. As he says:
“Writer’s block is a myth. And what does that mean? It means that the feeling that we have when we say we can’t write is really the feeling we have when we say we can’t write anything that’s PERFECT.”
Whatever the reason is for the block that you are facing as a creative in your workflow, here are 21 effective strategies that will help you get over the rut:
- Commit to a routine: Routine or rituals are very important when doing creative work. Having a fixed time to go out and shoot, or sit at a desk and write, or the ritual of taking one photo a day or writing 500 words daily, can take the pressure off and make it easier to continue working by breaking it into small pieces. As Austin Kleon says:
“I think routine is so important, especially when you’re getting started creatively, but for me right now, I almost need checkboxes and rituals more than I need routine. The most important thing for me to do is to write my diary and to write a blog post. If I have done that, then the day in some ways is a success.”
- Give yourself a weekly assignment: It is hard to daily come up with ideas out of nowhere. Working on an assignment and calibrating the progress made on a weekly basis will give you a sense of accomplishment, and get rid of the fear and sense of overwhelm that caused the creative block in the first place.
- Carefully choose your assignments: It is next to impossible to carry out a creative assignment successfully if you don’t enjoy doing it. So whether it is a passion project that you chose yourself or a paid assignment by a client, it’s good to assess whether the project still excites you. If not, let it go.
- Ask yourself – “What if…”: Adopting different perspectives can help you cope with the fear of failure, and get you out of your perfectionist mindset.
- Talk to other people: This is another way of getting a fresh perspective. When you talk to other people, you may either get feedback or new ideas. However, it is important to consult people whose input you respect.
- Travel to a new place for a few days: Travelling to new places can effectively freshen up your mind and help you come up with new ideas or an improved motivation to work on a project.
- Move your body while listening to music: Moving your body can help the inertia in your thoughts. Both moving your body, and listening to music are proved to cause physiochemical changes in your brain that can help you deal with a creative block.
- Use creative thinking cards: You may find creative thinking cards useful, such as Roger von Oech’s Whack Pack, Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, or IDEO’s Method Cards.
- Start the habit of morning pages: Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, ideally done first thing in the morning. This ritual is the one I swear by. Writing morning pages everyday is a very effective tool to access your subconscious and breaking a creative block.
- Carry a journal with you all the time: This will help you take notes of every piece of the idea that crosses your mind, and you can refer back to it when you find yourself in a creative rut. One journal that I recommend (if you are new to this method of maintaining a journal) is Austin Kleon’s journal: Steal Like An Artist Journal. “A visually loaded word or phrase can jump out from a passage of text, or a song,” proposes London based designer and illustrator Craig Ward. “Be sure to sketch those ideas down when they come.”
- Take a break and do something else: Don’t force yourself if nothing is working. Instead go around doing something else that needs to get done. “Try not to think and do on the same day,” suggests Jessica Hische. “You tend to sort the good from the bad naturally, and occasionally come up with some really off-the-wall things overnight.”
- Watch documentaries: Documentaries are a great resource to come up with inspiration. Netflix’s series “Abstract” is one of my favorite sets of documentaries as a creative.
- Listen to podcasts: Podcasts are slowly gaining ground. Filled with a ton of resources, here are 21 podcasts I regularly listen to.
- Go through books: Books are an all-time storehouse of new ideas. Here are all the books that I have read and would recommend.
- Read other people’s blogs: Here is a list of 14 blogs that I regularly follow for getting inspiration and ideas for personal projects.
- Make a list of all the random ideas: There is no such thing as a bad idea. Set a timer of 5-10 minutes and list down every idea that crosses your mind. Don’t edit your ideas in this process. Curate through these ideas later on.
- Finish any incomplete projects from the past: Remember that project which you lost interest in midway? Revisit that, see it with fresh ways. Either complete it, or steal something from it to incorporate in your current project.
- Re-decorate your work-space or studio: When was the last time you decorated your studio? It is hard to come up with new ideas in the same familiar environment. Add some new colors or pieces of decorations, move your desk around, or buy a new chair. Go an extra step, and try working from a park or a cafe to stir things up.
- Teach yourself a new creative discipline: If you face a creative block as a writer, consider learning cooking for a few days. If you are a blocked painter, try sculpting for a few days. This will broaden your perspective.
- Go for an hour-long unplugged walk: Walking without any electronic devices with you is an easy way to re-centre and be grounded.
- Focus on the process rather than the outcome: This is probably the most important habit to adopt to prevent any more creative block in the future. Treat daily execution of the process as your primary goal, and the outcome as the by-product.