How to get out of a creative block
Ah, the creative block – how we fear and respect thee. Tell me if you’ve been here… you’re sitting in front of your laptop (or canvas), you’re ready to get crackin’ and show the world how talented you are when…
You hit a proverbial pothole on the road to creative genius.
The good news is… if you’ve experienced at least one instance of creative block that makes you question your talent and ability then you my friend, are in excellent company. In fact, I don’t know if it’s possible to truly be a creative without it.
Don’t believe me? Here are a few names you might recognize who’ve dealt (and overcame!) creative blocks: Jackson Pollock, William Blake, Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, Virginia Woolfe, Stephen King and even Eminem.
Get my drift?
Repeat after me: Creative ruts are normal.
Yes, they’re normal but they are also frustrating as all hell. So, what can we do about?
Here are a few tips to help you get out of a creative rut:
1. Change up your routine
When we’ve hit a creative block, there’s a good chance it’s because our brains are stuck in one mode of thinking. In other words, your brain’s running on neutral – sure, it’s running but it isn’t really going there without either a lot of effort or it’s in a sort of free fall. Either way, it’s no good. We don’t want to be there.
What can you do about it? Change your routine. Typically take showers? Try taking a bath instead (and be sure to bring a notebook to jot down notes!). Take the same route to work or your studio? Leave a little earlier and take the scenic route. This will help activate your brain and get the ideas flowing at a time when you might normally zone out.
2. Think outside the box
Box? What box? We don’t need no stinkin’ boxes.
I’ll never forget the process of what it was like for me to design this site. Yup, the one you’re on right now. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t because I didn’t know what I was doing but because I had so many options, I quickly got overwhelmed. This is actually something so common for designers and creatives. When we work with clients or agents or fellowships, we’re typically given parameters to follow and thus, we work within those constraints. Whereas, when we’re our own client, we give ourselves a total blank slate and freedom to do anything and everything. Thus, our minds get stuck in a perpetual buffering wheel because it doesn’t know which one to load first.
That was what I was experiencing with The Bold Ones. I was wracking my brain on the layout. I even drew a wireframe on a sheet a paper but when it came to building it, I just wasn’t happy. It wasn’t clicking.
“So what’d you do, Janine??”
Glad you asked!
Here’s my secret to getting out of a creative rut: I forced myself to build my website from the bottom up. Yup Rather than working from the header to the main content sections and then end with the footer, I designed the footer, went up to the FAQs, to the services, and ended at the header.
I thought outside the box and came up with a new way of designing. This was an approach I never used before and once I did, everything came together so much more easily.
Here’s what I must have looked like when I got out of that creative block:
3. Get curious
As a creative, I’ve got no doubt that you’re a naturally curious person but, I want you to push your boundaries. Give yourself small (and fun!) challenges. Here’s a few ideas:
- Typically listen to instrumental music while you work? What happens when you listen to ’90s hip hop?
- Go to a museum or exhibit you haven’t been to already. (I personally love science museums)
- What’s it like to work solely by candlelight?
- Learn an interesting (and somewhat random) new skill on Skillshare.com* – this is an affiliate link
- Join a friend on a date to enjoy one of their interests (e.g. watch a small independent film, go to a costuming exhibit, go on one of their favorite hikes). Keep an open mind and ask questions.
*Get 2 months of unlimited classes free when signing up with my affiliate link.
4. Do some journaling
Now, I don’t mean that you should do any ol’ journaling – although that is a great tool to capture your feelings. I mean do stream of consciousness journaling.
What is stream of consciousness journaling?
Stream of consciousness journaling is essentially a mind-dumping technique in which you write down any and every thought that comes into your mind as it makes itself known. This means you might write something like, “Umm… I don’t know what to say but I can tell you that this might be interesting and hey there’s a cute squirrel at the window”.
Yes, it can be somewhat random but it’s a wonderful way of getting your brain clear and some even use it as a sort of meditation. The important thing to remember is to go into it without judgment and have patience. You probably won’t come up with any “a-ha!” moments immediately.
Here are a few guidelines:
- Set a stopping point. This can be either a timed stop or stopping once you reach a certain number of pages.
- It’s best to do this first thing in the morning.
- Write everything that pops into your head. Everything. The mundane, the silly, the bonkers, and even the most boring of boring thoughts.
5. Get your body moving
A lot of times when we’re stuck in a creative rut, it doesn’t just live in our minds. Nope! As we’re so frustrated with being blocked, it also shows up as tension in our bodies. So get to stretching, put on a fun playlist, and just dance.
Dance like no one is watching, queen.
There you have it: 5 tips to getting out of a creative block!
What I want you to get out of this is this main point: to get of a creative rut you need to get out of your comfort zone.
You need to be open to being surprised and to experiences that you might not have even considered before. Inspiration tends to live in those unexpected moments so get out of your own way. Change your perspective, your point of view, your routine.
Tell me: what’s one of your favorite ways to getting out of a creative rut?