Whether you’re just starting your passion or you’re 10 years into it, it’s inevitable that you’re going to be struck by creative block. It was only recently that I was struck by a bout of creative block during a project and if you have never experienced it before (or yet), it’s a feeling of being completely powerless towards your work. A feeling of wanting to express your work, but not being able to. It renders your creativity completely paralysed and left in the dark about knowing what direction to go in.
It’s like having all these ideas and thoughts in your head but not knowing which one is the right solution for the problem.
It means you’re in a rut. You’re stuck. But this can be a good thing. It provides you with validity. Having creative block validates that you have a passion for the thing you’re doing.
If you don’t get creative block with the work you do, it means you’re not passionate about what you do, or you’re not working hard enough.
After reading that, If you thought to yourself, “but I work plenty hard at my work and I love what I do, and I’ve never gotten creative block in the 15 years I’ve been in my industry”. This means you have an extremely good balance between the topics I will describe later, and in your creative process. If you’re truly working in a creative field for 15 years and have never experienced a creative block, it means you’re not original, you’re not pushing the boundaries of your ability to do your work and be innovative with your skills.
Creative block occurs when your creative energy is burned out.
Ideas and execution are your two sources that tap into your creative energy. Generating ideas is a hard process, unless your copying them. But combining ideas from your sources of inspiration into new and original pieces of work that encompass your style is what drains your creative energy. The same as executing on these ideas into something new and unique to your style of work also drains from your well of creative energy.
If you’re not struggling to come up with ideas or execute the idea, it means you’re not working hard enough at either level.
A creative block isn’t a sudden occurrence that crashes on you, changing your views, questioning your motive and choices, and is not some sort of mid-life crisis. It’s a gradual realisation during a project that you don’t know how to progress, where you feel like you have exhausted all possible options without solving the problem.
Here are some of the best and most practical ways of overcoming creative block;
- Learn something new – A new piece of software, a language, a skill. You will always benefit through learning. Learning a new set of skills for a profession or practice allows you to present those new skills, transfer and extrapolate their problem solving assets back into the first passion in which you are stuck on and can rekindle the fire for it. With a new skill comes a new set of challenges and problems to solve. Overcoming these can provide the clarity to overcome the problems you were trying to solve in the first place. Always strive to learn.
- Take a break – Getting away from your workspace can allow you time to clear your thoughts. Get outside, go for a walk, take the afternoon off to go hiking, getting away from the problem can give you a better view of it. A breath of fresh air can provide a new perspective and offer the clarity you need to kickstart your creativity again.
- Pursue a secondary passion – We all have multiple outlets and things that we are good at, take a break from your main pursuit, even for just a week every couple of months, to spend on your secondary passion. Be it music, photography, painting, having a secondary passion opens the gates to a new skill that presents its own problems to solve. Solving these problems may just be the kickstart you need to get your mind going, which then lends itself to the first. A problem you solved from the secondary passion will present itself as the answer to the problem you were trying to get away from in the first. But when your stuck on the first, the second passion will appear more attractive as there is an open gate to through where you are freely able to do work and progress. So be weary not to ignore the problem of the first passion.
- Try something new – Embrace a new culture, try a new activity, move your workspace, travel abroad, explore a city. You may just be stuck in the mundane, this happens when you’re too familiar with your routine, you crave something new. Allow yourself to indulge in that new thing. Sometimes all you need is a new perspective from trying something you have never done before. It broadens your mind. Take a road trip, do something spontaneous, buy something for yourself that you normally wouldn’t, read a magazine that you would normally never read, travel a different route to your workplace, meet new people, be inspired. Don’t do anything stupid.
- Early sleep, early wake – The satisfaction, mentally and physically, when you go to bed early and wake early is incomparable, this is my favourite way of overcoming creative block, which also happens to be the most inexpensive way. It’s surefire, every time. Going to bed early and doing your work early, before your brain has been processing the information of the day. Your mind is clear and you have not consumed any information from the outside world. It’s a great feeling knowing that you have accomplished a body of work before the world has even woken.
Try looking for inspiration from the sources you enjoy, but try too hard and you may become oversaturated by them. Sometimes your worst ideas appear to be the best, just so you can overcome the problem. Embrace creative block, ride it out, you will learn something new from it. Recognise that you’re experiencing it and consider it a growth process to your work.
You wouldn’t be stuck if it wasn’t important to you. It’s not creative block if you don’t care.