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return to posts November 23rd, 2015

Conquering (The Dreaded) Creative Block

Creative block.

We fear it and yet it happens to us. It’s hair-wrenching, nail-biting, sigh-inducing, and it looks a lot like crumpled up papers and a ton of sketches strewn across the desk.

Good news is, with a few tricks, you can beat it.


1) Start fresh.


The first problem you will probably run into is that you’re having a hard time getting started.

I know, for me, I might get stuck writing monthly reports because the work is so similar. I get tempted to write each month’s report the same way. The thing is, that’s not always the best way – to do work by what history dictates.

I try to stop and think, “What does this report need?” and make a small list so that I can write according to this new writing structure.

When Jose is in a rut, he listens to music and looks at different ideas to get a fresh new perspective.

“I tend to get up and walk away from the design and try to distract my brain from the current train of thought. I either listen to some music or look up some other creative designs through some of my personal interests/hobbies. Sometimes I actually explore an opposite train of thought to the project direction, and sometimes that sparks something unique – a new perspective,” says Jose.

Barb takes this in a slightly different direction:

“A few things seem to work for me when nothing seems to come together. I leave the project entirely and listen to some music (usually Springsteen), go for a long walk, meditate, or call a friend just to chat.”

Sometimes you need to step away in order to see the path that you need to take.

Get rid of the bias you already have.

Start fresh.


2) Build an oasis of inspiration.


Now it’s time to find that flash of inspiration. The eureka moment of ideas.

A tried and true method used by professionals from interior designers to chefs to illustrators is the use of some type of “Wall of Inspiration.”

Sometimes this is physical. At work, we have such a wall curated by Rachel’s desk with inspirational quotes. I can always see it from my desk and it is a welcome reminder of several paradigms I support. We add quotes to this wall whenever we are inspired and it helps us get in the zone when we need it.

Other times, it is digital. Pinterest – a visual bookmarking social media platform – is something Rachel and I use to help generate ideas.

Creating a place of creative ideas helps you organize your thoughts and see endless possibilities all in one place.


3) Pursue a passion project.


Creativity isn’t something that exists solely in the workplace.

You might experience it when you come up with ways to fundraise for a not-for-profit that you love. Or perhaps when you choose what to wear everyday.

Essentially, creativity can exist for anything that you care about. And it gives you perspectives you may never have otherwise come across.

In Rachel’s spare time, she has several hobbies.

“Regularly I try to explore different areas of art and design. Some days I try colouring, painting, drawing, crocheting, DIY – ing etc,” says Rachel.

By working on something you love on the side, you might be able to apply flashes of inspiration from your hobby to your 9-to-5 job. And you might be able to produce something you may not have otherwise thought!


4) Take breaks.


Finally, we all have that one friend we consider to be a workaholic. We admire their work ethic but wish they would sleep a little more or maybe go on at least one vacation. Because they deserve it.

But what if you’re the workaholic? What if you need a break? And what if you would feel bad taking one?

What if I told you it could help you stay creative?

“Downtime is very important. Creativity needs to be rejuvenated, and it isn’t something that can be sustained at a high level for long periods of time. I have just learned to pace myself and understand that distraction can lead to a great idea,” suggests Alan.

We are all human. You are not built to run forever with no food and no sleep. For me, I lose steam after 90 mins. Some professionals tend to opt for a workaholic lifestyle because they feel like it’s more productive. But, they forget that strategic breaks actually contribute to prolonging productivity over the long run.

Take a break. Have a Kit Kat.

There you have it – the tricks of the trade. Next time you find yourself stuck sighing amidst crumpled up papers and sketches strewn across the desk, remember these tricks and conquer that creative block.

A great idea is waiting for you.

Photography by Syx Langemann Photography


Established in 1996, Generator is a complete graphic design and advertising agency. We specialize in design, print, web, social media and email solutions for businesses of all sizes.