Creative blocks are inevitable from time to time. We wish the creative process was an upward trajectory, but in reality, it’s a journey of highs and lows — and some much-needed aha! moments — that push us along the way.
You may find yourself staring at a blank screen waiting for inspiration to strike. Maybe you’re trying to muster enough creative juices to come up with a catchy business name or create that perfect logo! This is a totally normal part of the creative process—don’t let it get you down! Recognizing creative blocks when they first emerge and taking action is key to getting your productivity back into full swing.
What causes a creative block?
Creative blocks aren’t simply a lack of inspiration. They can appear for several reasons, including:
- Experiencing self-doubt
- Fear of rejection or failure
- Loss of meaning or purpose in your work
- Overwhelm from the amount of work involved, or choice(s) to make
- Life changes (moving, family commitments, etc.)
Here are some tips on how to tackle creative blocks when they appear.
Shift your perspective to move through a creative block
Feelings of uncertainty and fear of the unknown are bound to come up in creative work. Will it work? Will it be well received? These questions can paralyze anyone from letting inspiration take hold. Nurturing a positive perspective, and putting healthy practices in place is essential for fostering creativity. Here are some things you can try to create a strong foundation for your ideas to flow:
1. Reframe your limiting stories
Limiting stories are beliefs we have about ourselves that are holding us back. Practice turning these into positive statements. Instead of thinking, “What if I fail?”, change your thinking to “What if I succeed?”. Set yourself up for success by being your own best advocate.
2. Set strong boundaries
Creative blocks can happen when there are too many distractions or feelings of overwhelm from too many commitments. Learn to say “no” and set stronger personal boundaries.
3. Create hard deadlines
Institute a sense of urgency in your tasks. If you’re procrastinating something in particular, set hard deadlines for yourself and communicate them to others who will hold you accountable.
4. Practice positive self-talk
When you notice your thoughts heading in the direction of blame, shift your thinking to more positive assertions about yourself. “I’m not doing this fast enough” becomes “I am working at a pace that is best for me right now”. Be your own best champion and practice self-advocacy regularly. Go ahead and tell yourself, “You got this!”
5. Create realistic expectations and goals
If your to-do list runs too long or your expectations of yourself are too high, you will rarely produce something you deem worthy. This sets you up for feelings of failure, so practice setting more realistic goals!
6. Be mindful of perfectionism and “shoulding” yourself
The pursuit of perfection can prevent good work from getting out of the door. Similarly, “shoulding” thoughts can also be a hindrance. Thoughts like, “I should have this finished by now” have no place in the creative process. Free up mental space by avoiding thoughts that start with “I should”.
7. Don’t compare yourself to others
While it can be helpful to look to others for inspiration, don’t get caught in the comparison trap. If you’re constantly looking to others or your competitors, you’ll be less able to focus on your own tasks.
8. Accept the discomfort and uncertainty
The old adage, “Nothing worth having comes easy” couldn’t be truer. Simply accepting that the process isn’t always comfortable, and being okay with the uncertainty of the creation process helps in overcoming creative blocks quickly and easily.
Clearing a creative block – tips for creativity!
With a positive mindset in check, it can also help to step away from the project at hand and let the ideas come to you instead of forcing them to conjure. Here are some fun ways to spark some creativity!
1. Get outside
Sometimes the best ideas happen by just stepping outside, as the co-creators of Uber can attest – they came up with their revolutionary app idea one evening while waiting too long for a cab.
2. Read “The Artist’s Way”
Also known as every artist’s must-read handbook, author Julie Cameron shares techniques and exercises on how to connect to one’s higher creativity. It continues to be one of the most popularly referenced books on creativity for the last 25 years.
3. Meditate regularly
Research has long shown the health benefits of meditation, and some of the most successful people swear by meditation for mental clarity and creativity. Not sure how to get started? Try a meditation app like InsightTimer!
4. Record your dreams
Try to write down your dreams every morning for two weeks. This can help you tap into your subconscious and strengthen your intuition and creative voice.
5. Practice free writing
Set the timer for ten minutes and write down whatever comes to mind. Don’t try to filter or self-edit. The key is to let all your thoughts – and potential ideas – pour out.
6. Blind draw for 5 minutes
Blind drawing is a great exercise to get out of your head and have fun with art. Pick any object or illustration, then without looking down at your paper, draw what you see.
7. Look for design inspiration
Sometimes you just need to overwhelm your senses with design inspiration! What better way to spend a few minutes looking at interesting graphics and colorful visuals to help inspire? Pinterest is a great tool for this!
8. Listen to a podcast
If you’re not already on the podcast bandwagon, you should get to it – there’s a wealth of amazing stories and information that can help inspire, whether that’s good ol’ fashioned interviews with artists and thought leaders, or straight-up business podcasts.
9. Play around in a design app
Working with colors, shapes, and space can be a great way to shake up your creative juices! Come up with a fun company name and try designing a logo in the Looka app!
Try designing a logo!
10. Step outside your comfort zone
Ideas can emerge when we step outside the comforts of what we’re familiar with. Are you a writer? Take a painting workshop. A designer? Attend a spoken word event. A tech entrepreneur? Go to a cooking class. Make it a point to push your limits!
11. Go for a walk
In one Stanford University study, researchers found that walking can boost creative output by 60 percent. Try making it a mindful walk (meditation and walking in one) and be present in the moment – take note of the things you see (a yellow house, a tiny dog, a person sitting on a park bench) to gain both health and creative benefits.
12. Tune into your senses
Pay attention to what you hear, see, smell, taste and touch for 1 minute each. This can help clear your mind and increase your focus.
13. Prioritize exercise
Aerobic exercise, like running, has been shown to reduce stress, boost mental clarity, and increase focus. Neuroscientists have also found that increased physical exercise can improve memory.
14. Play with color
Try to surround yourself with the right colors to help set the mood. If you’re designing a logo to evoke happiness, surround yourself with yellow colors and objects, but if excitement and passion are what you’re after, a red motif may help inspire.
15. List solutions
If you’re dealing with one roadblock in particular, come up with many different solutions to the problem.
16. Get new gear
You wouldn’t start running without the proper running gear, and the same applies to your creative endeavors. Having the right tools can get you excited and motivated to dive in, whether that’s getting the smartpen you’ve been eyeing or signing up to a task manager app, like Notion or Asana.
17. Attend a meet-up
From trivia night to writing code at a cafe, there are a plethora of meetups available nowadays. You never know who you’ll meet that could spark an idea that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
18. Know your peak times
There’s a reason why business meetings aren’t usually scheduled between 5 PM to 7 PM – most people aren’t coming up with their best ideas during that time. Whether you’re an early bird or night owl, get to know your peak performance hours and take full advantage.
19. Take a nap
According to research studies, taking an early afternoon snooze can boost brain power and lead to creative insight. Bonus: Napping has also been shown to aid in cell repair and help you live longer, too!
20. Do one thing 30 ways
Illustrator and author Lisa Congdon recommends picking one thing you love to draw or paint and for 30 days, draw or paint that thing 30 different ways – a different way every day using different mediums, positions, colors, etc.
21. Seek out resources
When starting from scratch, you might not know where to begin. Give yourself a boost by seeking resources that will jumpstart the creative process.
Stuck trying to design a logo? Take a look-see at this article on How to Design a Logo (Even if You’re Not a Designer).
No matter what creative block you’re trying to overcome, there are resources available to support you!
22. Have fun with words
Open a random book or magazine and blindly point to a word on the page. Write one paragraph about that one word. This exercise seems simple, but it’s a great way to push your thinking outside the box.
23. Play “What if?”
Approach your creative block with a game of “What if?” What if you used oil paint instead of watercolor? What if you inverted the words? What if you used a Helvetica font instead of Gotham font?
24. Juggle multiple projects
While there’s something to be said for tackling one task at a time, sometimes doing multiple projects at once can help creatively feed into one another, and take the pressure off of a single project.
25. Work in a new location
A change in scenery can help you get out of a creative rut. Go out to a cafe or library to mix it up.
26. Listen to classical music
Research has shown that when you’re stuck on a problem, listening to upbeat classical music can help enhance divergent thinking, which is a core component of creativity.
Creativity is like a muscle and will grow stronger the more you put it to work. With enough practice and effort, you’ll easily be able to break through any creative block that comes your way!
Start with small steps and keep persevering. As Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer Maya Angelou once said: “Nothing will work unless you do.”