Don’t Stop: 6 Tricks for Beating Creative Blocks

Creativity comes naturally for a lot of designers and writers, but sometimes you just get stuck. Here are six tricks to break through that creative block and get back to doing great work.

The Tried-and-True Brainstorm

The first thing people will usually suggest to a struggling creative is a brainstorm. It’s a great way to get all your ideas out, but it can be torture when you’re lacking inspiration. Try grabbing some coworkers or friends to join in.

Start by getting all of your obvious ideas out. Talk about them, write them down, and ask everyone else for suggestions. Next, focus on the silliest ideas for your project. Find your most absurd concepts and write every one down.

Look at all your ideas. Normal and weird, obvious and odd. Now, try to smash a few ideas together. A landscape scene with helicopter dogs! A public-health campaign with Martians for mascots! A dress design inspired by river trout! Your initial results may seem completely ridiculous, but one of them may be the inspiration you need to kickstart your creativity.

Change Your Surroundings

The fastest way to escape your dusty headspace is to get out of your actual physical space. Many people get stuck in a funk when they see the same work environment every day. So get out: grab a mid-morning coffee at the local café or visit a natural history museum and hang out in the dinosaur exhibit.

Can’t leave the office? Find a sunny spot inside and pull up a chair. Getting a little glimpse of the outside world may be all you need to think outside the box.

Vector illustration by Callahan

Write Away

This is a great exercise to try at your new getaway spot. Writers will probably be familiar with it, but it’s a good technique for artists and designers as well.

First, grab a pen and paper. Next, try to clear your mind of any stress you’ve been experiencing. You need a clean slate for the third part, which is to just write. Write any word that pops into your head, and keep going. Don’t try to write sentences — just write. Do this for about one minute, and then take a look at what’s on your paper.

What you’ll probably find is a jumble of weird words and phrases, but in that mess may be an idea that your brain has been hiding from you. Free-writes are perfect for dragging out any ideas that have been hanging around your head. Do several more and see what unique thoughts appear. You’ll probably be surprised.

Vector illustration by Callahan

Get Internet Inspired

The Internet is a bastion of inspiration, as well as distraction. Limit yourself to brief browsing sessions to avoid falling down the pit of procrastination. Try 15-minute breaks every 45 minutes, or only log on for a half-hour at the start of your project.

Also, don’t be afraid to branch out from your usual sites. Try a new blog, or watch a cooking video on YouTube. Get out of your comfort zone, and see what ideas your browsing can inspire.

Think Strangely

Your workspace is as familiar to you as your kitchen table. (And hey, maybe it is your kitchen table!) You know its ins and outs better than anyone. But what if you didn’t know it?

For this exercise, try to see your surroundings through a new set of eyes. Pretend you’re a child, or an alien, or a 15th-century monk. Sketch (or write about) your environment through that filter, and really emphasize the changes. Where you see a swivel chair, a child might see a mobile merry-go-round. To an alien, your cell phone may seem more like a communicator prop from the ’60s. You never know what you might see when you find a new perspective.

Vector illustration by Callahan

Set It Aside

When everything else fails, you have one more option: leave it for later. Work on another project, take the day off, or go on a mini-vacation. Just get away from your project for a little while and refresh yourself.

Of course, you should never try this technique on a deadline, but it’s an easy way to forget about your stress and reboot. Just remember — your project has to get done eventually.

Top Image: Vector illustration by Petr Vaclavek