Having creative block absolutely sucks. And when it hits, it feels unbeatable. I recently went through a serious bout of creative block and it was incredibly frustrating. It took me weeks to break out of the funk.
One of the worst things about going through creative block is the side-effects of feeling helpless. You begin to compare yourself to others. You get down on yourself because your your work feels subpar. And when you do apply yourself, nothing good comes from it. As a result, you feel like you’re slipping further behind.
Unfortunately, all of us get creative block for one reason or another. There isn’t always a rhyme or reason, but there are some different techniques you can try.
Here are some steps you can take to pull yourself out of that rut:
1. Take a Break
I hate how obvious this sounds, and you probably do too. But it’s an important first step.
If you have to force your creativity, you’re going to do more damage in the long run.
A healthy creative treats their craft as a passion — not a job. Don’t burn yourself out on something that isn’t working at this moment in time. The more you force it, the more you’re going to grow to despise it. And we don’t want that — that’s what your day job is for! Okay, I’m kidding… but you get the idea.
Chances are that you’re long overdue for a break, so give yourself a week or two to cool down. Switch up your routine and use the time you normally set aside to create to do something else. You might feel guilty at first, but remind yourself that you’re doing this for the right reasons.
Here’s another way to look at it… You can spend a week trying to force a new piece and be discouraged and miserable every second. Or you can come back refreshed and driven, and then knock it out in two days because you’re motivated and are actually enjoying what you’re doing.
2. Find New Inspiration
Another obvious one, but hear me out!
If you’re like most people, you probably find your inspiration in a lot of the same places. You follow the same artists and you might even subconsciously reflect some of their style in your own work. That’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with that.
But when was the last time you tried something new?
In this day and age, there is an infinite (and intimidating) amount of resources at our disposal. Spend an hour and dig through some social channels like Instagram, Pinterest, Behance, or Dribbble. I guarantee you’ll find some cool stuff that you never even knew existed.
Bookmark the things that intrigue you and come back to them in a couple days. Look through them and ask yourself what it is about those things that inspire you. You might find some new niches that you could potentially put your own spin on.
Diversifying your creative consumption is an important aspect of being a well-versed artist. It’s a big world out there! Make sure you’re taking advantage of it.
3. Explore New Mediums and Tools
As an artist, it can become a crippling habit to always use the same tools. We get comfortable with what we know and what we’re good at. But there’s a lot of potential in exploring new applications.
If you typically use pens and markers, try picking up a brush and mixing some paint. Force yourself to work at a different scale, or with a different color palette.
This isn’t reinventing yourself as an artist. This is you branching out and putting your unique creative flavor into another realm.
Here’s the best part: even if you don’t enjoy it, you’ve still learned something important about yourself. It’s not a failure, it’s a success. Strengthening your creative chops is about knowing what works just as much as knowing what doesn’t.
Beyond breaking your creative block, you might even find a new direction you want to explore with you future work.
4. Create in a New Environment
When you’re traveling abroad, do you eat the local cuisine, even if it’s something you probably wouldn’t eat regularly at home? There’s something about the subconscious mind that doesn’t hesitate as much to try new things when we’re in new places. This same notion can be applied to creativity.
We’re typically working in our every day workspace. Have you ever tried creating while traveling on a plane, at a coffee shop or a bar, or on a park bench?
Some of the best work you’ll do is when you’re in an environment in which you don’t regularly create.
While we’re trying new things to break that creative block, why not try changing up your surroundings? Get out of your chair and away from your desk and go somewhere out of your comfort zone.
If you’re not feeling as adventurous, try creating in a different room. Break things up a bit and swap the music for a podcast (or vice versa). It might also be fun to have another friend creative friend join you for a drawing session.
5. Develop a Creative Calendar
In a previous post, I wrote about my system of using a creative calendar as a mechanism to stay focused and maintain a consistent output. This was derived from the idea of using an editorial calendar to plan writing topics. But you can do this for your creative work as well.
Start by outlining all of the projects that you’re currently working on as well as the ones that you need to start and break them down into achievable milestones. Plot each milestone across a week-long calendar.
The trick is to stop thinking of your output as a big daunting project. Instead, you think of it as small manageable tasks. Focus on one part at a time and before you know it, you’ll be at the finish line.
Another benefit of maintaining a creative calendar is that it removes the day-to-day guesswork. Instead of sitting down fresh and wondering what you’re going to work on next, you already have your work laid out for you. No need to plan — just execute!
Tomorrow’s a New Day
Take these steps into consideration and get a good night sleep. Start fresh tomorrow. Make yourself a promise that you’re going to introduce some new changes and get out of your every day comfort zone.
You might not break that creative block immediately, but if you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way.