Whether you’re a designer or a writer, a painter or a photographer, you can’t escape the occasional dry spell of creativity. Think of it as a more generalized form of writer’s block: a block in creativity that can make you lose any incentive to do innovative and thought provoking work. These creative roadblocks often pop up in front of you without warning, threatening to foil your project before you can finish it. These roadblocks can be annoying at best, a mere annoyance as you go about your work. But when deadlines are looming and you’re grasping for ways to execute your designs, these roadblocks can spell disaster.
Luckily there’s a lot you can do to prevent these roadblocks from derailing your creative work; it’s just a matter of being proactive about it. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way that might help you stay creative when times are tough.
Use the web sparingly
The novelist Jonathan Franzen (of Freedom fame) famously stated that anyone writing fiction while using an internet connection must not be writing very well. His point was that the web can be a crutch for many people with short attention spans who might be more prone to reading up on the latest blog update rather than put hard thought into their creative work. Doing away with the web entirely seems like too harsh a point for me, which is why I advice to use the web sparingly. Most designers use the web for inspiration (if not completely for work purposes), but there’s a fine balance between use and abuse.
Change your surroundings when you get restless
Restlessness is a formidable enemy to creative professionals. If you feel restless while you’re working on a project, you probably won’t get into the proper right-brained state of mind because you’re too busy trying to get comfortable. The solution is simple: if you find yourself plagued by endless restlessness, do something about it. If you’re at home, move your computer and working materials to another part of the house (or apartment). It might be harder to move your workspace in your office, though many creative firms will allow for you to do so. You might have to wait until after work to change your environment, but the wait could mean the difference in your creative process.
Don’t fret over what’s practical
To someone outside the creative industry, it might sound counter-intuitive to dissuade someone from being practical. But that’s exactly the thing that can hold back a designer from their process. Worrying about logistics outside of your control—things like deadlines, budgets, and client meetings, for example—can take a huge toll on someone whose job is to produce content that looks and feels organic and artistic. You need to free yourself from unnecessary stressors in order to do your best work. Let managers and administrators worry about the numbers; your job is to focus your imagination.
Don’t force inspiration
Sometimes you’re just not feeling it: a creative roadblock has set itself up in front of you, and you feel completely unenthused about the task at hand. Some people will tell you that the best course of action is to try another creative task that might inspire you, but I disagree. I think the best inspirational material comes to creatives when they least expect it, not during exercises meant to “jump-start” the creative process. So if you’re feeling like you have nothing interesting to say about a topic, or if a subject fails to move you, just give it time. Keep it on your mind while you work on other projects, and something will come to you out of the blue. The important thing is that you keep your creativity flowing no matter what.
How do you navigate creative roadblocks?