Designers combine in their work technical skills with the creative process, therefore their productivity is trickier twofold. On top of technical challenges they have to tackle, there adds a problem that all creatives encounter, sooner or later: the oh-so-dreaded creative block. Unlike the writer ’s block, which is proverbial, designer’s block is not as well known, and there are fewer ready-made recipes to deal with it. Yet it is definitely a widespread problem. It already helps to know that you are not alone in your struggle, doesn’t it?
When I first heard about it, the first thing I felt was a relief. I did not know about this quite legitimate issue with which my fellow colleagues also grapple. I thought I was just procrastinating, or even worse – burning out. However, if you spent hours on the task and still nothing worthy is coming out on the screen, it does not mean you have to take an “adult gap year” and fly to Goa to find your inner self. You can fix this with just a couple of simple techniques, which I suggest below.
Sometimes you cannot produce a clear idea but not because your mind is empty. Quite the reverse – it is overwhelmed. Too many ideas, too many tasks, deadlines, distractions. Your mind is in overdrive as it is, so instead of adding stimuli trying to “get inspired”, you should eliminate them.
- Straighten up your desk – get rid of things that make your mind wander. All those keepsakes, photos, and gifts are cute, but when instead of simply making you smile during short breaks they carry you miles away, they will have to go. Put them somewhere where you spend your downtime instead.
- Get your tools in proper working order. Update your software, get rid of old files on your desktop. Clutter creates visual noise and adds chaos to an already complicated landscape of your mind. If your startup disk is full and you keep getting that irritating message over and over, look up Mac cleaner reviews and tackle the issue.
- Listen to music. Although some people find the sounds a distraction in itself, music is structured and predictable. It will keep other, more chaotic noises away – paper rustling, people talking, keyboards clacking, and so on.
- Turn off your phone. Sounds like a drastic measure, but the world will not end just because they could not reach you. Same goes for messengers. It is better you will use different media for fun and for work. This way you will have more control over the signals you get – instead of muting and unmuting certain chats all you have to do is shut down one app.
Having a sketchbook, notebook or diary always on you will help you in many ways. First and foremost, when an idea springs to your mind, you will be able to write it down and save it for a rainy day. Even if you cannot implement it here and now, it will not be lost. You might think, that since the idea is so brilliant, you will not forget it and it will be right there when you need an inspiration. It will not. You will almost certainly forget it as you forget your dream when you leave your bed in the morning.
However, a sketchbook is useful beyond safekeeping of ideas. Writing down your thoughts and doubts can be very therapeutic. Sometimes you cannot proceed with your work because some personal problems occupy your mind and you cannot focus fully on the task at hand. Writing helps us to put our thoughts straight, so it is easier to discover what has been bothering us. Besides, it also stimulates our brain and effects of it is similar to those of meditation.
Listen to your body
Sometimes you keep pushing yourself to the limit because you need to finish the work on time and cannot afford a break (or so you think). You force yourself to work and lament all kinds of “blocks”, when in fact all you need is some rest and a snack. When your energy is running low, it is harder to trick your mind into concentrating on anything other than and its need to refuel. If you are one of those who easily gets carried away and forgets about such mundane things as refreshments, then schedule your meals and set the alarm to remind you of them. This is particularly useful for freelancers working from home. Since they do not have a fixed break as office workers do, they may forget about them altogether.
Finish what you started
Sometimes an emptiness of the canvas terrifies us, but too often we just keep creating and continuously discarding one sketch after another because nothing seems good enough to keep working on it.
Even if you have not started anything yet, there is a twist for this tip: make a bad design on purpose. There is no such thing as a bad idea! Just see it through and implement the most terrible, unruly and ugly interfaces. Even if they will not become better in a process, they will give you a good idea of what definitely does not work. It is already a piece of information. From there you can proceed in an opposite direction. Besides, the action might put you in the flow and break the block. That is exactly what we are trying to do here, remember?
Sometimes the reasons lie deeper than those I have described here but remember: you designed before and you will design now. You can do it! Block does not mean you have exhausted your creative capacity. It simply indicates that your brain is currently busy with other important things. All you have to do is to find what they are and tend to them.