Whether you’re a writer, a designer, or an artist, as long as you dabble in the creative field, you’ve already experienced the terrifying (or at least physically and emotionally draining) reign of the creative block. As the term “block” suggests, a creative block prevents people from drawing inspiration or creativity for a project.
Creative blocks can stem from many causes. As someone who’s always creating something (both for work and for my personal enjoyment), I’ve found some tips that work for getting past the dreaded block.
Do your research
Not having enough information on a particular subject matter for a project is a possible reason for creative blocks. Luckily, in this digital age, we have access to waterfalls of information in the form of books, periodicals, and the Internet. With a little help from Google, you’re sure to find something useful.
Apart from these media, why not try reaching out to someone who has experience on the topic? There is knowledge to be found in forums and interviews. As you’re researching, though, make sure that whatever information you get is accurate.
Make a mind map
Mind mapping is an excellent tool to use while brainstorming, and you can use it alone or with your team. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen, though there are many apps for this, should you prefer a more digital approach. You write the topic or project in the center of the paper, and radiating from there, you list down any ideas or keywords that come to mind.
The important thing when mind mapping and brainstorming is to accept all ideas, even when an idea sounds wrong or crazy. Just let all the ideas flow out, don’t criticize. Sometimes a good idea can stem from a bad one. The time for weeding the good ideas from the bad comes after the session is over, when everything can be discussed in-depth.
Move away from the computer
Sometimes the problem isn’t having enough information, but having too much of it. If you’ve been staring at your screen for too long, trying to figure out how to move forward, you probably need a change of scenery. Try to do something completely different for 20 minutes. I find this particularly useful when I can’t figure out what is “off” about a project. You could take a walk, grab a bite to eat, read a chapter of a story, play a video game… anything completely unrelated to your project. This short rest will give you fresh eyes with which to view your project.
Another take on this tip would be to sketch or write down everything on paper before switching on your computer. Creating freehand can organize your thoughts while letting the ideas flow. I recommend bringing around a small notebook and a pen wherever you go, so when inspiration strikes, you can immediately jot it down.
Get some sleep
Have you been getting enough sleep? Skimping on your sleeping hours can contribute to your creative block. As creatives, I’m aware that we have our own sets of deadlines, and there will be days when we have to stay up until the wee hours of the morning. However, sometimes it’s more productive to grab a bit of shut-eye instead of forcing your brain to keep thinking. Studies have shown that dreaming can provide inspiration and solutions to problems. While we sleep, although the body is at rest, the mind continues to function, thinking about the problem at hand. Dreaming is extreme out-of-the-box thinking — you’ll notice that most dreams are irrational and fantastical — because our conscious mind isn’t blocking the ideas with rationalism.
Famous figures like Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein), Beethoven (classical composer), Salvador Dali (surrealist painter) and Christopher Nolan (director of Inception) drew inspiration for their great works from dreams they had.
Change your mindset
If you start a project with thoughts along the lines of “I can’t do this”, “I don’t want to fail”, or “I’m not good enough”, you’ll have a much harder time working on your projects because these thoughts are suppressing your creative juices. Fear of failure prevents many creatives from working. There will be days when you feel like whatever you churn out is bad or useless, but these rejected works are helping you grow as well. No one has inspiration 24/7, no one ever improved on a blank page, and all top-notch creatives started out unskilled. Next time you’re feeling negative, try to change your way of thinking. To quote Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”
What are your ways of overcoming creative blocks?