So you’ve started your creative business? Hooray! Maybe it’s an awesome side hustle, or even your full time career. You work hard organizing your clients, invoices, social media content, and oh yeah—your actual creative work! Chances are throughout all the busyness of your business, you’ve probably reached a point or two (maybe even more!) where you feel completely exhausted of ideas. It’s the dreaded creative block. Ugh, full stop to a screeching halt. 😖
The fact is, it happens to the best of us! It’s exciting to work in a creative industry, but staying inspired isn’t always easy. Finding ways to conquer that problem doesn’t reveal a swift solution, either. Since I know I’m not the only one, I put together this guide of all my tricks for staying ahead of that paralyzing creative block in hopes of helping you, too!
Read on for my favorite tips to overcome creative block!
Get to the root of it
Start thinking about why you feel the way that you do. Is it because you feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over? Try a new creative approach: use new colors. Try different compositions. Refine your workflow. Seeing something in a new light can help create fresh paths and new solutions.
Maybe you realize you look at others’ work and success and feel stuck—which makes you feel, well, crappy. 💩 Remind yourself that everyone grows at their own pace, or even try unfollowing them from social media if it bothers you that much. Reflecting and finding the source of what’s causing your creative block can help in finding the solution.
Create a backup source of ideas
Very rarely can we just sit down and come up with amazing ideas—especially when we’re already under stress. A great way to avoid creative block is to always write ideas on paper whenever they come to you. I carry a little sketchbook with me wherever I go. If I’m out doing activities, my mind is much more relaxed and the ideas seem to flow most at that time. You never know when ideas are going to come to you and when you’re going to need that notebook to look back on. If you’re without a notebook, jot down the rough idea in your phone.
If you wander around your house a lot (like me, ha!) keep sticky notes in each room! I’m in the kitchen often, so I have a stack of sticky notes in my junk drawer. There’s been so many times during lunch break that I come up with an idea and have to sketch it out. Then I collect all my sticky notes and organize them into a file folder so they’re not scattered all over the place. Having a little bank of ideas to refer to when you’re running out of creative steam has proved to be extremely helpful to me when I run into a creative block!
Take a break & redecorate!
If I am feeling uninspired I know I won’t be able to create my best work. That’s when I’ll go out and take a walk or just do something completely different (like crocheting) to distract my mind from what I’m doing. Change your atmosphere. Work in a coffee shop today, and your office tomorrow. A new atmosphere can help push your creative boundaries a little bit.
Try spicing up your office space, too! Redecorate it and add a splash of color to create an inspiring environment. Plants are a fabulous mood booster. Not only do they purify your air, but studies have proven that they actually improve your concentration and productivity by up to 15%!
If decorating isn’t your thing, try sleeping on it! Take a day off from thinking about it to give your mind time to relax. It’s difficult to come up with ideas when you’re stressed. Remember to create from a relaxed mind—because a relaxed mind is a productive mind.
Change your perspective
Something I find very helpful is changing something negative into a positive. A wonderful article from Huffpost states,
Negative thinking is our enemy. It dampens our enthusiasm and motivation. It contributes to indecision, inertia, procrastination and outright derailment of our goal-directed actions. It defeats us. It beats us. It creates the ‘bad luck’ that we will later bemoan.
I couldn’t agree more. Don’t look at your creative block as running out of ideas, but as growth. You’re not at a dead end—you’re just trying to push your mind to think in different ways to become a better artist. Progression doesn’t come easy, but you’re not going to let a little hiccup stop you from potentially creating your best work, are you?
Changing your mindset can do wonders for both your mood and work! Avoid seeing your creative block in a negative light and you’re well on your way to turning it on its head and feelin’ peachy.
Develop a routine
Try developing a routine if you haven’t already. When you wake up and know exactly what you’re supposed to do, it’s not just work—it’s a productive task to be done that will push you towards your goals. Mentally preparing yourself is a great way to overcome obstacles by organizing your thoughts. It’s something you can work into your mind and prepare yourself for what’s coming up. There’s also a blog post here all about developing routines and managing your time if you want to check that out!
Also make time in your schedule for passion projects. Honestly, I probably spend A LOT more time than most people creating work purely for me. I see it as a form of self-care. It’s not selfish to create work that makes you happy. Create work that you want to do that is purely expressive of you. Don’t try thinking of trying to impress anyone or any clients and just focus on you.
Client briefs can feel restricting at times, so having that time to create work unrestrained is great for letting your mind wander! Having these outlets consistently will help avoid that burnout that leads to creative block.
Sometimes our minds are just filled with noise that distract us from coming up with ideas. Give your brain a break, close your eyes, and clear your mind with a quick meditation session. Below are some meditation steps I learned from Gaiam that help me.
Here’s my step-by-step for how I meditate:
- Close your eyes and just breathe naturally, without controlling your breath’s pace or intensity.
- Focus on your breath and start to observe how your body reacts with each inhalation and exhalation.
- Move your focus to one thing at a time: notice how your chest moves. Then your shoulders. Then your belly, and so on. If your mind wanders, try to go back and focus on your breathing again.
Do this for about 5 minutes and as often as you need. I’m not an expert on meditating, but I find that this always helps to ease my mind and anxiety. Just taking that little “time out” for my brain helps my mind reset so I can come back a little more rested and refreshed.
Dig up your past work
Looking at what you’ve done and seen how far you’ve come will help put that sense of accomplishment into everything you’ve been working up to. Sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day of everything that we forget the progress we’ve made. A creative block makes us feel uninspired, so it’s up to us to rekindle that fire.
I make it a point to look back at my old work every few days to show myself how much I’ve improved over time. By doing this, I’m also reminding myself the only way I got to this point was by trudging through all the obstacles and pushing myself in new directions. It’s extremely rewarding once you realize all the progress you’ve made and that your hard work truly does pay off.
Here’s another tip that keeps me going: whenever I’m writing a blog post, I keep two tabs open for my rough draft. The first one doesn’t get refreshed from when I start. The second one serves as my live preview. Once I finish writing for the day, I compare the two drafts. It’s such a quick little hack that helps me put into perspective how much I did (just in 30 minutes!) and keeps my motivation going for when I come back to write.
Remember it will pass
If all else fails, remember it will pass and that you’re not alone. It is completely normal to be in a creative rut—everyone goes through this. Keep your mind thinking positively and remember that this won’t last forever. There’s ups and downs in everyone’s creative process and this is just part of that process that leads to growth.
Some of my best work has come out as result from being stuck in a creative block. I kindly acknowledged it, but kept working at my project throughout many breaks and meditations in order to refine my work and conquer it (even on the Monday-est of Mondaze 😴). So embrace it, recognize that it’s just a phase, and let it fuel you—because it just may lead to your greatest work yet.