Creative Block? Here’s How I Overcome Mine
Everyone, in every industry, has encountered a ‘roadblock’ of sorts – for designers, it is guaranteed that we will hit our creative block somewhere down the line.
Whether it is down to a lack of inspiration, mental health issues, societal pressures, or intense cognitive overload, there are so many things that can halt your progress but also a variety of ways to break through it and get yourself back on track!
The key thing to remember is that EVERYBODY gets blocked now and then. Yes, some more often than others (I think mine appears every month nowadays) but the best way to overcome these types of issues is to remember there is a way out of it.
Through my own experiences, I have a list of ways that help me to overcome my obstacles and get myself back on track with both my business and my life!
Stop. Recharge. Revise and Go!
It sounds simple enough but this is actually a really tough thing to do when you are in the middle of a big project. By simply taking a break – I’d recommend an extended break rather than your usual half hour – you can make a big difference in your thinking about a task.
When I feel like my work is no good and I have put myself under pressure to make this ‘the best design ever’, I stall. Completely. My ability to organise my thoughts just shuts down and anything I produce is absolute rubbish – and I know it. So rather than continuing and sending over the bad work, which would surely ruin my design reputation, I simply STOP.
I have found over the last year that not only is it REALLY hard to do that, but it is so beneficial it has to be my top tip to any creatives I know. By physically leaving my workspace, and removing myself from any devices, sketchpads, or work-related items, I can get my brain to relax and recharge.
During this time I will do easy, no-pressure things like reading, going for a walk, catching up with friends (more like venting in some cases) or even just listening to music whilst cleaning the kitchen. The key is to relax and RECHARGE your mind so that you feel it is coming back to life.
Once I am ready, I can then sit down and REVISE my thought pattern on the task at hand. Is there an alternative way of doing things? Normally – yes. There is another way to approach the matter and when your mind is clear, the ideas come much more freely. Then you GO!
Whistle while you work...
This may seem like a bit of a ‘hippy-dippy’ approach but when I am struggling to focus, I need to have some sort of audio playing. Often, it isn’t actually music and it is just background noise that is needed so I will play a YouTube playlist of something easy to listen to like 8 Out Of Ten Cats or Would I Lie To You – I have seen the shows plenty of times, so I don’t need to watch it and I don’t find them distracting.
Music-wise – nothing too heavy or emotional, just happy music, maybe even worthy of a singalong. I love Musicals but sometimes they hit too deep and it does affect the design work!
I am by no means an expert and I am just speaking from personal experience, but I usually need to work quietly so that I can hear my thoughts and visualise properly in my head what I want to happen with my work. However, when I get cognitive overload, the thoughts are too many and too loud, which mixed with all the visuals in my head make it impossible to properly tackle any job I need to do. I think that is why music and sound work for me – they become a way of channelling my mind into focusing on one thing at a time and silencing the excess noise.
Tidy Home. Tidy Mind.
This is such a boring tip, but it is truly worth a mention. I don’t think I fully appreciated the amazing psychological effects that you can get from organising/cleaning until I became a mum. A tidy kitchen, tidy workspace, tidy ANYTHING is almost a rarity but when it happens, it is glorious.
This tip is not only great for creative blocks but also for mental health as a whole – it does wonders for me and my daughter. I am pretty sure the cats even get a kick out of a good spring cleaning!
For work purposes – I always try to take time to organise my desk area – at least. Since we moved last year, my work area has become the dumping ground for the home so I am constantly moving boxes around, and other people’s belongings – if you need to find something obscure, it is probably sitting next to me. I have found that when my station is a mess, my work style is a mess too. So by taking a quick break to put reference materials away, organise samples, clear space or even go through and remove one of the million notepads that I cling onto – I feel happier, lighter, and better equipped for anything I have to do.
Don’t dwell on the ending
Would you start reading a book, knowing how it ends? Probably not. So why would you do that to your design project?
There are times when you know how you want things to look at the end but in times of creative trouble, you need to forget all about that and just focus on things step-by-step. By focusing on the end result, you will be adding far more pressure to yourself than you need to – look back to the client brief, go through your brand research, take that step back that I mentioned earlier – do whatever you need to do to get your head back into the now, and to relax about it.
Moodboards? Why not!
I know some designers see Moodboards as a bit of a waste of time, and to be fair the client doesn’t always see the need for one. However, they do work two-fold:
Firstly – between client and designer, it allows you to gather inspiration, colours, feelings, and whatnot in one place based on the initial brief from the client and then reflect your findings to them. This allows them to correct you in how you have perceived their brief and should then lead to a more cohesive working relationship.
Secondly – If you try to do this as a first step in your design process, it enables you to capture your initial thoughts, the excitement, and any inspirational cues that you have had from talks with your client. During the design process, these earlier ideas can be watered down, changed, or even forgotten about and your excitement may even wane – so make sure you capture the moment and visualise it!