How to break through the creative block

There’s something about the creative process. It requires you to be in a certain frame of mind, to be feeling inspired, focused and in the zone so that you can create your best work. So, it’s especially frustrating when you’re under pressure, trying to be your most innovative, problem solving, creative self–and, suddenly, the fuse burns out. The lights go off. No more fuel in the tank You’re struggling with creative block.

Working from home once again becomes the norm in the United Kingdom – I have to continue find ways to re-ignite, replenish & refuel the metaphorical creative engine when demand and pressure to maintain standards is high in especially high-pressured times. No matter how quirky, inspiring or contemporary your office space is, ( in my case surrounded by samples, creations, books & collectables)  never underestimate the value of these tips.

Back to Basics

Irony may kick in as you are reading this online but many of us spend most of our days glued to a computer screen. As a designer in the digital age most of us create our work digitally. Sometimes all we need to is walk away to learn how to see the problem differently. Get away from your daily desk and take a walk with your sketchbook. 

You may be surprised by the ideas that start flowing through your head when you swap a glowing computer screen for a pen and paper. The act of drawing with an actual pen (or pencil or even paint) on actual paper will make you look at things differently and will give you a whole new perspective on whatever you’re working on. No one is expecting a masterpiece but it helps when you are not constrained by an undo button and having visuals perfect. The idea is to get those lingering random notions out of your head. The good, the bad let everything is out of your system allowing you to go back with a greater focus.

You Can’t Force Creativity

I wish I could – as a professional the demand to be constantly producing at a constant high level is overwhelming on so many occasions. If nothing seems to be working, here’s a pro tip: don’t force it.  Go give yourself time to look at your work with fresh eyes. Forcing ourselves to be creative is futile. It’s not a manual skill that you either do or don’t, but a series of emotional and mental tasks that sometimes just don’t come together. Everyone loses steam sometimes. It’s ok to walk away and try again later on, after you’ve given your brain a break. You may be pleasantly surprised to see what happens after a little recharge time. 

Take A Step Back

Being in the same environment all day, every day can become mind-numbing and de-motivating. Getting away from your desk will give your day a bit of a refresh, enhancing your general well-being and reinvigorating your energy and drive. A short comfort break and some fresh air every now and again will undoubtedly brighten up your day, ease stress and replenish your dynamism.  

Some fresh air and a change of scenery will not only alleviate your mood and mental wellbeing, but it will boost your creativity and focus. This will ultimately enhance the quality of your work and overall efficiency as prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance. 

Taking a few strategic breaks throughout the day or weeks when you begin to feel overloaded will give your mind a chance to organically come up with solutions and get your creative juices flowing! Plan ahead (especially in guidance to current government safety guidelines) and make a day or time in your schedule every so often to step out in order to achieve this. Research suggests that getting out of the office and taking breaks raises workers’ level of engagement which, in turn, is highly correlated with productivity. So, it’s a no brainer!

Keep on Movin’

Movement breaks are essential for your physical and emotional health. It is universally accepted that any form of physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. Staying static for too long, such as sitting at your desk significantly increases the risk of physical health problems such as muscle tension and painful knots. Oh, and don’t forget your vision – staring at a computer screen for hours at a time has an impact on your quality of eyesight. It’s recommended to look away from your screen and into the distance at least three times an hour.

Working for long stretches without breaks can also lead to stress and exhaustion so do yourself a favour and minimise fatigue, unnecessary anxiety and just let the creative juices flow!

Take Care of Yourself

Listen to your body. If you’re finding yourself tense with pressure, give yourself permission to abandon those feelings. Breathe, eat a snack, opt for a rest, or do something else. Be kind to yourself. Sometimes taking care of yourself is all you need to recharge and trigger a breakthrough. Feeling rested is crucial to foster creativity: People in all lines of work need to practice a little self-care every now and then—especially for creatives it’s important not to forget about your body’s needs in order to get into the right frame of mind. 

It’s fairly easy to get sucked into a project and forget to eat or sleep… eventually that’s always going to come back around to bite you. A tired & hungry body will keep you from doing your best work. So, make sure you create space for self-care in your daily routine. I’m speaking from experience on this last point. If you are struggling remember to always remember there are friends, trusted peers, support groups and charities out there that can also help so don’t feel like you are on your own.

It was a tough lesson for me to learn personally and it is the one I end this list on – So look after yourself – you are one of a kind. You are irreplaceable. 

What works best when trying to overcome creative block is different for everyone. No perfect solution Even professional designers with years of experience under their belts to the newest talent on the team face creative blocks and deal with it in a variety of ways. So, when creative block inevitably strikes, dip into some of these tips and see what sticks: get inspired; do something completely different; try another approach to your work; or just take a break. 

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