Working professionally in a creative industry and pursuing creative hobbies demand different kinds of mental preparation and skillsets, regardless of how much you enjoy your work. Many people who do not work in the industry assume that the work creatives do is predicated only by inspiration and mystical talent.
Creative blocks are moments when people experience psychological resistance in the creative process, limiting their output. It can last for days, weeks, months, even worse, for years. This can significantly impact the productivity, finances and psychological wellbeing of anyone working in an industry that demands constant evolving, critical thinking and adaptation. Thankfully, there are ways of regaining your sense of balance, inspiration and productivity. In this article, we are going to explore some suggestions for overcoming creative blocks.
1. Set flexible and fulfilling routines
Taking a break from your creative work can be very beneficial in dealing with creative blocks. This could involve slowly incorporating different habits and activities into your daily routine over a period of time, including going to the gym, starting a yoga and meditation practice, reading a book outside your work space, and reorganizing and redecorating your office. Working within a routine increases your overall output by distributing your time and attention to different tasks that require different problem-solving skills. This flexibility in thinking and focus helps to avoid being overwhelmed on a day-to-day basis, and the burnout that comes with it. The best way you can start your day is with a refreshed mind, looking at the week ahead of you with enthusiasm and preparedness, where you have opportunities to learn and challenge yourself, instead of being bored out of your mind.
2. Step away from your work and allow diffused thinking
The benefits of changing your environment and putting your mind on other things are greatly overlooked in conversations about overcoming creative blocks. Diffused thinking is what happens in the background when we do things unrelated to our main tasks. It helps us resolve problems that we would have otherwise been hindered by. It is all about balance! Some activities have been widely documented as crucial components for your mind processing all the new ideas and information your brain has acquired over a period of time. Getting sleep is also a big help because it helps our bodies relax and recuperate after strain and exertion. Prioritizing work by categories of importance can help you know which task can be delayed and which needs urgent attention, while incorporating breaks when required. Surfing the web and reading could be other activities that encourage diffused thinking by exploring other thoughts and widening your perspective.
3. Journaling your ideas
Using a notebook or a note taking app to save interesting thoughts, quotations, videos, artworks and ideas helps to prepare a bank of inspiration to fall back on during creative blocks. You may find yourself being inspired while reading a book, working, taking a walk or watching a movie or TV show. The power of keeping notebooks is that you will create an arsenal of inspiration for those times when you are running low on ideas. It is very important that you jot ideas down for later reference. Pinterest and Evernote are great apps to use for idea and image creation and note taking. Pinterest is especially popular for its catalog of inspiring photographs, art, images, tutorials and videos. You can always revisit those old notes or saved pins for inspiration when you’re having trouble with creative blocks.
4. Compare your work today to your work in the past
It sounds a bit counterintuitive, since popular culture today might encourage no comparison whatsoever. However, it is important to replace the bad habit of comparing oneself with others with comparing your current progress with past work. The comparison game is a trap that is too easy to fall into, and sometimes there is a thin line between being inspired by the output of someone else and allowing it to make you feel inadequate by comparison. One of the most common reasons for creative blocks is self-doubt and a feeling of inadequacy. Looking to the past can boost your confidence and sense of accomplishment by bringing your awareness to how much work you have done over the years. It also helps a great deal to pay attention to what exactly it is you like about the people that inspire you. Switch your mindset from ‘I could never do that’ to ‘I can achieve great things like they do; I can learn how they did it, and add my own twist to it’. Using jealousy constructively can help you learn how your inspirations achieved their results and take action that can help you to replicate or better those results.
5. Do not wait for inspiration
Waiting for the inspiration to come to you is a great way to set yourself up to fail. Especially as a creative. You are allowed to ask others for help is you are stuck, and you are free to borrow ideas. It is okay to fail sometimes. Take solace in the fact that the greatest artists and renowned creatives go through this. Do not be hard on yourself and remember, the comeback is always greater!!
6. Celebrate small wins
It becomes easy to dismiss our accomplishments by forgetting where we started from and the small steps we took to get to where we are today. Erasing that story of progress and growth can feed into a sense of dissatisfaction that pushes us to subvert our sense of self worth and competence with a constant pursuit work and achievement as a means of finding validation. That vicious cycle, unsurprisingly leads to more creative blocks and burnout because it does not make room for reflection over the processes and changes we undertook to achieve things in the past. Always bear in mind that you started from a point where there was less and you managed to use less to achieve more. Be proud of that.
7. Surround yourself with positive energy
You cannot be creative and depressed. It is not helpful to pretend that a change in mindset and forced optimism are a solution in an environment where people are punished for expressing creative ideas and innovative thinking, instead of being given nurturing support, mentorship and positive reinforcement for learning and creating. If you are in the position to associate and interact with creative people who respect you and value your perspective and ideas, make the most of that freedom and enrich yourself. An environment like that does wonders for your creativity and mental wellbeing. Online communities and forums like Reddit, Discord, Quora and Pinterest where creativity is discussed, celebrated, created and shared are also a great help in bridging the gap between creatives and community. We need one another’s support to thrive. Remember that community is available to you now and you do not have to erase your individuality because of an unsupportive and punishing environment.