It’s 3am. Your deadline is coming in quickly, but all you have to show for it is a blank screen and a cold cup of coffee. You’ve struggled with ideas, sketched out a few things, written down some inspirational thoughts, but nothing seems to get you going.
Almost everyone has dealt with a similar situation and can understand how stressful it is, and seemingly puts everything at a standstill. Welcome to a creative block.
A creative block occurs when a person experiences difficulty in generating new ideas or producing creative work – or just getting started. It can manifest as a lack of motivation, inspiration, or creativity, and can occur to almost anyone in the creative field; from writers, to designers and even engineers. Though there are a variety of factors, that are said to cause the block, such as stress, self-doubt, perfectionism, burnout, lack of resources, or external distractions it can actually seem to be caused by nothing noticeable at times. It can be frustrating to deal with and overwhelm a person, leaving you stuck and unable to move forward with work.
Overcoming creative blocks can be challenging, but there are several techniques that can help, such as taking a break, changing the environment, trying new things, seeking feedback, collaborating with others, or practicing mindfulness and self-care. The key is to find what works for each individual and to keep trying until the creative flow returns.
A change the environment is a common technique in dealing with creative blocks. This can be as simple as rearranging the workspace, or adding some new decoration to the area. Even gathering your materials and working at the local café down the street may help. Sometimes being in the same environment becomes stagnant and many may not notice how mentally fatiguing it can be. We’re not engaging with our space anymore. We operate almost robotically and to the creative process, that can be harmful.
We are social creatures…. for the most part. Communicating with others, seeking feedback from peers or mentors can often create a fresh perspective and valuable insights to your work. Even a non-related subject can spark some ideas or make you see things in a new light. Sometimes different perspectives, experiences can be more profound that we know. We’re able to build upon others’ experience and standpoint and unify it with our own to create something new, and in that process discover new insight that helps us along in our work. Simple feedback and critique could be more than enough to kick start this process and allowing us to change certain aspects of our work not thought of before.
Fatigue can also be a factor in a creative block. Long hours, physical and mental exhaustion can impede the process and prevent our ability to think and create. Frequent breaks can help counter fatigue, but sometimes, long periods of meditation allow us to relax and recuperate.
On the contrary, you can also choose to change your environment and communicate with others through collaboration. Collaboration is not an easy process and not for every situation. But it often takes us to new environments and requires regular communication. This may not be for everyone, as other obstacles can come up – differences in schedules, personalities, work ethic or even expectations. Many do revel in working with others however and have found this method to learn new methods and processes.
Staying motivated however, is probably one of the often-overlooked factors. It is hard want to create quality work when we’re not happy. There are many times when we have to work on subject matter that isn’t our forte, but sometimes working on topics that are completely against our set of beliefs or principals can do more harm. It creates opposition from the very beginning and cause mental exhaustion much faster as you deal with stress. Staying as objective as possible is the best way to address instances when you’re not able to avoid such work.
Hopefully, creative blocks don’t happen often, but they’re bound to eventually happen. It is sometimes best to not really on one process to deal with blocks, and to minimize factors that can lead to it, such as overwork, fatigue or tight deadlines.