You’re creatively blocked and your deadline isn't getting any further away. It’s the worst. But hey, it happens to everyone now and again — even those who wouldn’t necessarily describe themselves as creative professionals.
Creativity isn’t bound to our work or to a specific outlet like writing or illustration. Creativity is part of the human experience, and we believe creativity is an invaluable tool for solving problems. So whether you're a marketing director, a data analyst, or a specialist in, well, just about anything, it is totally normal for you to experience creative blocks from time to time too.
Before you beat yourself up for feeling stuck (which probably won’t help with the whole block situation, by the way) here are some more productive things you can do to get through it and get back to doing the work you love.
Alter your environment
Working in a creative industry often means working in bustling and vibrant spaces. And while those buzzing open-office concepts can be exciting, all of that activity can also be distracting.
If you’re finding it difficult to focus at your desk or wherever else it is you typically work, don’t be afraid to relocate. Find a quieter space, or an entirely new one, and try working there instead. Sometimes changing up your surroundings is the only way to settle an overstimulated brain.
Walk it out
No, really. Get up, and walk away. Walk around the office, the block, or even your living room. Countless studies have shown that light exercise does wonders for the brain and for the creative parts of the brain in particular.
Taking a quick walk puts some physical distance between you and your creative block and gives your mind a chance to wander and unwind. More often than not, our brains are better at solving problems when they’re not hyperfocused on doing so. So get on your feet, get your blood pumping, and let those creative juices flow in whatever direction they please.
Sometimes, your craft isn’t the one that can help you out of a creative block. If you were to break your leg, you wouldn’t keep using that leg until it started working again (you could try I suppose, but I wouldn’t recommend it). Creative blocks often work the same way.
If your go-to medium is the source of your block, try a different one — even if it isn’t in your area of expertise. If you’re struggling to write, sketch out your ideas. If you’re struggling to draw, write down a few words about your subject. Are you staring through your data sheets or struggling to format your strategy docs? Try mapping them out with simple doodles or breaking important thoughts into brief bullet points.
Switching up your medium will force your brain to approach the problem differently while staying in a creative space. And, flexing some of those other creative muscles for a bit can give the one you’re straining a much-needed breather.
Do things "out of order"
It’s not uncommon for the creative parts of our brains to clash with the seemingly rigid structure of certain professional projects. And, when your creative process doesn’t have a designated start or ending point, forcing it to follow a step-by-step cadence can feel restrictive and disruptive.
Fortunately, structure doesn’t have to be the enemy. Even if each step of your project has to be accounted for, you can still decide which steps to tackle first. If you’re having a hard time with the first steps, then start in the middle or the end instead.
Likewise, there is nothing wrong with working through those steps backward, or sideways — or whatever way makes them feel more like building blocks and less like boxes you have to check one by one. As long as all of the steps get completed, the order of operations doesn’t matter as much.
Briefly break away from the brief
Creative briefs are valuable tools for communicating your team’s workflow and your client’s primary objectives. But, your creative process should never be bound by the information in the brief.
Using the creative brief as a starting point or to find helpful context is important, but sticking too closely to the specifics can allow for forced influences to limit the solutions you’re able to come up with. Thinking outside of the box (or the brief, in this case) might lead you and your client to ideas and solutions that you wouldn’t have reached otherwise.
Get some perspective
Even when you’re the lead on a project or you’re responsible for completing a task, there is no law that states creative problems have to be solved by a single person. If you are fortunate enough to work alongside other creative individuals then don’t be afraid to rely on your team’s expertise as well!
Seeking out different perspectives or approaches to the problem at hand won’t just help you break out of your current rut, it will influence the way you approach similar creative challenges in the future as well. Learning from your fellow creatives is one of the best ways to grow in your own craft, and it gives you an opportunity to showcase the talents and capabilities your entire team has to offer.
Feed your brain
While this final suggestion may come across as the most obvious, it is usually the one that creative types tend to ignore or forget about entirely (calling myself out here as well). If your brain is blocked because it is starving for inspiration, then feed it!
Make time to enjoy creative activities in your personal life, you know, just for fun. Recharge your brain by reclaiming some creative recreation time. Watch a movie, listen to music, try a new art style, or go and enjoy something that was created by an artist who inspires you. Do whatever it is that makes your brain come back alive so that it can tackle your creative block at full strength and with renewed energy.
Add more creativity to your life. Partner with the creative thinkers and doers at CID for your next project. Send us a message to get a brainstorming meeting on the books.