Overcoming Creative Block
I do not know what to write. I am sitting here staring at the screen, running sentences in my head, and turning my music on and off. Earlier I went foraging for food (in hopes of sparking some magical words), but ended up getting distracted by Arrested Development for 20 minutes. This happens just about every time I sit down to do anything. I’ll probably go play the guitar between this paragraph and the next.
Of course this is a familiar situation. Often referred to as “writer’s block”, the concept of an inspiration rut is unfortunately very familiar to every creative in any field. Sometimes ideas just don’t show up to work. Given this, we all develop strategies to combat such a scenario. Not all are foolproof, but it’s safe to say that most creative people have some battle plan for dealing with the dreaded “blank page”.
Knowing this I decided to ask some of today’s most exciting artists and creators what they do when the ideas aren’t flowing. I left the question fairly open ended and asked, What do you do to inspire your creativity when you find yourself in a rut? As expected, I was presented with an array of strategies, ranging from listening to Boards of Canada in a forest alone, to cooking up a storm (recipe provided) and waiting for the mind to clear.
What follows are 25 strategies from these creatives to spark your inspiration; hopefully you’ll find something helpful in there. I encourage you to list your favorite strategies as well in the comments. We can never have to many of these…
I think I rely on a few tactics to keep my creativity flowing.
I try to alternate the tenor of my years, like crop rotations. In odd-numbered years (eg, 2009) I travel more and concentrate on personal projects and initiatives, while in even-numbered years (eg, 2008), I try to do more work and make more of a profit. In the odd years, I try to take a long trip. In 2005 I spent 5 weeks with a round-the-world ticket, while in 2007 I went to China, Tibet and Nepal for 3 weeks. After both trips, I returned to my desk filled with thoughts and initiative to create.
My other strategy is to keep my plate as full as possible. I tend to say yes to more than I can do, and the fear of failure keeps the work flowing.
When I’m really at a loss, and feel as if my designs are simply circling the drain, I will leave the office. There’s no point in trying to blindly bump into a solution, so whether it’s sketching in the park or reading a book, I avoid trying to use brute force to get out… it’s a bit like trying to get rid of the hiccups.
To use this horribly overused sentence “I get inspiration from everywhere”, I do get ideas from the most banal things around me. To be honest, I rarely get stuck in a creative rut, there’s more than enough ideas swirling around in my head, its just a matter of priorities and time. I’ve been working on a typeface design on and off for almost a year, and while it is an incredibly gratifying and educational experience, it does stop me from doing other things… So maybe in that way I get stuck in a mental rut: wanting to move on to the next thing, but not before I finish the typeface. But then I’m being really anal and slow with the work on the typeface because I want it to be as perfect as I can make it. And so I continue to run forwards in circles.
Anyway I got the idea for the typeface by looking at some older type design work I had done (yes, sometimes your own work can be a source of ideas — thats what sketches and notebooks are for), and looking at vintage book covers and Wim Crouwel’s Hiroshima poster. So its always a factor of things in the end.
Which reminds me of something I saw on TV: Years ago I saw a documentary on a Belgian comic book artist who had adapted Joe Haldeman’s Forever War into a graphic novel, and a journalist asked him where he got all ideas for the designs of the space ships, and the artist pulled out a piece of a plastic hull for electric wiring (he had an background in architecture) and said he spotted that thing lying around one day in his studio and thought it would be ideal to design a spacecraft.
So there you go. Ideas are everywhere, especially when you’re not really looking for them.
Whenever I feel like i’m in some sort of “rut” it’s usually just being distracted or worried about something that’s not relevant to the piece I’m working on.. or just not being able to sit still and concentrate for a long period of time. For years, I would just have music on in headphones, but for awhile now I’ve been addicted to various podcasts of informative shows, stories and ideas. Working while listening to these keeps my conscious mind stimulated in a different way, and seems to let my creative/visual side run loose and work without worry. Disconnecting from life’s daily distractions, and sort of separating myself into two halves feels like it’s been the best tactic for me to almost feel meditative while I paint.
Lots of reading and lots of sketching. The reading part is a long-term strategy: constantly consuming ideas, influences, details, angles, metaphors, symbols, etc. and storing them in the back of your brain so that later on — sometimes much later on — you have a rich catalog of starting points to draw upon. The sketching is a way to activate all of that background information when faced with a problem in the present: the act of drawing, of giving visual expression to many different ideas in short order helps you sort through all of those random elements and to make unexpected connections between them. The key is to sketch quickly, without getting caught up in the execution or technique, that way you stay in the realm of content, without getting bogged down in form.
I try to take some time off if I feel a lack of inspiration. It’s always been the best for me and to go on vacation for a week or two to just listen and watch. I listen to music and watch people. I would say everything re-inspires me, all the things that happen around me at all the times. I need to take a step outside my work to find inspiration.
The solution to a problem–
Slice and chop 2 medium onions into small pieces.
Put a medium sized pan on a medium heat with a few glugs of Olive oil.
Add the onions to the pan, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Chop finely three varieties of fresh chilli (Birds Eye, Scotch Bonnet & Green/Red).
Add the chilli’s to the pan, stir together and cook for eight minutes.
Add about 500g of extra lean Beef mince to the pan.
Stir in so that the Beef is coated and lightly browned (should take approx. 2 minutes).
Add salt and pepper.
Add Red Kidney Beans and tinned chopped Tomatoes.
Add a pinch of Cinnamon.
Cook on a low heat for approximately 20 mins.
Measure a cup and a half of Basmati Rice into a medium pan.
Add two and a quarter cups (the same cup you measured the Rice in) of cold water to the pan with the Rice.
Boil on a high heat until the lid rattles.
Turn down the heat to about half way and cook for eight minutes.
After eight minutes turn the heat off the rice, leave for four minutes (with the lid on).
Plate up the Rice (on the side), add the chilli.
Large glass of Red wine (preferably Australian or New Zealand).
Now the important problem solving part–
Take the plates & pans to the sink.
Run a mixture of hot and cold (not too hot) water.
Add a smidgeon of washing up liquid (preferably for sensitive skin).
Start washing up, the mundane kicks in.
The mind clears and new thoughts and ideas appear.
Enjoy a second glass of wine to savour the moment.
When I’m looking for inspiration to get the creative gears turning, I find it from a combination of sources; experimental music, mid century design/cinema, nature/wildlife, etc. To achieve full creative potential I must sit in the woods, watch Mad Men, and listen to Boards of Canada simultaneously.
Staying creative is hard work. Honestly, I don’t think when I got into art school I was very talented at all. I struggled to stand out. I struggled to stay in school. Staying creative was hard work. BUT, the one thing that kept me focused was my desire to be good. I wanted to be really good. I wanted to be as good as those people that WERE talented. I used to think I would eventually, if I worked hard enough, master art like a math equation and then I could relax and just make great stuff and let everything else follow. That time definitely never came, and I know now I never want it to, because the most important thing that keeps me creative is my wanting to be good. So if I’m ever in a rut, the best things to get me out of them is to put myself in places that engage that desire to be good. In a general sense this means to get out and be expose to others creating. In my opinion, there is no better way to trigger your own creativity, than to see what great things others have made or are making. Going to museums, galleries, shows, etc. always inspires my mind in a way that make me want to get back into my own work and make good things. Be good.
I have a couple of things I do –
Take time away from the computer/sketchbook; visit a new city and just mooch about ( I once sat in a cafe in Berlin and had more ideas than I knew what to do with). I go to the Local University arts and design library and pour over back issues of graphic design and photography journals, snapping things that spark my imagination, then go home and print them out and stick them in a scrap book, I always have loads of ideas after this.
Whenever I run out of ideas I often use music to put me back in the mood – music is a huge source of inspiration for my and much of my work has been created while listening to tones from artists such as Sigur Rós (alltime favorite), Hammock, Max Richter, Air, Dead Can Dance, Helios, Johann Johannsson, Jonsi and Alex, M83, Olafur Arnalds, Trentemøller and I could go on and on…
Often the melancholy of the music I listen to gets me in a certain mood and from their the ideas start coming.
There are 6 strategies for this situation:
Do something else, wash the car, back-up your data, do errands…
Sit back and think about the issue, just let your mind go…
Look up stuff, go through your old projects, but avoid Google — it takes too long to find anything useful…
We all have lots of stuff; there must be something in there that is waiting to be used…
Drawing is great, even if you have no talent. Just visualising the simplest things makes them come alive…
Take the problem apart, look at the parts and then put them back together…
Generally speaking, I seem to get a block quite often (as I”m guessing most creatives do?). I’ve found the only way to get through it, is to just keep working and getting ideas down no matter how insignificant they may seem. Hitting a brick wall and trying to get over it can be the hardest and most frustrating thing in the world! Most of my inspiration comes from lyrics / books etc… so reading and listening to music seems to work quite well for me – the words will spark something for me to build on and give me a small thought to explore and see where it takes me.
The first and best thing to do for me is to stop trying to force it and step away for a bit. The importance of taking a break can’t be stressed enough. Then usually I find a lot of inspiration in bookstores. It’s really one of my favorite pastimes and one of the best ways I relax. A stack of books & magazines and some coffee. Sometimes I’ll bring my computer but most of the time its a good chance to get away from a screen and flip through pages and just read, look, and absorb a lot of great stuff. Art books & magazines, music, culture, design, sports, tattoos…the things I enjoy the most. I load up on that stuff and that almost always helps me through.
I don’t really get into ruts that often. When I do I just take a break from drawing and do whatever I feel like until I feel like drawing again. I try not getting into ruts by keeping my mind active with new interest or subjects, reading, watching DVDs, finding interesting podcasts. It’s also nice to hang out with friends who have other interests. I think the well of stuff I’m into is pretty low, so a lot of the things I draw about is stuff my friends talk about and the things they are interested in. Like I’m not drawn into Native Americanism, horror films, talking to the undead, or the magical healing powers of crystals, but I end up drawing that stuff cause my friends talk about it so much. But yeah, I don’t know. It different for everyone, but this is the way I do it.
When I have a creative block, I do a few different things:
• Take long showers. Somehow I can think little differently while I’m in the shower. It washes away my old thoughts and I feel renewed.
• Clean my surroundings. I cannot think clearly when there’s a mess around me.
• If it still doesn’t work, I go for a bike ride and I try not to think about the project at all.
Somehow things always work out in the end.
Here in our studio we are only two creatives who works very close. We use a lot of freelancers but they are not part of the creative process. We try to be inspired all the time and then we archive all of our inspiration, so that we always have something to look at to be inspired. It can be things we see on the street (and take photo of it – of course), in books, magazines, fashion shows, movies, blogs and so on.. So when we start a new project we start by talking about how we see the case and then we look through our inspirations and make moodboards. When we have the visual part set we start the layout process.
Lately the thing that has been really good when I am in a rut is to take the Amtrak somewhere. I unfortunately don’t do it as often as I would like but I love the forced sitting that happens and unlike air travel the seats are very comfortable. My grandfather would drive to Alaska every year and write novels while driving (dangerous I know) but I think the train travel is similar. There is something about moving through world that makes you feel alive. That said, this is not something that is easy to do. So the rest of the time I really just power through the work. If I am feeling uninspired I just accept that I am going to make some mistakes and really just work through the process.
To me there are three factors that contribute to creative block: One, believing you’re stuck. Two, knowing you’re stuck but not knowing how to get out. And three, knowing you’re stuck and knowing how to get out, but doubting your ability to do it. Here are my solutions, respectively:
1. I ask myself, am I really stuck? Sometimes we think we’re stuck or we want to think we’re stuck but we’re actually on track and just don’t know it. Some paths are inevitable. Remember, a rut is also a groove.
2. I do nothing. Being stuck is usually a matter of not seeing the problem clearly. The best medicine for that is perspective. I measure perspective in units of time and distance. Getting a away from a problem helps give me better view of it. Instead of flailing away I’ll do something unrelated — like go to a museum or watch a movie. Inevitably, something in that other experience presents itself as the answer to the problem I’m trying to ignore.
3. I become awesome. Sometimes I’m faced with a problem to which I know the solution, but executing on it just seems too hard. One trick I use to get over that feeling is to work on other, easier tasks. They don’t have to be related — finally touching up that paint above the office light switch, finishing a blog post, organizing the garage are all fine examples. Taking on a bunch of little things that I can do quickly (and well) puts me in the mindset of being able to accomplish things. Then when I come back to that insurmountable problem it’s just the next task to check off the list. No more anxiety.
Set your bedside alarm for 5am. When it goes off either get up and enjoy the unique feel of that time of day or go back to sleep and have the craziest dreams (REM sleep is easier to reach/remember) – one of these experiences will give you inspiration.
Don’t all sit in a meeting and somehow expect that something will pop into your collective conscious. Don’t read the design press, don’t go to google images or youtube. Don’t force it – get out of the studio. Go to the theatre, go to gigs, go to museums, take time off work, go for a walk, stop looking at your computer, turn off your mobile and the tv, Have a chat with your mates about something meaningful.
Diversify your interests. The broader your interests and your absorption of culture the more relevant your designs become for your clients. Put yourself in your clients place and try to imagine how they will receive your thinking. Throw up lots of ideas, exchange opinions with your colleagues, road test your thinking with them, think around the subject, look at it from all angles then apply relentless rigour in creating your design. OR not. Go with your gut instinct because you are so bored of laborious over-worked responses it takes all the joy out of life and you can’t remember why you started in the creative industries if everything is designed by committee and compromise. Draw a lot just for the sake of it. Ignore style. Have the courage of your convictions provided you are extremely talented, if not, listen. Listen in any case.
D: During the micro day to day stuff if I am in a creative rut I surf the web, go for a walk, check out a movie, shop for books, go to a museum or do other largely cliche things to fill up my brain with inspiration. Sometimes though I get sick of looking to other sources and try to clear my head by just getting out of the office and ideas come when I least expect them.
A: When it comes to daily creativity, I try to break down all of my tasks in a rough schedule everyday. I work on projects from 2-3 hour chunks at a time. I do not spend an entire day on one project alone unless its absolutely necessary. I turn off email and IM or check it every hour on the hour. Breaking down time helps me because when I have 2 hours to complete a task I’m solely focused on elements or details that might otherwise been overlooked. I think it makes me more creative because I look forward the next time I will get to work on a project and forces me to take some time off and think about what I will do next time. The schedule also helps me shift gears between different mediums. Multi-tasking doesn’t work for me, I can’t be having an IM conversation while writing a contract while talking to an intern while waiting for an email while trying to design something too. Getting rid of those small distractions and focusing on a single project helps.
D: The way our studio is set up though we try to have some overlap in who works on what, so there isn’t a ton of pressure on any one person to carry all of the creative weight, which can be kind of daunting and lets us be a bit more free with things.
D: But for the larger macro in a rut stuff we try to keep moving our business in new directions so we can stay happy creatively. To do self initiated work that balances out the day to day client stuff but in the end comes back and informs it.
A: On a macro scale, creativity comes and goes for me. I can’t predict when I will be excited about a project. I just try to be happy in my personal life which in turn makes me productive at work. And being productive at work also makes me happy in my personal life. So I try to do as many things that make me happy: playing soccer, reading books, playing video games, hanging with my lady, getting drunk, whatever I’m in the mood for. I find it tough to be creative when I’m worried or angry at something.
D: Also we work a lot of different mediums which helps keep things fresh, since one day we can be doing motion and the next a tee shirt or a branding project.
D: Teaching helps too because it exposes us to up and coming talent and fresh ideas every week. We are learning from them just as much as they are from us.
We are a graphic designer and an artist. This combination is very dynamic, meaning that the way we approach our profession is not from one side, but constantly two perspectives staring at one problem. Sort of a build in dialectic way of behaving — although not always — our working methods are contradicting. Maybe the dynamic is developed more because our professional backgrounds are contradicting. Contradicting in the sense of applied versus autonomous. We experience this as a very productive way of working because this is a lively combination. It’s also progressive and therefore we almost never find ourselves in a situation were we are standing still or have no clue what to do.
Besides our work method being dynamic we also love to create work of our own. To keep our focus clear and to grasp our working method even better. So we keep ourselves busy to keep the progression going.
I often find myself in a creative rut of some sort. It’s not so much that I can’t engage with my creativity. It’s that sometimes nothing I come up with speaks to me or feels special. For as long as I can remember I have been able to just sit and let my creative juices flow… but that doesn’t mean that the juice is always sweet.
When I find myself in these situations I notice that the more I push myself to get results the more I tend to come up short. Regardless, I have several weapons in my rut fighting arsenal; walks, conversations, drawing, reading, records, magazines, vintage shopping, window shopping, digging in old sketchbooks, staring off into space, yoga, TV, red wine, scotch, weed, etc, etc, etc. I definitely try to avoid trolling the web in search of inspiration. It seems to easy and it has been come to commonplace in my opinion.
At the end of the day, most of what I feel are my strongest ideas just hit me when I least expect it… When I’m bed, the shower, on the subway, or a meeting or something. When I am not focused on the quest for ideas. It’s like all the energy I release looking for them causes a cloud to build around me that has to clear before then can get to me.
I’ve got loads of tricks for getting out of creative ruts, like scouring the net for cool photo reference, going through old drawings, finding some new music to listen to, or getting out and drawing at a different location like the coffee shop. But what always works the best for me is talking with my friends. They always have some new way of looking at problems that I never would have thought of, or a cool bit of inspiring artwork to show me, or just some words of encouragement that will get me moving again!
Flee. It’s a simple word with a zillion possible outcomes. In short, we leave. Where we end up each time varies: A bookstore, coffee shop, antique store, movie house, park, forest, river bank or maybe just our living room. The goal is always the same – to see or feel – something that inspires. It doesn’t need to be something new or fresh … but something that makes us want to get back to our pen, pencil, mouse or Wacom tablet with a new, clear perspective. We actually hold project meetings at our local coffee joint instead of work – as they always seem to produce better ideas/results.
In general, these fresh (out of the office) reflective moments – whether they be full days, half days or even a brief few minutes – can be very fulfilling. In fact, we’ve started scheduling them into our regular work days each month – something we should have done long ago.
I go on a long run, bike ride, walk with the dog; Anything but work on the project. Good ideas are stored in fat so if I burn some off I can free them up and use em. The worst thing to do is stress out and try and do everything at once. I’ll have my phone with my and text myself ideas once they pop in my head. – Justin Krietemeyer
Whenever I need inspiration I get up and step away from my computer. I find that starring at an image, or even worse a blank canvas, can become very frustrating after a while. I like to take a walk or run outside and look at everything around me. I tend to find solutions to difficult problems when I’m not thinking too hard about it. I find interesting patterns and imagery just looking around and observing everything, like an ice cream truck driving by or the concrete I am running on. And usually when I have not thought about the project for a little while I come up with a new idea. – Tess Donohoe
My sincere thanks to everyone for participating. I’m sure if anyone out there is having trouble creating, SOMEthing in the above will get you back on track. A popular solution seems to be to get out of dodge and get out and about…so I’m off to Starbucks to figure out a better way to write a conclusion.
– alex cornell
Don’t forget to list your own favorite strategies in the comments. The more the merrier.
240 Comments Leave A Comment
Ω says:February 10, 2010 at 3:54 am
It is humbling to see how no matter how famed or experienced a designer you are, we all share that moment of drawing a creative blank.
One of the things I always carry with me over all things is my mole skin, and I constantly write and illustrate every interesting shred of information I get throughout the day. Words, names, quotes, ideas, existential philosophies – no matter how absurd, it could one day spark a project. It is always a source of inspiration for me.
Greg says:February 10, 2010 at 5:01 am
Wow. Thanks for this.
Nic says:February 10, 2010 at 5:27 am
I don’t want to read all that…
Anonymous says:February 10, 2010 at 5:49 am
lies and excuses
Vale says:February 10, 2010 at 6:07 am
it’s sure a lot, but since i’ve been trying to put together a decent blog design for years now, without any real success, i’ll read all of it as soon as i can.
sr rodríguez says:February 10, 2010 at 6:23 am
Drugs have always been considered a source of inspiration. For me they have ment inspiration, but not because i get to it while using drugs. Drugs gave me the chance to know more about how to deal with ideas. While being high you usually get amazed by ideas which quicly get to your mind, one after the other, frenetically, then, once sober, you think you forgot the key parts of them. Then, a next time you tell yourself to write them down so you can remember the key. Once sober, surprisingly, you tend to see those ideas not so interesting. What happened? “How could i be so excited about this?” or simlpey “it doesn’t sound so great”You tend to get more excited under drugs, but many of those ideas still keep the essence and potential to be exciting. So, live as if you were high, and savour every glimpse of inspiration, it’ll finally turn out to be a good stuff (hopefully!).
faberdesign says:February 10, 2010 at 6:40 am
Nice list Alex.
There’s a lot of really good stuff in there, but the advice I took to heart most was Chad Hagan’s. It’s really comforting to hear creatives that you look up to saying something like that. It of course also reminds me of Ira Glass’ little movie that you like to reference around here – that if you know you have the eye, the hand will follow.
So for me it’s all about training the eye, and when I find something that I know is working, trying to understand why it’s working. When I can successfully break something effective down to the essence of why it’s effective, that’s where the inspiration comes from for me.
Also, talking things through with people who aren’t interested in finding specifically a design solution can really help. Sometimes I get too caught up in how can I solve this using design, rather than just how can I solve this, period. Talking things through with friends who aren’t interested in how a typeface can work in the poster is usually helpful for me to really get to the root of the issue.
Trash-Gordon says:February 10, 2010 at 6:51 am
THANK YOU! Just for letting me know, that I am not alone. Personally I can identify very much with Chad Hagens answer.
Tardlovski says:February 10, 2010 at 6:57 am
Clayton says:February 10, 2010 at 7:41 am
Thanks for the list Alex. You’ve really outdone yourself with this post. It really gets to the heart of creativity and design.
Keep up the good work everybody.
brian says:February 10, 2010 at 8:09 am
i think Build hit the nail on the head – wash the dishes.
all of the others’ suggestions are nice, but when you need to produce something creative at 2am on a tuesday, “getting away” or “going on a trip” aren’t the most conducive.
Alphonse says:February 10, 2010 at 8:18 am
Awesome. You really got some great names.
Dennis says:February 10, 2010 at 8:30 am
Creativity is caused by coactivation between different regions in the brain. Generally speaking the left half of brain handles language and logic, the right half of the brain spatial visualization. If one only performs tasks involving creation, the right half of the brain will be mostly stimulated. Connections between the left and right brain will take longer
to establish. A ‘creative block’ will occur more often this way.
But if one varies between tasks involving both brain halves, connections between the two will grow. You will find yourself more creative when actively using both brain halves. Read some difficult literature or solve some math, and you will notice a creative block won’t hit you as often.
nick says:February 10, 2010 at 8:36 am
Man-Tsun says:February 10, 2010 at 8:55 am
Hey thanks for the list!
I think it helps somehow…
KevInSanSalvador says:February 10, 2010 at 9:31 am
I found that laying down in silence or with wordless music really helped me find solutions whatever work I was working on… just kinda sucked to have to get up and actually work again!
Brent says:February 10, 2010 at 10:14 am
when I get stuck, I go to ISO50 for inspiration….no pressure…
Brendan says:February 10, 2010 at 10:23 am
excellent post! loaded with content, and excellent graphic up top.
keep up the good work everyone at the ISO50 team!
MichelleP says:February 10, 2010 at 10:50 am
I recommend turning your music up & dancing as crazy as you can. Repeat as necessary.
Design Police says:February 10, 2010 at 10:59 am
I agree with nick – Moon Cabbage for sure!
Erik says:February 10, 2010 at 11:24 am
One of my favorite posts!
I think there’s a reason we have jenga and chess in the office. I think the most difficult part of overcoming creative maladies is first breaking the tension and frustration of getting stuck, especially with pressures of a deadline and competition. Knowing I’m not alone always helps. And it’s also a big help to discover what works for you. So I say try different things: Analyze design, write a bunch of nonsense, succumb and accept your writer’s block.
I usually listen to podcasts as I work. I’ve found that the best one for this topic is Creative Screenwriting Magazine. One question that always gets asked of television and film screenwriters involves writers block. Reading this post and listening to that podcast definitely puts into perspective that we all have our cures. We usually just have to experiment and find out what works.
Karl Gilmore says:February 10, 2010 at 11:35 am
Great Article, where do you get your textures from, really liking that bleached out antique style.
NAVIS says:February 10, 2010 at 11:36 am
Great post Alex.
I’ve been in a rut for sometime. It’s like every idea/creative thought I’ve ever had has been completely flushed from my brain. Talk about frustrating. I’ve been dealing with a lot of issues involving money and I feel that has taken over my entire life. It’s depressing and I can’t seem to shake these problems.
The current medication I’m on is to doodle a picture everyday for a long time. Once I start drawing, I can’t stop. If I fuck up, I have to deal with it until I finish it. I’m on day six right now. So far, so good.
My other favorite creative rut remedy is to head into the mountains and chill out at some beautiful look out point by myself and take nature in. To me, it’s the best visual stimulant the mind can have. No amount of Googling images can top that. Living in a big city like LA, it’s easy to get caught up in all the city hoopla around you. Gotta let your mind breath from time to time.
Chris says:February 10, 2010 at 11:49 am
First of all: great post. It’s comforting (albeit, still frustrating) to read the words of respected designers/artists and to find that they suffer from similar creative block as I do.
Secondly: The best thing I’ve found to get the gears turning is exercise. Go for a jog or lift some heavy objects never fails. The hardest part is to motivate yourself to go do it.
Atlas says:February 10, 2010 at 12:01 pm
What an interesting topic. Thanks for this. It’s also an interesting synchronicity because I was reading “Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance” and he was discussing the whole idea of being stuck:
“…Stuckness…isn’t the worst of all possible situations, but the best possible situation you could be in. After all, it’s exactly this stuckness that Zen Buddhists go to so much trouble to induce; through koans, deep breathing, sitting still and the like. Your mind is empty, you have a “hollow-flexible” attitude of “beginner’s-mind.” You’re right at the front end of the train of knowledge, at the track of reality itself. Consider, for a change, that this is a moment to be not feared but cultivated…It’s the predecessor of all real understanding.”
I try to think of a creative block as an opportunity to step outside of the known and discover things for yourself.
BRIAN says:February 10, 2010 at 12:21 pm
ISO50 provides both the visual and musical meditations i need when i feel i need to be distracted. which is often, for an architecture student.
Konstantin Yun says:February 10, 2010 at 12:34 pm
Are the pictures for the artist are not working is it just me?
magic bryan says:February 10, 2010 at 12:50 pm
I like Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies
Daniel says:February 10, 2010 at 1:07 pm
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
bex glover says:February 10, 2010 at 1:14 pm
This is a great article, and as many have already said, it is reassuring to hear that everyone gets a block sometimes, no matter how experienced and renowned!
A few of these suggestions really struck a chord with me – Audrey Kawasak’s mention of listening to podcasts really does help – I like listening to music but also listen to plays and short stories, which I find offer inspiration from different subjects, ideas and narrative.
Doing something else as Erik suggests is also a good one – and remember to keep a sketch/notebook handy – I often find the ideas start flowing as soon as I start doing something mundane!
Traveling and exploring are great too. As a freelancer I work by myself in my studio a lot and find just getting the bus into town, and looking at the passing sights helps sparks ideas. If you are often in the confines of your own studio – try and communicate with the outside world as much as possible too – it will inspire you, help support your ideas and reassure your concerns and uncertainties.
I agree that ultimately taking a break – even if it’s just making a cup of tea or gazing out the window for 5 minutes – does help. The important thing is to remember to do it! I often sit in front of the screen or at the sketchbook for hour upon hour before remembering I should take a break and refresh my mind.
Nature and wildlife never fail to inspire me too :-)
Petnoga says:February 10, 2010 at 1:42 pm
Thank you for this post. I think it already untied some of my creative knots.
Anonymous says:February 10, 2010 at 1:50 pm
haha great article. mine consists of 1-5 beers a few cigs and some good mind stimulating music that usually has to match what im working on. anything from the books to my bloody valentine to yes boards of canada hah.
of course if its the morning replace beer with coffee. or not
d|| says:February 10, 2010 at 2:06 pm
Kim Holtermand *idea
…all the way. Listening to music with melancholy beats and undertones. Listening to Mashups…get’s me thinking about what mashups would be great to MASH. Aaliyah vs Sade. TLC vs The Go Go’s. Rihanna vs Fever Ray, etc.
Cameron Ballensky says:February 10, 2010 at 2:21 pm
I was just talking about this yesterday to my dad on the phone, and its funny that you just now wrote this post. Ive been stuck for the last month or so, really unmotivated to design anything for school. Im just really have trouble focusing lately. Xbox, Facebook, cleaning my apartment… I spend way too much time telling myself that im too busy with other things than sit down and work on things that actually need to get done.
I know that i am just easily distracted, but i know if i get rid of the distractions i have now, i will just as easily find new ones. Or i will just lay on the couch staring at the ceiling.
This does help me to think about what i can do though about my problem though. Thanks!
pepperjune says:February 10, 2010 at 2:37 pm
This site is really an inspiration for all the newbie graphist!
It’s really cool!:-)
Carina says:February 10, 2010 at 2:40 pm
CHAMPION POST! Thank you for this. I’m currently stuck and it’s a terrible feeling.
pureros says:February 10, 2010 at 3:42 pm
Thank you for your Great Post! But some pictures are not loading.
Please check your image files and please my eyes!!
And I love your harmony of your color. I think that gives me Your Creative!!
ciaran says:February 10, 2010 at 3:54 pm
Chad Hagen nailed it for me – it’s not about how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.
Listening to the podcasts on ted.com often work for me, along with shooting photos & paying attention to my surroundings, like cycling through some streets I haven’t been down before. Reading some books in my spare time about mental strength & motiviation also help, but when I’m really stuck – always seems to be with the critical stuff, like a personal portfolio – it’s best for me to down tools and get outside.
Having said that, there’s nothing worse than when the quantity of inspired ideas & feelings is directly porportional to the distance away from my computer. Writing down ideas for projects, specific plans & definite goals often helps focus & motivation, particularly when/if I forget about the idea & then find that notebook a few months later.
Drew Hoffman says:February 10, 2010 at 4:31 pm
I believe that Chad Hagen’s response is closest to my personal experience. Just like Ciaran said. One trick that I do is also is to look for what I don’t want to immolate. Looking at whats already been done and pointing it out sometimes helps my creative process especially if I am constantly replicating ideas.
Collin says:February 10, 2010 at 7:28 pm
I have obvious solutions and then more personal strange solutions.
Obvious: 1//Get away from the computer 2//stop working on it for awhile and let my creative muscle relax from exhaustion of overuse 3//look for inspiration from people I admire 4//go running…. expend physical energy
Less obvious: 1//lay face down in a pillow and think about nothing… this works because there are absolutely no other stimuli that can bother me. I find a big problem with creativity for me is the massive amount of peripheral crap going on… it turns out face down on a pillow is a creative space for me 2//get religious… I know this doesn’t work for a lot of people, but it helps me to know that my capabilities are greater than I am, and that’s a blessing. 3//do something that makes me uncomfortable… there’s something therapeutic to me about going and doing something totally off and uncomfortable… confront someone I have a huge crush on, facing a huge problem I keep hidden away… confronting my fears makes me feel powerful and reminds me that I can handle any challenge.
Vladimir says:February 10, 2010 at 11:04 pm
One of the best post yet!
I must say in terms of the preventative creators block, Stefan Sagmeister has nailed it with his 1 year of sabbatical every 7 years.
Its hard when deadlines loom and you try to force ideas… staring at your screen… burning your adobe toolbars onto your iMac screen. I find the best work comes from enough time to be able to have those eureka moments while doing something mundane.
Awesome advise from some of the best in the biz :)
Thank you Alex!
Shrijit says:February 11, 2010 at 12:10 am
Coudal partners News feed.
BBC world service Widget.
ciaran says:February 11, 2010 at 2:10 am
One other thing – it’s more a corollary of getting out of a rut, but I find that to stay inspired & motivated I need to be around people who inspire & motivate me to push myself. That’s true for various situations, not just design & work. Equally, recognising those who drag you down & drain all your positive energy as people to avoid is just as important.
Simon says:February 11, 2010 at 3:02 am
Wow, great post. Build definitely nailed it for me. Cooking and doing the washing up always relaxes me, and just lets the ideas bubble to the surface. I think cooking, especially during long projects, acts as a bit of a catalyst; that short burst of energy used to create a meal and then the enjoyment of eating it just relaxes and releases you from whatever stress you were under before, whilst the mundane task of doing the dishes allows your mind to wander.
That said a good run in the woods with some great music is pretty fanatastic as well…
Matski says:February 11, 2010 at 6:28 am
Why does everyone suggest getting away from computers? If you need inspiration the internet is the key. Surf’s up!
zack says:February 11, 2010 at 7:48 am
I am one-half of a studio in Boston, and read this yesterday. Both of us spent most of the day banging our heads against the wall, hoping a few solutions to our work would fall out. The self-abuse ended when I read through everyones strategies and decided we should smarten up. We threw on Forum Forever and followed it up with Burton’s The B, and then almost instantly (1hr) layed down direction for two web projects that we’re still stoked on this morning. Invisible Creature said it best – FLEE! Sometimes the pressure of wanting to “get it” holds you in the chair when you shouldn’t be, sometimes not working is the best thing you can do for your work. Consider it lesson learned and philosophy adopted – Thanks!
Arabella Hutter says:February 11, 2010 at 10:16 am
If I have nothing to say right now, I say nothing. And I take the opportunity to read, watch, hear. The work of others. Ideas come flowing back.
Perrodetindalo says:February 11, 2010 at 1:02 pm
Excellent post! In december i read the Harvard Business Review article “spotlight on innovation”, which talks about innovative practices of well-known CEOs. One thing i read there and found it to be true (at least for me) was the concept of Association. When you are being curious, gathering data (watching, hearing, thinking), talking and relating to people with whom you can share different points of view, then you start having associations, putting together opposite and wierd concepts; then solutions pops. Very nice examples and indeed, there’s something on getting away and watching the problem from another perspective. Chee
e.lee says:February 11, 2010 at 1:42 pm
wow a creative post on overcoming creative block
beautiful , practical and lucid too
Brian Bjelovuk says:February 11, 2010 at 5:13 pm
Following Tom Muller’s “… inspiration from everywhere”, I think you can gain momentum from things that have already been created by simply “playing along” with them. For instance, if you’re an industrial designer like me, it helps to constantly be drawing the things in your environment that were all designed in some way (anything really). When it comes time to create something “new”, it’s just a matter of trying to combine and reconfigure little pieces that you are already familiar with. By drawing something that has already been designed, you gain a more powerful understanding of that object and at the same time are reliving the act of design by its original creator! As a writer, I suppose you could just start describing a situation with words and then guide your focus towards something usable. It looks like you did just that, how about this post!
In short, when you don’t have creative juice, copy someone’s work that you like (as a study, don’t plagiarize!). Keep the pen moving, and eventually it will have something of its own to say.
RA_OUL says:February 11, 2010 at 11:22 pm
I am considering this my favorite ISO50 post yet. Thank you so much this has been a major inspiration for me.
Graphic Designer says:February 12, 2010 at 4:45 am
To overcome creative blocks, just take a beak and go get something to eat.
Bob says:February 12, 2010 at 6:51 am
I find that my creative block is directly influenced by the level of rest/abuse my brain has been through in the past few days, be it sleep deprivation, alcohol intake, etc. I like to get a massive amount of sleep to come back ready and inspired.
I am also intrigued by the idea that when I design, I am performing to a captivated audience. This practice works well at coffee shops and bookstores. You may not have any spectators, but putting on the headphones with a nice jam, you can trick yourself into thinking that there are the star of a design show.
Alex says:February 12, 2010 at 11:34 am
I have to just make something. If I have a block, usually I force out something quick, and then realize how terrible the thing I just made is. Then I feel deeply compelled to fix it and out-do what I just shat out. And so it begins
Bluefunk says:February 12, 2010 at 11:49 am
After managing to delete some of my most recent and best design and music files in a serious flu stupor and now facing a crash in creativity, this blog and post is a major good mood setter!
Keep up the good work.
Alex Hallatt says:February 13, 2010 at 3:04 am
Talking to a lot of other cartoonists, it amazes me how differently we approach coming up with ideas. I hate the blank sheet of paper and tend to go out for walks, but other cartoonists are inspired by it. Some use word association and one guy I know just paces in his room. When I feel in a total rut, I go to the Melbourne Museum, or a gallery and look at something different to my everyday environment.
Mark Crummett says:February 13, 2010 at 12:48 pm
I’m an assemblage artists and photographer. When I have a block (thankfully not often), I start rummaging around my studio, digging through my collection of “art supplies”- techno junk, scraps of plastic, discarded consumer electronics, bits of wood, etc. Eventually A Cool Thing will catch my eye. Keep digging and something else, Another Cool Thing, will surface that _needs_ to go with the first thing. Start attaching Things together. Keep doing this until you have either a pile of assorted Cool Things, or a complete piece. Whatever.
mrG says:February 13, 2010 at 2:18 pm
Here’s what I do, and I find it works very reliably: Do nothing at all. Just sit, comfortably, eyes closed but still facing as blank a wall as I can find, and do thing but observe my breathing, counting the in-breaths, one, two, three … by the time I get to maybe 20 there are so many new thoughts I lose track and have to start all over from one; just repeat as necessary until the thought that bubbles up is one that you want.
A McLean says:February 13, 2010 at 10:08 pm
The quickest way for me to get over writers block is to get up and walk away from my current environment. It forces me to think of something 180 degrees opposite of what I’m working on. I work in a large set of buildings. So I keep walking until I think through my issue. I leave my cell phone and pager at my desk. If I still can’t figure it out I usually go to lunch or drive home. Lastly I use comedy to put me in a better mood so I can crank out some great writing (or code). My longest block was 40 days. Lots of Googling helped me figure out my coding/SQL issue.
Anonymous says:February 14, 2010 at 6:26 am
Thank you for posting this. :)
Stephanie says:February 14, 2010 at 6:38 pm
This was amazing! Thank you!!
Kip W says:February 14, 2010 at 8:37 pm
Avoidance – doing chores and such – is good, and ideas can come while you’re mowing the lawn.
When I’m up against it and have to do a humorous drawing, it helps to sit down and just start grinding; drawing something that might not be the funniest thing in the world. Usually while I’m doing that one, I’ll have an idea for something better and then I can really get to work.
E says:February 15, 2010 at 2:07 pm
Get inspired by watching someone else.
If you want to paint watch movies about painters, if you want to write watch movies about them, if you want to invent watch movies about inventors and it applies to all kinds of artistic expressions…
Really it can be so inspiring… even watching documentaries… but the main principle is to immerse and surround yourself by the type of things you want to create… you become inspired by others and their journeys… it just like when you watch a show about health and fitness for example … you immediately feel that you want to get fit and change your lifestyle… it may last a few days only when it comes to exercise but it’s that initial push that is really needed. The worst thing to do is to get really serious and disheartened if you’re not creating or accomplishing anything because everybody has a time when their creativity is dormant but it actually really getting ready to blossom we just have wait for the right time and not force it. Keep it simple …
Roland Hess says:February 16, 2010 at 9:13 am
When working on my own books, I’ve found that the creative block is usually just a “still processing… please wait” message from the back of my brain. The question becomes: why is this taking so long? It’s not like I do or have done anything special to make it work most of the time. It’s just there. I figure it’s all put together in the background when I’m doing something else, and when I need it, out it comes.
So, in a block situation, it means that something’s wrong. Maybe it’s trying to find it’s way around a mistake or flaw I’ve embedded in what I’ve already written. Or maybe things are just complicated, and it’s trying to work it out. The trick is in determining which circumstance you’re in. With the former, it’s time to get out the knife and start slashing. With the latter, you’ll just have to wait until the postman delivers whatever he’s been dragging up the driveway.
Clive Allen says:February 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm
Block is an oddity, it sneaks up on me when I am thinking too hard about a project, trying to over analyze – at the end of the day the client has come to you for your expertise, your interpretation on an idea or a message so let yourself go a bit, go wild with the ideas, don’t over work things, go off on tangents and let the stranger, weird ideas come out – only then can you start to take out the black marker and sort the good stuff from the bad – the bad may not be right for this client but good for another client so stick it in a folder and flick through it when the block comes another day, it may be the catalyst you need kick start the imagination!
Priscilla says:February 16, 2010 at 4:33 pm
very good post, has some great ideas and most of them are very true!! the best thing is to just forget about it and the ideas will come by their own
Eric - Cyber Six says:February 17, 2010 at 2:53 am
I sometimes talk to myself in the bathroom in front of the mirror. Although, this mostly happens in my living room or, in my bedroom. I live alone so, I don’t need to be concerned with anyone thinking I’m crazy. These monologues are mostly about what creative things I’d like to do. Unfortunately, they hardly ever get done. I need to start writing them down or, record myself saying these ideas. Another great place to do this is when I go on a walk. There is inspiration all around us. We just have to look.
ricadus says:February 17, 2010 at 1:23 pm
Go on a bike ride. After a few hours of riding/reacting/thinking through the landscape I come back less stressed and can see more clearly what to do.
Joop Vos says:February 17, 2010 at 1:42 pm
Most of the time it’s due to the fact that I’m to tired in combination of no food in my stomach. So, get a sandwich and take a nap for about 30 minutes. It really works … for me!
rodclark.org says:February 17, 2010 at 4:28 pm
the world is a collage:loose parts are important
its the difference between a beach and an airport – in one everything is fixed – in the other everything is moveable
mediumstudio says:February 18, 2010 at 7:36 am
Build – oh yes! I LOVE washing dishes – you can do nothing else (not answer phone / change tv channel / change CD, etc. ) it allows for a single focused time …
Brian Son says:February 18, 2010 at 9:17 am
The most consistent thing that was said by most is the key thing I do: get away from the project. Walk away from that which you feel stopped, uncreative and/or uninspired. Do something else, as someone said, do mundane, unrelated tasks. I try to stir the inspiration and creativity by looking at websites like ffffound.com or other design blogs. A creative director I had encouraged this, although I can’t recall word-for-word what he had said, it was taking all the creative you can and then expunging this at the appropriate time.
More than anything, it’s how push yourself. Are you in a rut because you simply do not care or because you have so many ideas you just don’t know where to start? Are you, doing and being your best in what you are doing?
Mark Crummett says:February 18, 2010 at 5:13 pm
>>…or because you have so many ideas you just don’t know where to start?<<
That's an interesting corollary to this question. It's a good place to be but can be just as paralyzing.
Andy says:February 19, 2010 at 7:32 am
This is a fascinating article and I must come back and read some more of the ideas. When I am stuck with ideas for my writing, I tend to dabble in art which opens up another way for the ideas to come out and once seen I can then normally get back to using them for my writing.
Jeff Perky says:February 19, 2010 at 10:35 am
Hear, Hear Chad Hagen. You are honest and talented!
Affiliate says:February 21, 2010 at 1:21 am
Just repeat as necessary until the thought that bubbles up is one that you want.
James Wells says:February 21, 2010 at 5:40 pm
My two favourite strategies to get my creative flow going again are to:
a) use tarot cards as inspirational springboards, and
b) take my quandry to my mastermind group.
Roslyn Dames says:February 22, 2010 at 4:52 pm
One of the best remedies for overcoming creative block, prescribed by Quaker poet William Stafford is by lowering the bar and simplifying things. It’s important to start simple, start small, and build up to more complex works as your confidence builds and your creative flow increases.
Chris Donato says:February 23, 2010 at 9:49 am
I start reading something well written, usually within the genre or subject about which I’m wanting to write.
shell says:February 24, 2010 at 2:51 am
read poetry. any random poetry will do. don’t try to understand it. just read it. that always helps me.
Roslyn Dames says:February 27, 2010 at 8:31 pm
Viewing the artistic work-in-progress right before going to bed with full expectancy that the block will be removed by morning is a great way to trick your subconscious into working on the problem as you sleep. Be prepared to sketch or write down any solutions that may arise in the morning.
Jesse NZ says:March 2, 2010 at 3:00 pm
Read something boring. Something excruciating, like the income tax act 1994 or a technical manual for an industrial sewing machine.
this will stretch the very fabric of time into a crucible of anguish and self loathing that will put your creative problem in perspective and make you realize how playful, exiting, enviable etc your job really is.
then go the pub to celebrate.
I also find drawing mustaches on people in the newspaper to be a generally wholesome and satisfying activity.
R the Book geek says:March 2, 2010 at 6:47 pm
There’s a wicked new book here at http://www.middaycrisis.com with actual examples of how to get out of one, no long boring theories, just really good idea kick starters.
Spam Names says:March 3, 2010 at 2:07 pm
As to “Take long showers. Somehow I can think a little differently while I’m in the shower. It washes away my old thoughts and I feel renewed”, that’s one of my methods too.
Did you know that falling/moving water actually sends out negative ions (like an ionizer does)? That’s part of the reason why we feel so refreshed after a shower, or at the beach, or near a waterfall or even a fountain. Especially after marinating our faces in the positive ions of the computer screen for hours…
fleababe says:March 3, 2010 at 8:47 pm
If I have a writing deadline, and the work I am doing is just awful, or I feel that it is just awful, I take a hot shower and go right back to it and accept that it is going to be awful, but that maybe not so awful that it will get rejected by the client. I remind myself that I’ve done not-so-great work in the past and haven’t died, just been disappointed. This usually allows me finish at least a rough draft and of course, it’s never as bad as I imagined, and then I can edit it, and then I maybe see one or two things I like, and I start over again, and it gets easier….if you earn a living from your creativity, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of inspiration, so you just have to do the work.
Only once, when I was a beginning textile designer in career no. 1, did I give up and call a client and say, I can’t do this. It was a technical skill I never did master and it never mattered.
As far as personal artwork that I create, for inspiration…I read, window shop, go to museums and bitch to friends. I try to remind myself that it’s in there somewhere, and try to get out of my own way.
Cymbelin says:March 10, 2010 at 7:01 am
Thanx for a great post, Alex. It’s chock full of useful tips for overcoming creative blocks. And, yes, many of the comments were good, too.
I actually have a creative block ‘bible’ which I use to refresh my memory when a dreaded block strikes: Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.”
Darrio Stangl says:March 11, 2010 at 4:54 pm
Being a copywriter in the ad industry, I’ve written my fair share of eDMs. Many for banks, the automotive industry, mobile phone clients and so on.
What I’ve found when I feel stuck and uninspired, is if I write the eDM in my own brand of comedy, I’ll inspire myself and then set about writing the real eDM in half the time.
Apart from entertaining myself and perhaps (if they’re lucky) the account bod, it helps me get my facts straight.
When you’re a person in debt due to credit cards, and you find yourself selling the damn things to others… you need bit of humour to get you through. Go on. Have a good swear and use the word man boobs in copy describing a muscle car.
davidjk says:March 15, 2010 at 5:48 am
driving in the bus while listening to tim hecker or arovane
lukasz says:March 21, 2010 at 8:44 pm
great post! Erik Spiekermann cracks me up, he was in helvetica and dude is FIERCE!
Zellain says:March 27, 2010 at 10:28 am
I love this. I love that most everyone here came to roughly the same conclusion. Take a break, don’t force it and try something new.
Matt Steel says:April 5, 2010 at 8:33 am
There are tons of great suggestions here. For myself, I usually find that creative block comes from over-work, because when I’m working too much my mind doesn’t have ample time to rest, and I don’t take the time to get away from my studio and immerse myself in new stimuli.
I’ve found that sometimes a simple bathroom break, or going around the corner to brew some coffee, jump-starts the synapses.
When doing identity work (a large part of my business), I find that writing helps. Jotting down phrases, descriptors, or writing about something totally unrelated to the project at hand opens up different pathways in my brain.
I’ve found that looking at some other designer’s work is the worst thing I can do when experiencing creative block. It inevitably leads to derivative solutions.
smithstatus says:April 6, 2010 at 6:12 am
I like to get in a meditative state and just let whatever comes to my mind flow in and out without getting caught up on a single thing. This really recharges my brain and detaches myself so I can just watch the subconscious/conscious mind at work. Can be really inspiring.
Alex V says:April 7, 2010 at 3:53 am
I swear Si Scott and I have the same brain. I completely agree with what he said, and maybe that’s why my style compares, not saying in skill, but in likeliness. I believe that creativity inspires creativity. Whenever I’m in a creative funk I try to immerse myself as much as I can in the things that motivate me to produce my own works of art. I pin up pictures on my wall, spread out my supplies around me, play the music I love, and even play movies I like. Whatever I can do to get myself to feel encompassed in my element. Also, I very much feel the same way about getting every idea onto a physical plane. I will keep my sketchbooks open and next to me whenever working on a project, because sometimes an idea will spring up and clutter my thoughts until I get it out of my head. I’m very easily distracted so this is a big solution to any problems I might have.
MikeM says:April 7, 2010 at 7:02 am
I take a shower and if that doesn’t help go for a bike ride.
I did a post using a Jasper Goodall piece but credited the wrong artist. Thanks for clearing that up!
Luke Morgan says:April 8, 2010 at 9:47 pm
This article just saved my ass big time. Thanks so much!
mia pratt says:April 15, 2010 at 8:06 pm
I’m a 54 year old dancer, artist, author and adventuress, and right now I’m sitting under the stars in a place called Ajijic, Mexico. My book is called “the Secrets of the 100 Golden Keys: Unlock the Power of Your Creativity and Set Your Life on Fire! So here is my problem; I followed my own advice and now here I am, I let go of all of my possessions and moved to a thatched hut in a Nahua Indian village; from there I went to Mexico City, and then San Miguel, and this month I am living in Ajijic. I learned how to tap into my creativity, master it, channel it – but I’m here to admit that last night I had to take out my own book and read through it, to remember what it was I thought I knew, when I wrote it! Everything, including knowledge, is transient; I am happier than I’ve ever been, and yet here I sit, alone, feeling a bit lonesome tonight. So, I go out on the internet and find you, and this site on creativity, and I read about everyone’s thoughts about it – and some are the same, and some are different, than mine. That is the beauty of creative energy, isn’t it? It is formless and unique to each of us. The best we can do is master it in our own way, and then use it to do that most important creative project of all – to create a happy life that is liberated from the limitations and disappointments of the past. When that happens, we cease to be slaves to our creativity and we are free ti simply “be.” Thanks for all of your insights, I learn something from everyone I meet or read – it gets lonesome out here in the world, but you’re never alone with the Internet! Write me some time, my blog is http://blog.miapratt.com.
Jim says:April 27, 2010 at 4:31 pm
My only problem is getting hands to do what my brain is thinking. I have so many great ideas but the hands just can’t type, play or understand fast enough.
Inkysmudge says:April 27, 2010 at 5:15 pm
I can sympathise with Matt Steel’s remark about looking at others in his field. I’m the same with music. 99% of the time other musicians are an inspiration but I find doing something else works better for me. Reading a book, watching a film or even the news. Anything that doesn’t remind me that I have writer’s block ;)
Sridhar says:April 27, 2010 at 8:09 pm
Musician here, nice article.
My favourite way to get our of a rut would be to immerse in left-brain activities for a change. The creative side (right) gets a welcome breather and refreshes itself. When I come back to my drawing board, I’m suddenly full of ideas again!
Emily says:April 27, 2010 at 9:26 pm
I clean my apartment! Or do some other mundane mindless task. I used to work in a tropical fish store and one of my favorite chores was to scrub down the tanks, just to see all the crazy places my mind would go after it could stop paying attention to what my body was doing.
Michael Kline says:April 28, 2010 at 1:47 pm
I was initially given art notes by the editor or designer on a project, but soon found myself ignoring those in lieu of something better. As a result, I was facing white paper on every subsequent project that came through. It seemed a bit daunting at first, but I quickly found a solution to every assignment with a simple routine; read the text or article, hunt down some reference (good or bad), then walk away.
With the problem firmly entrenched in my subconscious, I’d mow the lawn or feed the cat or reorganize the spice rack; anything but ponder the challenge. And without fail (usually within a couple of hours, maybe even a day or two) that mass of gray matter between my ears would arrive at a solution. I just had to be ready when it did. This is also why I sleep with a sketchbook nearby. :-)
Toni Antonetti says:April 29, 2010 at 6:03 pm
My writer’s block cures? I do mind maps to organize my thoughts. And if I’m REALLY stuck, I take a hot shower. Works every time!
StudentGigolos says:May 21, 2010 at 10:31 am
Кто нить звонил хоть раз в секс по телефону? Если нет,то вот ссылочка sexiphone.ru
luminousoutsourcing says:May 22, 2010 at 2:38 am
I know that i am just easily distracted, but i know if i get rid of the distractions i have now, i will just as easily find new ones. Or i will just lay on the couch staring at the ceiling.
Alana Clifton-Cunningham says:June 21, 2010 at 6:26 pm
Going back to the beginning is often a solution to help ‘design-block’. Working with fashion and textiles, you can sometimes loose sight of what it is you are wanting to achieve, so going back to basics and focusing on initial concept research can really help you back on track. Another solution to helping design creativity progress is to look at ideas from a new perspective. As a lot of my ideas happen through the ‘drape process’ (method of creating fashion design draped on a mannequin), I sometimes find it exciting to turn my work upside down, or inside out and see what new opportunities arise.
Ricky says:July 4, 2010 at 4:35 pm
Batsu-chan says:July 7, 2010 at 7:14 pm
Retire. When it hits you that you’ve stopped doing the very thing that is as essential to you as breathing, you come out of retirement rather quickly, brimming with new ideas and a “new and improved” reinvented self.
James Macfarlane says:July 14, 2010 at 3:01 am
A great post, its awesome to hear all the different approaches to getting out of a creative rut. One that I do, that I don’t think has been mentioned yet, is to have a five minute lie down on the office floor and chill out.
Bayram ÖZKAN says:August 2, 2010 at 8:19 pm
BONEZ!!!! says:September 13, 2010 at 8:56 am
thank you for all the wonderful advice!!! It will help tremendously!
Moon says:October 11, 2010 at 10:07 am
p90xsupplier2010 says:October 17, 2010 at 10:00 am
P90X Extreme Home Fitness Workout Program
This product is what I expected from the infomercial – the infomercial is a good representation of what you’ll get. The DVDs are good, come in a small case (no excess packaging to exaggerate or compensate for lack of real product). The accompanying written materials are good too.
However, I found that I wasn’t quite in shape enough when p90x arrived to use it well. I went back and bought Tony Horton’s “Power Half Hour” and used that for a few weeks first – had to wake up some muscles I’ve let go dormant. I’ve been in good shape most of my life, but kind of got lazy lately – I needed to get a basic foundation before I could jump into the incredible workouts he provides.
leave a comment says:November 6, 2010 at 9:58 pm
Excellent article on the different types of auto insurance coverage and they are important. Your clear presentation is easy to understand and very well written. Any time you’d like to write and submit an article to my site, just let me know. Overcoming creative blog site.
ashley oblinger says:February 24, 2011 at 7:04 pm
You know, I have always found the ISO50 blog to be very helpful whenever I’m in a rut or can’t seem to get my creative flair going. And maybe now is as good a time as any, but I would like to thank you Scott. For always being there when I needed that little extra push. (:
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