How to overcome Creative Blocks

March 17, 2019

I face creative blocks more often than I would like to admit.

So much so that I have to slow down every couple of days. 

I take a mid week break on Wednesdays where I cut down on the number of hours or work on some less demanding work because I just can’t keep 100% focus all throughout the week.

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For many years I subscribed to one of those belief systems that if you love what you do, it shouldn’t feel like work at all.
 It must be true if this is what they say.
I tried to push through the weeks because I didn’t want to look like I didn’t enjoy my work. 

Naturally, it didn’t work out very well for me.
I was tired, exhausted and frustrated. 
It seemed to work for everybody else but for me.

For many years I felt broken, only to realise that if I am to survive then I need to focus on my strengths and create a workaround for my “weaknesses”. 
Slowing down on Wednesdays was one of those steps. 
It wasn’t an easy journey either.
For a long time I felt “lazy” and “selfish” for wanting to take that break.

Identifying Creative Blocks

It is hard to define what exactly is a creative block. 
It could show up in many different ways. 
This is how it shows up for me, maybe you might recognise a few signs in there. 

Delays

With experience I can usually tell how long I need to complete a particular task.  Give or take a few hours.
So when I take longer than usual and I still find myself no where close to the finish line I know something is off. 
I might have done tons of sketches but I don’t like any of them. 
None of them are showing any promise. 
In reality this is not true, if I am in the right frame of mind then I know I should be able to find at least one promising idea from the rough designs and work on improving it. 

Self doubt

Another sign is when I doubt my abilities to create something. 
This for me is a surefire sign that I have hit a creative block because I know even if I don’t see the end result right now, if I follow my process and do my homework I should be able to make it to the other side. 

Procrastination

Another telltale sign is when I am avoiding my work.
I am doing anything but what I am supposed to be doing.
This is typically when I have other things on my mind and I am struggling from the inside to decide which one  I should be doing first.
So I fall into this deadlock situation and end up procrastinating.

I don’t have a certain time frame within which I can recognise the creative blocks but over the last few years of consistently recognising and overcoming them, I have gotten better.

Overcoming Creative Blocks

Take a Break

I have found that when I am facing a creative block, I need to step away from my work. 
Just sitting with my computer for hours won’t get the work done when my mind is not into it.
It will only frustrate me and let self-doubt creep in.
So the best thing to do is stop whatever it is I am doing at the moment and take a break.

Take a Walk

Not being able to accomplish anything during the day can make me over think the situation.
I have found that taking a walk helps me divert my attention and get into a clear headspace. 
I try to keep my mind clear and not think of anything during the walk and just focus on walking and enjoying the environment. 

Change of scenery

Sometimes just sitting in a different environment does the trick.
I don’t know what it is about changing your scenery that helps jump start your creativity.
Maybe sitting in the same position and location day after day becomes monotonous.

If change of location is not possible make a little change to your environment, use a new notebook and a pen, place a little plant on your desk, those little things can make a massive difference.

Working on a Passion Project

The great thing about passion projects is you can explore without limiting yourself. 
You can be in complete control of the outcome and that is somehow liberating.
 
When I am working on passion projects, I tend to work on concepts that I have not previously explored. 
This allows me to stretch my mind beyond the monotonous routine of similar projects that I’ve been working on.

Know Yourself

I knew for my better health and sanity I needed to slow down on Wednesdays. 
A full time job would never allow me that flexibility.
 
Although, I felt lazy, selfish and all those things, deep down I knew that this will be the right decision for me. Sometimes, those doubts still creep in and I am still in awe of people who work full time .

Know what works and what does not for you and build your work routines around your strengths.

Sound Sleep

Not getting enough sleep has always been detrimental to my creativity. 
I cannot feel creative when my body wants to fall asleep any moment. 
Regular sleep has always been a battle for me. 
I can go months with a regular sleep schedule and feeling quite proud of myself but one small slip up, one day of staying up late and sleeping in is enough to mess up schedules.
It will be a long road to recovery from there.
So I can be a bit of a kill joy for those late night plans because I know it will be a long time till I get back on track with my sleep schedule. 

Don’t aim for Perfection

I sometimes feel the pressure of creating the perfect design right off the bat.
I reject any and every idea that comes to my mind thinking it’s not good enough.
Sometimes you just have to get started with something. 
Doesn’t matter if its mediocre, just get things moving.
You need to jumpstart your brain and just putting ideas down can trick it into believing you are making some progress.
Progress over perfection.   


It is frustrating to go through a creative block. 
The next time you feel you have come across a dead end just stop and take a step back even when it feels like you haven’t accomplished much.  
You think of slowing down as a means to eventually move faster in the long run.
Pushing through it won’t lead us anywhere. 

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