Breaking Through the (Creative) Block
by Courtland Hendershot
Sometimes it comes time to write a blog and you have no idea what you’re going to talk about. Nothing comes to mind so you just start writing and hope something interesting comes out of it. You guessed it! That’s exactly what’s happening to me right now. So, on that note, I thought I’d take some time to talk about ideas. Coming up with fresh ideas is something that all creatives struggle with, because sometimes it feels like everything has already been done before. Here are some quick tips to help you overcome creative block.
Just Do It
It might sound trite, but sometimes the best way to overcome a creative block is to “just do it”. If you’re a writer, grab your notebook and just start writing. Write about your breakfast and how you had to pour the cereal and milk directly in your mouth because you were running late. Write about how you have nothing to write about. JUST WRITE. If you’re a designer or artist, grab your sketchpad and start doodling. Draw the characters from the crazy dream you had last night or simply sketch what you see from your kitchen window as you’re waiting for the coffee to brew. Heck, just draw the coffee pot. Whatever it is, just DO it. What might seem mundane at first might become your next masterpiece.
It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re sitting there waiting for inspiration to strike and nothing happens (I’ll speak for myself, at least). That’s why it’s so important instead to go OUT and get inspired. Get inspired by nature: go for a hike, go to the beach and swim, or go for a run or a bike ride (wait, are we still taking about creativity here?). Get inspired by other artists: pay a visit to a museum or a gallery, peruse the library for a great book, or just listen to some Justin Timberlake in your car with your windows down. And if you can’t find a moment to physically go somewhere, don’t be afraid to see what your fellow creatives are up to on Instagram or YouTube. What- or whoever inspires you, the important thing is that you take all that newfound inspiration and make something. Anything. Even if it’s bad. Especially if it’s bad. You need to get that out of your system. Then, post that hideous self-portrait, bizarre poem or half-finished song on the web for everybody to see (if you’re brave enough).
Enjoy the Process
Sometimes, it’s not lack of ideas or inspiration that cause the creative block; it’s the process of creating itself. After all, those waves of inspiration often come with undercurrents of perfectionism, fear, and self-doubt. Or perhaps you simply can’t remember where you put your paint brushes. In those situations, I remember the wise words of my musician roommate, “I learn to put a limit on how much I critique what I create and learn to enjoy the process…” In other words, developing an effective creative process is as important as (or perhaps even more than) the ideas themselves.
A good process involves good organization and discipline, so it’s important to think practically and develop a creative process that works for you. Put a sketchpad next to your bed and get up at 5:00 a.m. every morning to draw for 10 minutes. Listen to a design podcast on your morning drive to work. Make sure your guitar is always in tune and easily accessible so that you can play a couple tunes before bed.
But you don’t have to stop there; Make the creative process “creative” as well! Have a Monday morning brainstorm meeting with yourself (complete with donuts, of course) to get a variety of logo ideas up on a white board. Write a review of your yet-to-be-written novel as if you were a New York Times book critic, then start writing your book to match that review.
These specific tips won’t necessarily work for everyone, and I’m sure there are many additional ideas out there for breaking through the creative block. But whatever your creative field or endeavor is, I hope that these quick tips will give you ample fuel to go and be creative in the way you choose!