Designers and other creative professionals often push themselves to the limit to bring their visions to life. A client’s open-ended brief can be a double-edged sword for them: on the one hand, it’s a blank slate with which to experiment and enjoy creating. On the other hand, it’s exhausting to tackle multiple ideas that pop into their imaginative heads.

So, every now and then, they experience a block in the creative process. Much like a racehorse, you can’t just run your brain to the limit every time without it burning out.

Every creative professional from every field, even the ultra-famous, suffer from this challenge in their careers. Many, like Coach Scott Russel, have made careers teaching people to overcome mental barriers to inspiration.

Endless online classes teach mindfulness and other techniques to fight a creativity slump. But you’re reading this article, so you don’t have that time. So, here’s a quick dive into identifying and overcoming a creative block.

Firstly, identify when you’re in a creative block. If you struggle for ideas, it doesn’t always have to be that you’re at fault. An incomplete creative brief can send you down the wrong rabbit hole entirely.

A creative block can be spotted when you’re having difficulty connecting your creative thoughts to a cohesive idea.

It isn’t time-bound, lasting days, weeks, months, or even years. Identifying this problem is a key first step in solving it.

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How to identify a creative block

A creative block is a mental roadblock that halts your usual creative progress. It feels like hitting a wall, where generating fresh ideas becomes a chore, and even starting a project seems daunting. This frustrating lack of inspiration can manifest in various ways, from staring at a blank page with a racing mind to feeling unmotivated to engage with your creative pursuit.

Recognizing a creative block can be fairly straightforward. Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • You might find yourself staring at a blank page, unable to develop new concepts, or feeling like all your ideas are stale and uninspired.
  • You might be working on a project but aren’t progressing. You keep hitting dead ends, revising the same things repeatedly, and lack the motivation to move forward.
  • The things that usually spark your creativity no longer have the same effect. You might feel uninterested in exploring new ideas or engaging in activities that typically fuel your creative thinking.
  • The prospect of creative work can feel daunting or overwhelming. You might experience procrastination, a lack of focus, and a general sense of apathy toward your creative pursuits.
  • Creative block can be a frustrating experience. You might feel critical of yourself and your work, question your abilities, and doubt your creative mind.

The reasons behind a creative block can be as diverse as the creative fields themselves. But, in general, this is why you may feel blocked:

  1. External factors
    1. Stress
    2. Overwhelming workloads
    3. Lack of sleep can contribute. 
    4. Communication breakdown
    5. Unhelpful content brief
    6. Personal problems causing your attention to be elsewhere
  2. Internal factors
    1. Perfectionism can paralyze you with the fear of creating something "bad,"
    2. Feeling burnt out on a particular project or style can leave you uninspired

For the next steps to overcoming a block of creative juices, why not try some of the methods below:

10 strategies to help you overcome your creative block

1. Write it, log it, document it, just do it!

For people stuck in a block or unable to pay attention, noting down their thoughts when they occur to them is a good practice to instill.

For this, get a handy notepad to carry with you. Any idea, even as small as a new name you thought up, should be noted for future reference. Sometimes, ideas can arise from the strangest of thoughts! Take it further by mixing and matching your notes and see what fits into a new concept.

Turning creativity into a habit makes it a more consistent part of your daily routine. Regularly engaging in your creative practice can help you build momentum. Consistent practice strengthens your creative muscles and allows you to develop your skills and techniques. This makes it easier to overcome when a creative block strikes again.

2. Always see your thoughts through

Perfectionism can often lead to procrastination. 

The fear of judgment, failure, or creating something “bad” can be a major roadblock to creativity. If you’re constantly worried about creating something perfect, you might be afraid to take risks. Embracing imperfection allows you to experiment freely, make mistakes, and learn from them.

The most fulfilling aspect of creativity is often the journey itself, not just the final product. By focusing on the joy of the creative process—exploring ideas, experimenting with techniques, and expressing yourself—you can find satisfaction in the act of creating itself.

Starting work on an idea and abandoning it along the way is a terrible practice for your creativity. A classic positive thinking saying is, “There is no such thing as a bad idea."

So, find new avenues to explore and finish that incomplete idea. This can help open up new design possibilities by helping you achieve something out of your comfort zone.

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3. Say no to monotone in your workspace

Take a good look at the space you work in. Is it devoid of colors and life? Then chances are it’s sucking away your creative energy into it.

Our brains crave stimulation. A monotonous workspace with beige walls and boring furniture provides little to engage your senses.

A bland environment can make concentrating difficult as your mind wanders and seeks something more engaging than the four walls around you. Without visual cues or anything to spark your imagination, breaking out of your usual thought patterns and generating fresh ideas can be difficult.

Spruce up your workspace with new colors, inspirational mood boards, and even the occasional plant to give your mind somewhere to wander. Another inspiring idea is to create a reading nook where you can relax and learn new things.

Stay home illustration type

4. Inspiration hides in the unlikeliest of places

Step away and invest your time elsewhere if the block doesn’t seem to let up. Often, creativity and ideas are hiding in plain sight, in places you had never thought to give a second glance. 

Sometimes, the best way to get inspired is to immerse yourself in the work of others. 

Consuming creative content can reignite your creative fire. If you’re a writer, watch a thought-provoking movie that challenges your perspectives or evokes an emotional response. If you’re a designer, read a well-written book or inspiring quote and allow yourself to be transported to a new world.

5. Explore other areas of creative thoughts

Instead of starting out the window for some idea to pop into your head, try looking for creativity closer to home.

Take notice of other areas of design, such as photography, fashion, or product packaging design. Or look at other forms of creativity like short stories, stand-up comedy, or films and their storyboarding. These deviations from your normal creative process can help you kickstart new ideas entirely.

Sometimes, the most effective way to overcome creative block is to simply step away and engage in activities completely unrelated to your creative work. Constantly focusing on a single creative problem can lead to mental fatigue. Taking breaks and doing something else allows your brain to recharge and de-stress. Stepping away from your work allows you to gain distance from the problem. 

When you return to your creative work, you might see things in a fresh light and find new solutions you hadn’t considered.

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6. The brief isn’t always a boundary

An incomplete or incoherent brief can be challenging to tackle without proper productive discipline. However, it can also allow you to present new visuals to your clients that they never thought about before, broadening the horizons for them and you.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the limitations in a brief can often be liberating. The pressure of a deadline can force you to think outside the box and generate a rapid flow of ideas. A limited color palette can force you to explore new combinations and create unexpected results.

Step outside your comfort zone and try a new creative form. Embrace the rules you’ve been given rather than push against them.

7. A fresh perspective always helps

Bouncing ideas off others can be a powerful tool to overcome creative block. Working with someone else, especially someone from a different background or discipline, can introduce a fresh perspective on your project. They may ask questions you haven’t considered, suggest new approaches, or provide insights you may have missed.

Have you ever wondered about what your grandma thinks of those funky new sneakers that just came out? What do your younger siblings think of the vintage styles making a comeback in everyday fashion?

These are a few examples, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised to view a creative from someone else’s fresh perspective. It will give you insights into what jumps out most to different people and what you want to emphasize more in your designs. 

Sharing ideas and brainstorming with others can spark new energy, leading to innovative solutions and unexpected breakthroughs. Collaboration also allows you to learn from others and expand your skill set.

man, black and white woman illustration
By Maddy Zoli created with Linearity Curve

8. And if nothing works, then it’s time for a break

Look, at the end of the day, you’ve tried every trick in the book to think up some new creative idea, but the brain just won’t budge. Then, it’s time to take a well-deserved break and step away for some time.

Pushing through a burnt-out phase will not do your ideas any favors, nor your mental health. So, grab some me-time and get involved in other passive activities you enjoy, letting you reset your brain for the next time. Suffering a creative block will never be fun, but don’t forget it happens to everyone.

By taking a break, you allow yourself the space and free mind for these unexpected moments of inspiration to occur.

9. Change your environment

Our brains thrive on novelty. Try to escape your usual workspace and expose yourself to new sights and sounds.

But where should you go? You could go to a coffee shop, a park or a museum.

A coffee shop has ambient noise and energy, providing a stimulating brainstorming backdrop. Immersing yourself in nature and getting some fresh air will allow you to feel a sense of calm that will (hopefully) allow innovative ideas to flood in. Where’s it better to jumpstart your creativity in a museum? Inspiration will be all around you, and it will be hard to ignore.

10. Practice mindfulness

Meditation and relaxation techniques may seem unconventional here, but they can be surprisingly helpful in overcoming creative block. 

Stressful situations often fuel creative block, and mindfulness practices like meditation and deep breathing can help calm the mind and help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. Once you identify the roadblocks to your creativity, you can begin to address them and free yourself to create.

Mindfulness practices can improve your ability to focus and concentrate.

This allows you to be present and more receptive to new creative ideas. You can also approach your creative work more clearly, making tapping into your creative potential easier.

Cretaive block represented by a brain being pushed through a bottle
Image source: Eric Chow

Break through your block

Creative block is a frustrating but temporary hurdle. Remember, even the most successful creatives experience it from time to time. Some ideas can only flourish when they’re slowly marinated in the cycle of time. So, instead of piling on the stress, try one of the methods to get those creative juices flowing! 

Find out the type of block you’ve got and what works best for you, and develop your toolkit for conquering creative block. But, most importantly, enjoy the process!

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How to overcome a creative block and reignite inspiration | Linearity
How to overcome a creative block and reignite inspiration | Linearity