No one likes being stuck in a creative rut. It can be especially hard when you work in a field where you have to come up with ideas all the time. You probably know the feeling — the more you fight and force yourself to come up with your next great idea, the more burned out you get. Next time you’re feeling like you need a boost, try one of these options to get your brain going and tackle creative block.
Pay attention to when you’re most productive.
I want to be a night owl, but it turns out that after 9 p.m. my brain just doesn’t work as well. It seems obvious to me now but it took many frustrating late nights to realize I just can’t force my brain to work. While my mental clarity is way better in a.m., other people might work better in the evening hours. Gauge when you feel most productive and chances are you will find your flow faster. If you’re in tune with when you’re most productive you can better judge when you’ll do your best work and when to give yourself a break.
Talk to people who have no idea what you do.
Sometimes being surrounded by people who do what you do all day can warp your sense of reality. Add social media to the equation and you can be completely immersed in people who talk about your field all day long. Finding a fresh perspective from a friend or colleague can be really helpful if you’re stuck on a project. It can also take a lot of the pressure off to realize people don’t necessarily understand or care about what you do as much as you do.
Exploring new locations can also give your brain a mini-vacation. Visit a new coffee shop or spot in the library to write. Find an outdoor area to brainstorm. Use your frustration to propel yourself into a different mindset.
Read or listen to something new everyday.
It’s really hard to fabricate inspiration. The easiest way to stay ahead of creative block is to look for inspiration. Listen to interesting podcasts (I love This American Life, Radiolab, or 99% Invisible), read a good book or change up your music selection. If you have a 15 minute break listen to a Ted Talk. Think of learning as something that will help you stay creatively charged.
Try a new medium.
If you work in a creative field it can seem like a ton of work to come up with new ideas under pressure. Sitting at a computer all day can be tough, that’s why most of the time when I’m not working on freelance projects I try to get as far away from my computer as possible to experiment with traditional tools. Don’t limit the bounds of your creativity.
Find your flow state.
Don’t quit when things are uncomfortable, sometimes you have to just wait long enough to find your flow state. Pablo Picasso has a famous quote: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” Basically, you can stare at the piece of paper, canvas or computer screen for hours but you probably won’t get anywhere good without putting in the effort of starting to work first. Make an outline, build a wireframe or do doodle until you have a direction.
Do something scary.
Rejection can cause paralyzing fear when you’re trying to create. Unfortunately, criticism and rejection are just part of being alive. Submit a piece of writing to your favorite blog, give a presentation or send your portfolio to a professional hero for critique. The more you put yourself out there the less you’ll feel uncomfortable and the more you’ll open up your world.
Let your process evolve.
Don’t try and force something that isn’t working and don’t take yourself too seriously. If you find that you’re not as productive or happy, change your surroundings or try a new habit. Everyone’s process is different.