Whether we’re working on a passion project or just doing our job, the day-to-day life of an ad agency creative comes with a unique set of ups and downs. There are times when the ideas flow forth like a river, pouring out of us and into the world effortlessly and with joyful abandon, as free and easy as the mighty Mississippi. Then, there are times when we sit and stare at a blank page for what feels like eons, and yet nothing comes to mind.
In a perfect world, we’d be able to turn the inspiration on at will, the way we turn on a faucet. Sadly, the world is far from perfect, and the reality is that creative blocks happen to the best of us. Here, we share five ways to overcome them and get back in the flow.
1. Take a Break
Ever wonder why your best ideas always come to you in the shower, or right as you’re falling asleep? As it turns out, science has the answer. Our brains are better at coming up with new ideas while we’re doing activities that don’t require a lot of attention, like showering. Forcing yourself to focus may actually impede your brain’s ability to make new connections, which ends up being totally counterproductive in trying to overcome a creative block.
So, rather than attempting to power through by sheer force of will, step away from your workstation and do something else for a while. Take a walk, grab a snack, or hop in the shower—a change of scene might be just the thing to get those creative gears turning again.
When it comes to clearing the cobwebs from your mind, few things can beat a good workout! Hitting the gym for a few quick reps could be the key to busting out of your creative block. There’s no need to get sweaty, however; even mild physical activities like walking or yoga have been shown to enhance cognitive performance on creative tasks.
3. Use a Different Approach
While routines and rituals are necessary and helpful in many ways, getting caught up in the same old patterns can impede creative thinking. When the usual methods aren’t working and you’re feeling stuck, trying out a new approach can make a big difference. Sitting down with a page from an adult coloring book, for example, is a fun and effective way to restart a stalled design process.
4. Write in a Journal
Journaling is seriously awesome in a whole host of ways, from providing an emotional outlet to fostering an organized life. Even if you’re not into touchy-feely stuff or keeping a detailed record of your daily habits, writing your thoughts down is a worthy activity that can help you push through a creative block.
Try writing a pure stream of consciousness in a notebook or word processor. While you may not end up with anything resembling a finished product, you might find some true pearls of wisdom alongside ruminations on the subject of what you’d like to have for lunch later.
5. Find Inspiration Elsewhere
Sometimes when we’re feeling blank, the best inspiration comes from external sources. Activities such as reading a favorite book, visiting an art museum, trying a new restaurant or coffee shop, listening to music, or watching a really good TED Talk can provide the spark needed to jumpstart the creative process. Keep a notebook handy so you can jot down any ideas that may surface while you enjoy the work of other artists.
Occasionally, no matter what you do, the block stays stubbornly put, in which case you may want to dig a little deeper to discover what kind of block it is and how to beat it. At Oblique, we usually find that a combination of all five strategies (plus a little rinse and repeat) does the trick, leaving us refreshed and ready to tackle our next project. Do you have your own tried-and-true technique for beating a creative block? Tell us about it in the comments below!