Everything about the creative process necessitates being in a certain state of mind, feeling motivated, concentrated, and in the zone to produce the best work. It’s particularly aggravating when you’re chugging along, trying to be your most brilliant, imaginative self–and something suddenly feels off. You’re having trouble coming up with new ideas.
When your whole career is based on being imaginative, having a creative block is the last thing you need. You can do all right at the start of a project to set yourself up for success, but that doesn’t mean you won’t run into The Dreaded Block. Here are 9 top tips from experienced designers and well-known artists on how to make your work stand out.
Try a digital detox
Many of us spend our days engrossed in our computers. We build the majority of our work as designers in the digital era. Often, though, what you need to do is go back to the basics. When you’re stuck, Gerard Huerta, a typographer, and graphic designer suggest taking a break from the screen and drawing. It will show you how to see in a new way.
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Take a break from your desk and go for a walk with your sketchbook. When you move from a glowing computer screen to a pen and paper, you might be shocked by the ideas that start running through your mind. Drawing with a real pen (or pencil, or even paint) on real paper will change the way you see things and give you a whole new perspective.
Remember that you can’t force creativity
Here’s a pro tip if nothing seems to be working: don’t push it. Allow yourself time to look at your work with fresh eyes, as a designer, artist, and author Adam J. Kurtz says. Here’s what he has to say: “Forcing ourselves to ‘be imaginative’ is a waste of time. It’s not a manual skill that you have or don’t have, but rather a collection of emotional and mental tasks that don’t always come together.”
All runs out of steam at some stage. It’s fine to take a break and come back later after your brain has rested. You might be pleasantly surprised by what happens after a short period of recharge.
We all know what our job looks like when we’ve been up all night and see it with fresh eyes in the morning. So, unless there’s an emergency, I prefer to simply walk away. Do something else and let the thoughts float around in your mind before you’re able to put them into action.
Find new sources of inspiration
Inspiration can be found in unexpected places. Looking at the work of other artists can be very motivating. Immersing yourself in something new, particularly if their work is different from what you’re used to, may generate a slew of new ideas. “Do something totally out of your comfort zone,” says 99designs Top Level designer Ocelittle. Do you have a favorite artist or designer? This is fantastic! Try again by putting yourself in their shoes. While getting rid of your creative block, you might learn something new.”
So, even though it pushes you out of your comfort zone, ask yourself, “What will my favorite artist do?” You’re guaranteed at least if the response isn’t “light my machine on fire.”
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Remember, inspiration can come from everywhere, not just the visual arts. When in doubt, immerse yourself in a cultural experience outside of work: see a movie, attend a play, or attend a concert. This is a chance to reawaken the senses (and hopefully uncover some of your greatest ideas).
Take on a monotonous task
Often you just need to do something to clear your mind, whether it’s cleaning the house or going for a long run. Giving your mind a break and rebooting with a quick, methodical task is just what you need.
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Sali Designs, a 99designs Top Level artist, advises, “Go wash dishes!” It’s an easy, repetitive task that doesn’t require much mental effort. By the time I’m finished, I’m comfortable and ready to get back to work.”
You can do a variety of things to ease your creative muscle while still being effective, such as reorganizing your filing system or filing your taxes. You’ll still be craving some artistic work after doing that for a while.
Allow yourself to fail
Are you putting off doing something because you’re afraid it won’t be good enough? It’s time to put your fears aside and press forward. Taking chances will help you hone your skills, and who knows, you could end up making work you never imagined.
We are also afraid of falling while working on a major project. As a result, we stick to what we know and are afraid to branch out.
Paula Scher, one of our generation’s most successful graphic designers, understands that mistakes can lead to the best work: “It’s through mistakes that you can evolve.” You have to be bad before you can be good.”
So, take Paula Scher’s advice and allow yourself to fail once in a while. We learn and challenge our imagination by allowing ourselves to make mistakes. It’s time to welcome “happy little accidents,” as Bob Ross used to call them.