Unblocking the block: Six tips for getting creativity flowing again when you’re stuck
By Wendy Wade, Creative Director at Idea Engineers
Creative block is an all-too-familiar challenge for creatives. You’re at your computer, gazing at a blank canvas, with the deadline looming closer as your stomach tightens with anxiety. It is inconvenient and stressful and often strikes at the most inopportune times, like when you’re navigating the chaos of fourth quarter campaigns.
Take heart from knowing that creative block happens to the best creatives—and it’s often just a part of the process of producing a great piece of work.
There are a range of techniques and perspectives you can use to overcome your creative blues. Here are a few tips that work well for me:
1. Don’t let the quest for perfection be the enemy of creativity
One of the most common reasons creatives hit a roadblock is that they’re striving for perfection. As creatives, we set high standards for ourselves and won’t accept anything less than the best. But what you think might be imperfect or mediocre may seem incredible to the client or the target audience. Not every piece of work you produce will win awards or be a masterpiece. However, it could be the right execution for your campaign.
2. Learn to embrace blockages and mistakes as growth opportunities
Paula Scher wisely said, ‘You have to be bad to get good.’ Learn to embrace your mistakes as an opportunity to grow and remember that what feels like a creative block could be a moment for growth. Try and figure out what’s holding you back and then push through. Creativity is about courage. Shifting your mindset to this view can be liberating.
3. Prioritise your mental and physical health
“Healthy mind, healthy body” is a cliché for a good reason. While some creatives produce excellent work by dedicating long hours in a day, living on takeaways and barely sleeping, many of us crumble under that level of stress. It’s also not sustainable for long periods of time. Stress, exhaustion and anxiety are all enemies of creativity.
Sleep, eat, exercise and take breaks to recharge your mind and body. This will help keep your creative juices flowing. Remember, when you step away from your desk, your subconscious keeps working on the problem. A short walk for example can lead to an epiphany.
4. Break down your challenge
If a project or campaign seems like an insurmountable challenge, it might mean that you’re setting overly ambitious deadlines for yourself or looking at it from the wrong perspective. Try slicing it into bite-sized chunks and digesting them one piece at a time. Set yourself realistic goals and treat yourself when you achieve them. Sooner than you think, those bits will come together and create a masterpiece.
Collaboration is the secret weapon for banishing creative block. Brainstorming with others can breathe new life into your ideas. You don’t need to go at it alone. Teamwork is where the magic happens. These days, you can brainstorm with a virtual co-worker if someone isn’t physically there to help. Generative artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT and DALL-E can prompt fresh ideas, suggest creative angles and even help you refine your work.
6. Shut out distractions
Get into the zone by banishing distractions in your workspace. Silence your phone and close apps that could pull you away from your creative tasks. If you have an office door, close it. If you don’t have an office, put in headphones, listen to music and put up a “do not disturb” sign if it helps. A clean, uncluttered workspace may help clear and unclutter your mind.
There are creatives that find it effortless to produce work on demand, but most of us are well-acquainted with creative block. It’s a not a reflection on your abilities – it’s a shared experience most of us wrestle with from time-to-time.