Thump, thump, thump, creeeaakk, thump, thump…
As creatives, we’ve all at some point experienced the monsters known as creative block. You know the ones, if we’re not careful, they can break down our self-confidence, sneak in and consume our creativity, rendering us blank canvases and wondering what happened to our inspiration.
Luckily though, there are ways to get our motivation back on track once we know how to tame these beasts and prevent them from wreaking havoc on our creative lives.
The first, and probably most important one that needs to be subdued, is negative feedback. Getting constructive feedback is one of the most important steps in creative work, as you’re getting others to recognise which aspects you’ve done well in, and what needs improvement. If you’re showing your work to someone and they’re telling you, ‘I don’t like it’ or ‘it’s awful,’ find someone else. The last thing you need is someone putting you down and destroying your self-confidence. Seek input from someone who can point you in the right direction and who will leave you feeling motivated to improve.
This point is related to the previous, and that’s not being confident and overly critical of your own work – something I’m occasionally guilty of. Thoughts like ‘it’ll never work’ or ‘my ideas aren’t good enough’ can really stifle your creative side and make you want to give up altogether. While your inner critic’s role is important, it’s not good to be overly cynical about your abilities – you never know, other people may love your work!
Try not to create and judge simultaneously to begin with. Just write / draw whatever comes into your head; you may end up abandoning an idea that has the potential to work if you critique it right off the bat and don’t consider it in detail first. Once you have your idea, start thinking about its practicality, and try not to let yourself spiral into negativity. The trick here is to achieve balance. Too little criticism will lead to an extraordinary number of unrealistic ideas, and too much will hinder your creative process. Remember, you’re trying to identify what needs improvement, rather than what’s wrong with it. So keep this creature subjugated, and be sure it knows its place.
You’ve been staring at a problem for hours but nothing is coming to you. Forcing ideas, especially when you’re feeling under pressure, is one of the worst things you can do. Some people thrive under pressure, but for some, the stress that results is extremely draining to our creativity. To avoid the panic early on, set out a schedule or planner outlining what you need to achieve and when. Being rushed won’t allow you the freedom to explore ideas properly.
But if that deadline is fast approaching and the chance to get ahead is long gone, have a break. Yes, a break, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Make a cup of tea, watch some TV, have a nap, anything that will help you relax. Then come back and look at the problem with fresh eyes. By giving your brain a break you’re allowing it to work on the problem subconsciously, and therefore making it much easier to discover a solution. It works tremendously. Just be sure not to let this monster get to you or it could spell disaster.
It’s nearly impossible to learn something new when this particular creature insists on sticking to familiar techniques. Push yourself to do something bold, something you wouldn’t normally do. Remove yourself from the computer and go back to traditional media such as painting or doodling with a pen and paper. There is evidence that shows our brains process information on screens and on paper in different ways, and so you may find that your thoughts and ideas flow smoother with a pencil rather than a blaring screen. Your eyes will be thankful for the break.
You sit, confined to the same office space day in, day out. The projects are monotonous, everything is moving at a slower pace. You’ve run out of creative fuel to keep things interesting. You’re bored.
Unfortunately, within an office setting you won’t have control over the type of projects you’re given. So when it’s break time, reward yourself with something fun. Read a few pages of a favourite book, watch a youtube video (preferably on your phone and not the work computer), or dedicate some time to a side project. You’ll be more obliged to power through a task if you have milestones that allow you to pause and do something else. Chances are you’ll always be working in the same room too, away from the fresh air and sun. If you can, take your laptop outside for a while each day.
Freelancers can try co-working. This involves sharing a public working space, often an office, that typically attracts freelancers and contractors. This is great if you’re the sort of person who’s energised by others and feels that working from home by yourself is getting rather dull.
Chances are you’ll come across this monster from time to time, so make sure you have plenty of weapons at your disposal to stave it off.
Becoming distracted is another one I’m subject to at times. When I started freelancing, I decided I wanted, no, needed two computers: one for games and one for work. This was to try and eliminate the monster known as distraction. Well, as it turns out, games aren’t the only enticement. Internet, social media, phone, dirty dishes, pets, noisy neighbours… the list goes on. Before you start your day, pin down what this monster is using to prevent you from getting things done and avoid it, whether it be limiting time spent on emails and the internet, turning the radio off, or moving to another part of the house. Office workers can use headphones to reduce distractions from colleagues or close their door to discourage passers-by to stop and chat.
Now when we shine a light on them they don’t seem so scary anymore, do they?
What about you? What are your creative guzzling monsters doing to keep you from achieving?
© Lisa Bradbury