Dealing with creative block

If the ideas aren’t flowing, you’re stuck on a brief, the big idea just isn’t big enough, you’re struggling to raise an eyebrow let alone knock someone’s socks off, or you simply have no clue where to start – you’re suffering from the symptoms of creative block.

Over the years I’ve suffered from all of these symptoms, but not all at once thank goodness. So let’s get started in working out how to get over the problems associated with creative block and build a path back to productivity and creativity.

Read, re-read, summarise

Oh how we love a brief. We read it, we think we know what’s required, we begin our creative thinking – and whammy! In reality there are times when we have no ideas, nothing flows, and nothing grows in our minds. We’re at a dead end before we’ve even started. 

What do we need to do? We go back to the start, and we read the brief again, then we read it again. It’s a good idea to break it down into understandable and absorbable bullet points. Rewrite it into your words, so you know exactly what the core objectives are. Keep these close by when you’re working on the project, refer back to them frequently, tweak them if necessary as you make progress – but never lose site of what’s actually required. It may also be a good idea to run your summary past the project owner, or the person who originally created the brief, just to make sure you haven’t gone off on a tangent with your understanding.

Lose yourself

No this isn’t a reference to an Eminem song. However, if listening to Eminem helps you to get out of your head, jump from your comfort zone, or dump you into a parallel universe – then turn the volume up! You need to free your mind, drop all preconceptions, remove barriers and process, and set your mind off to wonder in places it’s never been before.

Get it out and down

It goes without saying, experimentation is key to creative success. If you’ve got a thought you want to explore, or a creative approach you think could work, you need to begin by experimenting. Do whatever it takes, however rough and dirty the idea may be. You need to get it out of your head and onto paper, or on screen, maybe you grab a mic and record something, or bash a few headlines out on your keyboard. It doesn’t matter about the format, that’s just a detail, but when that idea strikes, get it out and down as quick as you can.

Stick to the facts

I’m a true believer of knowledge is power. Before you jump to conclusions, or base an idea on what you think you know, get some clarification on the facts and your thinking. Ask questions from others in the project team, do your research, and challenge the information you’ve been provided. By sticking to the facts, your creative thinking and idea generation will be faster, smarter and on point.

Remove complexity

How many times have you come up with what you consider a brilliant idea, only to then over complicate it, over design it, and over think it? By keeping things simple in the early stages your brilliant idea will maintain it’s original appeal. And by focusing on the idea and nothing else, you’ll help it grow over time, mature, expand, and deliver even greater brilliance.

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

Throw the rubbish

There’s that old saying – flogging a dead horse! If an idea isn’t working for whatever reason, move onto something else. Throw your crap ideas away as fast as you can. Don’t dwell on something that you know deep down isn’t right. You’ll save yourself a whole load of time and creative anxiety. So if it’s bad, be ruthless and bin it!

Sleep on it

When you’ve been working on a single project for a long time, your head is a creative melting pot. You quite possibly have gone down a path of thinking in a certain way, missed a few critical facts, misjudged a line in the brief or have become stuck on one particular approach. It’s always best to sleep on things. Leave your idea alone for a night or two if you can, and come back to it when your mind is clear. Clarity of mind is your friend and will either help you improve and develop an idea further, or tell you it isn’t right, what were you thinking of, and make you go back to the beginning and try again. 

What’s the story?

I can’t stress this enough. If your idea doesn’t tell a story, or you can’t communicate the story, you’ve got a problem. If you’re unable to talk through your idea in a succinct and meaningful way, then you’re letting the idea and your creative ego down. So, write the story as you go. Update the story as the idea develops. And rehearse the story before you tell it to others.

Make it memorable

Regardless if you’re not a confident presenter, you can still make yourself and your ideas memorable to an audience. Try to make your audience sit up and listen, drop in some key facts about the project or brief, come up with a couple of design nuggets that grab their attention, and explain your thinking and how you got to where you landed with an idea.

A little tweaking never hurts

If you feel that something isn’t quite right in an idea or design, spend a little time to fix it. Maybe the line breaks aren’t working, a colour clashes, or an image just isn’t working hard enough. Whatever it is that’s niggling you, and you have time, give it a tweak and make it better.

Know what you’ve got

You’ve spent hours, days, or weeks developing your creative idea. You’ve rehearsed the story. You’ve removed all the little niggles in the design. And you’ve developed a few key sentences to make you and your idea memorable. By you knowing what you’ve got in an idea, others will be able to see it like you do, understand it, and support it.

So there you have it. A bunch of ideas that will help you remove your creative block, set you up to win, and make your ideas fly.

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