We often talk about different ways to inspire creativity.
But despite our best efforts, creative block happens to us all at some point. And it’s an incredibly frustrating thing to experience.
There are a wide variety of tactics to overcome your worst creative funks. Some are short-term jolts to give you a little boost in the moment. Others are habits to work into your process on a more long-term basis.
That said, here are a few proactive and pretty random things you can do to cure your most stubborn case of creative block.
Talk It Out
Try talking your creative challenge or dilemma through with an objective third party. Using language to articulate the task in front of you and how you discuss it with someone with little context or fewer stakes in the outcome can force you to think about things in a new way.
An outside perspective could reveal something new and exciting that you are too close to the project to see. A distanced perspective can be very revealing – a good question could be half the answer.
Put Pen to Paper
Brainstorm the old fashioned way. It might mean bringing out the sticky-notes, getting all your ideas out on a whiteboard or filling out a page in a notebook. In the same way that talking out your ideas might trigger a different creative perspective, this change should activate parts of your brain you’re not regularly exercising. Especially if you’re used to sitting in front of a screen all day to do the bulk of your work.
Go Through the Steps Backwards
If you have a customary step-by-step process or procedure for realizing your creative projects, try starting from somewhere closer to the end and working backwards. Sometimes this is all you need is to get out of the well-worn grooves of your typical path. (Bonus hint: this also works great with proofreading.) Another variation of this idea that might also work is simply changing how you create, like by whipping out that old typewriter or sitting somewhere new.
Take a Course
If you’ve been feeling blocked creatively for a while, maybe it’s time to add a new skill set to the mix. It could be something you’ve been wanting to learn more about for a while. If you’d really like to stretch your creative limits, pick something more “out there” and see what happens. Many technical or professional colleges offer a surprising variety of continuing education courses that will challenge your assumptions and maybe even trigger a “creative reset” that could unstick your creative block. Try a random Masterclass or Domestika course, it’s guaranteed to feed your creativity.
Do Anything for the First Time
You don’t have to commit to several weeks of classes and assignments to get out of your comfort zone. Do anything for the first time. Take on an intimidating DIY or baking project, order the weirdest thing on the menu, read a book upside down, yodel while doing a jumping jack. Crucially: do it with an open mind and see where it takes you.
Revisit Something from Your Childhood
Take a trip down memory lane and revisit something that had a big impact on you way back when – maybe it’s a book, a movie, or a game. When was the last time you read Oh, the Places You’ll Go! or The Lost World? Play Duck Hunt. Or have a watch of some classic Bugs Bunny or Disney. It may be disorienting to reabsorb a classic with all the knowledge and experience you’ve accumulated in the interim, but one way or another you are likely to be reacquainted with some long-forgotten aspect of your creative origin story.
What could be more inspiring than that?
Pick Up a Biography or Memoir
Pay a visit to your local library and bring home a biography or memoir of someone whose work or career you admire…or perhaps someone you loathe? Some favourites: David Chang’s recent memoir, the surprising, court-contested Salinger biography by Ian Hamilton, or anything by Walter Isaacson (Benjamin Franklin’s sticks out).
These days, serendipity can be challenging to come by. What we do have is access to a wide variety of sophisticated algorithms that simulate serendipitous discovery. Let Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button direct your search for once and see where it leads you. Remember StumbleUpon? The original discovery engine is sadly no more, but several alternatives have sprung up in its place: Mix and Discuvver are two of them. Or visit Random Street View and be dropped into a random location anywhere mapped by Google Street View – I just explored a Lithuanian suburb. Who knows where you’ll end up and what inspiration you might find there. It’s kind of like going for a walk.
Excavate Your Bookmarks Folder
There’s never been a better time to open that folder in your bookmarks that’s full of the stuff you said you’d check out later and never did. You know the one. You probably don’t even remember what’s in there – maybe just the thing to unblock your creative impasse. Quick note if you use Pocket – and you should (they are arguably the best curators on the web) – you can access your Pocket bookmarks directly in your e-reader. Maybe a change of format will make you more likely to keep up with what you’ve saved for later.
The Cure to Overcoming Creative Block
No single one of these ideas is necessarily going to be the magic solution that helps you definitively overcome your creative block. They are more like building blocks for a holistic kind of creative inspiration toolkit that sustains itself in the long-term. Cultivating a set of dynamic and complementary practices will enable you to be more agile in overcoming creative block when it does strike. For some, a ritual or routine can foster creativity. For others, it might be chaos that does the trick.
The truest cure for creative block is…patience. Genius doesn’t come from nowhere – but its exact origins are ever changing and unknowable. So don’t stress. It takes time to have systemic breakthrough.
It’s about developing a toolkit of long-term strategies for creative fulfillment alongside “quick fixes” you can use in the spur moment to shift perspective.