It’s an interesting thing, creative block, isn’t it? As I sit here staring at the blinking cursor, I find myself struggling about what it is I’m actually trying to say, imagine that! I’ve done a lot of research on inspiration ruts, creative block, mental block, writers block, whatever you prefer to call it and I’ve found strategies on strategies on strategies to remove it.
In doing this research, I learned that certain mental barriers to completing a task exist [if you’d like to learn more about them and how to remove them, check out this article by Mark McGuiness on 99u]. This is just one person’s take on a much larger issue, but this article gives some really well thought out solutions.
Do you know the muffin man?
Most of my experiences with creative block come from a lack of constraints. Whenever someone gives me carte blanche to build/design/plan something, I quickly overwhelm myself with details and ideas. I will literally sit in front of my computer for hours on end “researching” competitors, current trends, colors, etc. This doesn’t serve anyone and I should be spending this time actually going out there and talking to people to find out more about the project I’m working on. However, sometimes that isn’t always an option. And sometimes I get into this mentally unmotivated position I don’t even feel like coming up with the appropriate questions or talking to anyone.
I know you’re thinking, “Jacklyn, that’s your job!” and you’re right, it is, but when I get into these dark periods I tend to shut down. Whenever I’m feeling stuck, I find a way to become unstuck; I bake! It’s probably one of the most incredible block removers for me because I have a very clear set of directions I need to follow. I don’t know why it works and I certainly don’t pretend to know how, I just embrace it for it is.
This groundbreaking solution came about when a dear friend of mine used to bring scones into the office. I’d always grab one like the nasty little sugar-addicted UXer that I am and then ask about the occasion. He would always tell me he was stuck on some design and following specific instructions really helped him break through it and complete the work. I used to make fun of him for it, but now it’s a technique that I cannot live without.
Walk it out.
Baking is how I deal with lack of constraints on projects, but when I’m working on something a bit different, like not understanding the way a chunk of code works, I have another strategy. Behold, my lovely blog readers, my strategy for wading through code: I get out from under my laptop and I walk the dog! It turns out that changing my surroundings, going outside, getting some fresh air and talking to other human beings helps my mind to release the frustration with what I was working on. Plus, the exercise ain’t so bad and neither is the socialization.
About two weeks ago I was super stuck on a blog template I was trying to help a friend with. I’m no developer, but I can get around code pretty well (some of my developer friends may disagree- oye Blumish), but it definitely takes me a while to understand and manipulate it. I was working on the same element for at least two solid hours when Autumn jumped in my lap and started licking my screen (I don’t know why she does this, but it drives me bonkers and clearly elicits the reaction that she wants from me). We ended up walking down to the dog park and spending an hour there. I love it when I can afford an hour or two in the park with her because when it comes time to sit back down and get cracking, she’s tuckered out and I can concentrate.
[Having a dog is fantastic for a number of reasons, but helping to remind me I need to take breaks is definitely a nice little bonus.]
Obvs this would be included in my creative block list. I live without dancing about as well as most people could live without oxygen [see what I did there?]. Sometimes I just need to get up and move and feel the music. There is nothing like breaking a sweat to a funky beat when you’re getting down on yourself for not pumping out creative juices like you want to be doing.
As a creative, there is an overwhelming amount of pressure on us to create all the time, after all, it’s what we do, right? Here’s the thing: creativity happens when it happens and our brains become exhausted [how many designers do you see at your local coffee shop?]. Creative block isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I look at it as a sign that I need to give my brain a rest because my work isn’t going to get better if I’m wasting time spinning my wheels. The keys, in my opinion, to maintaining a creatively healthy mind are to create constantly [this could be anything from websites, to products, to baked goods, to furniture] and to learn how and when you do your best work [your environment, time of day, down to the clothes you’re wearing].
Suggested Downloading/Reading/Watching [I couldn’t think of a song lyrics for this heading].
Overcoming Creative Block by Alex Cornell: Alex asked some of today’s most incredible artists how they deal with creative block.
Sometimes all you need is a bit of a spiritual smack; I suggest you watch these videos.
[photo credit: instagram photos of things I’ve baked during a creative block and Autumn because she’s cute]