Dealing with creative block.

Dan Mall
Dan Mall
Aug 17, 2015 · 3 min read

Anyone who creates anything faces it. It’s inevitable, and part of the process. So, how do you face creative block head on?

You switch.

One of the biggest factors that I’ve seen lead to my own creative block is the lack of momentum. I might be working on a design or a piece of writing where nothing good is happening, and finally progress grinds to a halt.

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Creation is about inertia. Like Newton’s first law of motion, it’s most difficult to make progress when none is being made, and it’s easiest to make more progress when you’re already on a roll.

When you’re stuck on a design, lots of people suggest getting away from your desk: take a walk, put on some music, watch some tv — essentially, take a break and come back. While it’s great to be able to clear your mind, starting from scratch again makes it more difficult to create momentum. It’s the difference between pushing a boulder that’s already slowly rolling and trying to budge one that’s standing still.

My solution: work on at least two projects at the same time. Whenever I feel myself slowing down progress on project #1, I’ll switch over to project #2. I get all the benefits of starting fresh on something new, but I still have the opportunity to continue whatever momentum I already have. Certainly, there’s a toll to task-switching, but I’ve found it to be less costly than coming back to the boulder at a standstill.

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Some examples of things to work on simultaneously:

  • A mobile view and desktop view of a site
  • Two different pages of a site, like a Product page and a Products landing page
  • Two different disciplines, like a site map and a comp for the same project
  • Two completely different client projects, like a homepage for an ecommerce site and a homepage for a news site
  • A mix of responsibilities, like a homepage for a client project and a homepage for a personal project

In doing this, you’ll start to notice some efficiencies, like some challenges across both that you could solve the same way. You’ll also find that the differences between what you’re doing become clearer, and you can approach them with more clarity.

I’ve been doing this for a while, so I regularly work on 4–5 things at a time. Through practice, I’m pretty honed in on the point where I’m being less productive than I’d like to be, so I switch fairly frequently. Coincidentally, I haven’t felt like I’ve faced creative block in a long time.

Your mileage may vary, but consider giving this a try next time you’re feeling stuck.

How do you deal with creative block?

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