Being creative on-demand is almost the complete antithesis of creativity. However, many designers and creatives, including myself, face this challenge daily.
Whether you’re working on something vocational, client-led or a passion project, we all have those moments where we feel uninspired — dragging our feet to get going and come up with a great concept or creative idea that we can feel proud of; particularly when a deadline is looming.
Below is a list of some things that may help combat that stagnant feeling — and get you inspired and excited about a project when a creative roadblock has been hit.
Get inspired. Go out and find your inspiration. Go for a walk or even a photo-walk, look for things that evoke something in you. Go to a museum or exhibition, especially if it’s unrelated to your creative project. I have found the best ideas occur when looking at my creative problem from a completely different viewpoint, and sometimes seeking that viewpoint is the key. Inspiration is literally everywhere!
If you’re in a situation where you can’t easily get up and go somewhere, social media and the Internet are bursting with ideas. The best way to find the things that relate, is choosing the right language for your search. Check the keywords people are using online for similar projects and use those words to enhance and evolve your search. Try searching for less obvious things related to your project too, such as colors, materials, environment or positioning.
Just start with playing and experimenting, trying a different medium, or even a different creative discipline. Such as writing, photography, ceramics or painting, for example. You could try a class to make that leap into a new creative field or try things on your own. Don’t set out with the intention of creating a finished piece, just try things out. Stop when you’ve had enough with that thing and move on to something else or introduce something new into the mix. Just getting going will set off a creative spark. It’s a journey of exploration — you don’t know what you’re going to find along the way.
“It’s a journey of exploration — you don’t know what you’re going to find along the way.”
Brainstorm. I cannot emphasize enough how good it is to bounce ideas off people. Everyone has a completely different view of the world and their opinion might be completely different to yours. But be open to hearing other’s thoughts and ideas. Blocking their ideas because you’re stuck on your own, will mean you’re not getting anything out of the brainstorm. With brainstorming, it’s about quantity over quality, you can refine the ideas in the next phase.
Kids are incredible for creative inspiration as they are not yet bound by adult expectations. Ask for their input if you have any around. Even if you can’t actually source a flying unicorn made of cupcakes, there is always a way to make things happen.
Get up, get out, go somewhere, do something else, be active. It has been proven that when doing physical exercise, your mind rests — it can be somewhat meditative, as your focus is mainly on the activity you are doing. So, when you come back to your project, you’ll look at it with fresh eyes.
Don’t feel bad for taking time away, it’s absolutely part of the creative process. Personally, I need mental space to be creative; forced creativity is the nature of my job as a designer, but my best work always comes from when I can give myself time and mental space. If you have other unfinished tasks that are weighing on your mind, get through some of those first, and come back to your creative project when your mind is clearer.
If you’re still struggling, figure out what’s holding you back. Try and break apart the project into pieces and figure out which is the element that is causing you stress. You can always get creative with the other pieces first and come back to the challenging element later.
Often the only real problem is ourselves. Negative internal dialogue and our own expectations can lower self-confidence and can be the main reason for the roadblock in the first place. To try and get out of this negative cycle, think about a creative project you worked on or collaborated on that you feel really proud of. There will have been times even in the most successful projects where you felt stuck or had a problem to overcome, and you did, so be proud and apply that pride and optimism to your current project. Yes, it’s a little cheesy, but emotion has so much to do with creativity, make it work for you!
Finally, don’t be bound by the brief. Think as big as you want; you can always rein it in later. When I am designing for a client, I usually will present them with three approaches — the crazy off-the-wall but big impact idea, the safe (and often less interesting) idea, and then something in the middle.
See how you get on, try and take some of the pressure off yourself, and good luck!