Many of you would have had creative blocks at least once in your life, and its not a pleasant experience. Recently, I was in a creative rut for the longest time ever.
For 3 weeks, I couldn’t produce anything concrete and interesting. Every time I come up with something new, I kept telling myself it isn’t good enough. As soon as I open my Adobe XD file, the same overwhelming feeling that has been haunting me the previous day comes back again.
I started to research about creative blocks and how I could overcome them. On the 4th week, something just clicked miraculously and I was back in the game.
And ironically, the creative block I’ve had inspired me to write this article.
What is a Creative Block?
Creative blocks happen when people, especially those in the creative professions, find that they are unable to produce something. Its as though a barrier has been placed between them and their inspiration. Sometimes, they can get trapped in this rut for days, weeks or even years.
In some situations, people push themselves to continue churning out new ideas not knowing that it only makes it even worse than it already is. As a result, they get anxious and constantly beat themselves up, creating a much BIGGER block.
Why Do Creative Blocks Happen (& How to Overcome Them)
To understand how to overcome a creative block, we first have to understand the reasons that cause it to happen. Creative blocks can happen for several reasons:
#1: Too Much Self-Doubt
“I don’t think my work is anything. There are so many designers out there who are way better than I am. Maybe I’m just not a cut out for this…”
I’m sure you’ve had thoughts similar to the one above. I have these thoughts occasionally too.
Self-doubt is the #1 reason for most creative blocks. When confidence levels hit an all time low, you start to question your design abilities and compare yourself to other designers. Many call this the Imposter Syndrome.
Self-doubt is perfectly normal! People tend to associate this feeling as negative. But if you could internalise it positively – that you still have room for improvement, and use that as motivation to grow, you will find yourself bursting with confidence.
To be very honest, I used to hesitate posting my articles or broadcast them on social media because I wasn’t confident of them. I doubted my writing skills and there were many moments of me hovering over the “post” button. But a wise friend told me to:
“JUST DO IT. You are not going to learn anything if you write and not show it to people.”
That, hit me hard.
#2: Personal Problems
When you are going through something personal such as a break up, divorce or death, it causes you to lose focus on whatever you are working on. Creativity demands focus. There is no easy way to concentrate when you are going through personal problems.
The best way to overcome creative blocks due to personal problems is to either solve it or find ways to cope with it. If you choose the first option, you may want to seek help from family and friends, or even take time away from all creative work it it helps.
If you choose to latter, you could try to focus your energy somewhere else that doesn’t require as much creativity. Perhaps spending a few hours outdoors, soaking up the Vitamin D could help. On some occasions, people turn to their creative work as refuge.
But you do you! Find the best way that can help you with your personal problems and do not shy away from professional help if needed.
#3: All Creative Energy Have Been Used Up
Creative work can be extremely draining especially when it takes you a long time to complete it. In that period of time, all your creative energy is channeled to your work. Perhaps a few late nights, some mental breakdowns in between or a little adrenaline rush towards the end of the project.
After you deliver the final product, your body succumbs to the sleep and rest you’ve been putting on hold.
That was me!
Looking back to those 3 weeks, I can confidently say that this was the reason for my creative block. Before finding myself on a downward spiral, I was managing a client’s project while working on 2 creative assignments for school.
By the time I was done with all the work, I was extremely exhausted, mentally. Because I’ve dedicated ALL my energy towards the 3 deadlines.
Give yourself time to recover. The more you push yourself, the more you find that you’re unable to produce anything under the immense pressure.
Something I did regularly during those 3 weeks of recuperation was reading! It is a great way to relax and stimulate your mind in a non-pressuring way.
Reading also helps expand your knowledge and widen your imagination. It opens up your mind to fresh ideas and new possibilities that could be helpful in reducing creative blocks!
#4: Fear of Rejection & Criticism
Rejection and criticism are the top two fears of designers. The fear of getting your work rejected by a huge client or receiving criticisms from your colleagues can suppress your creativity, and lead to procrastination.
I had my struggles with this too. I feared putting myself out there because I was afraid of being turned down. I could not take the idea of having my work rejected after spending so much time and effort on it.
But this also shows that I cared about my work. The very fact that I care so much about it means something.
The best way to overcome creative blocks caused by rejection and criticism is to accept them graciously. Use them to motivate yourself.
As William Whewell once said:
“Every failure is a step to success”
In the design industry, there is no way anybody gets away without hearing a “NO” once in their life. All of us start somewhere. I believe rejections and criticisms are the stepping stones towards success. It is through failure that we learn from our mistakes.
When you learn to channel the rejections and criticisms into improving your work, you are already on your way to reduce those creative blocks and becoming a better designer!
The Bottom Line
There are a lot more reasons to why people find themselves in a creative rut. Self-doubt, personal problems, burn-out and, the fear of rejections and criticisms are just a few of them. If you are suffering from a lack of creativity, know that this is normal. Most importantly, do not stress yourself out.
Try to look into the root cause and tackle it. Move on to another project that does not require a whole lot of creative thinking if it helps! Go outdoors and get some fresh air! Find and experiment different ways to overcome it.
Its best if you don’t experience creative blocks but if you do, I hope this article can help you in some way!
Have you suffered from a creative block before? How did you overcome it? Share with me in the comments section below!