Web designers are, by nature, creative. And one of the facts of the creative life is creative fatigue. Whether it’s physical tiredness, boredom, a sense of being overwhelmed, or just a lack of inspiration, facing a creative block can happen to anyone, at any time.
Fortunately, creativity is like a muscle that can be flexed and strengthened. If you’re facing some creative fatigue or just brain-drain in general, there are some creative exercises you can do to get your thinker re-energized and ready to go. We’ve included a few ideas here, with a hot lead on 40 more.
Make a list
Feeling stuck? Make a list of at least 10 ideas that would solve whatever problem you have. Write down anything that comes to mind, even if it’s completely ridiculous. Androids to deliver materials? Pills that remove a biological need? Mandatory coursework in XYZ? Think about what would improve your brain-drain situation right now and come up with some solutions. The more you do this and have fun with it, the more creative you’ll be. Bonus tips for coming up with a new list of anything, every day, a la James Altucher. What gadget is the world missing? What are the components of the perfect web design software package? What can you have/do to be on time always? You get the idea.
If what you’re up against feels like screen fatigue, take it offline. Get some white paper, pastel paper (I think best with light pink), or a sketch pad — whatever you have on hand or prefer. Find an open flat surface, like a table or counter, and start drawing. Draw out your ideas for a possible solution and see which ones end up being viable ideas.
If you’re knee-deep in a design project and can’t figure out how to solve the issues, use the SCAMPER protocol. SCAMPER is a series of questions that help you identify issues and test possible solutions. It’s great for getting yourself out of a creative rut and doing some proactive problem-solving at the same time. It was developed for product designers and manufacturers, but this breakdown makes it really accessible for more visually creative work, too.
Plan something different
You’re a web designer, sure, but what other creative outlets do you enjoy? If you’re a writer, try a writing exercise like the 6-word story, or writing about every mental image that comes to mind, stream-of-consciousness style, until you hit 1000 words. If you do graphic design, take a well-known company and come up with a few new logos, or think about a new design for the street signs that annoy you the most. If you consider yourself an artist, do some sketching. Or if you’ve got the manually creative gene, plan out a new project for your knitting needles, power tools, or sewing machine.
Have some small supplies in your workspace that let you build creatively. Think LEGO, modeling clay, toothpicks and glue, or (my personal favorite) plus-plus. Whenever you have trouble pushing through a creative slump, pull out your tinker of choice and see what a little bit of 3D creation does for you.
See the invisible
Look around and find hidden shapes or images in things. Use a Sharpie and draw a squiggle, then make a picture out of the squiggle. Look for shapes in the clouds. Find faces in the scuff marks on the wall, in a colleague’s patterned shirt, or in the wood grain on your desk or floor. You get the idea.
Do things with your non-dominant hand that you’d usually do with your dominant one. This is a great long-term strategy for strengthening your creativity. Brush your teeth, wield a fork, dial the phone, or button your buttons with the opposite hand. The more you do this (and the more consistently), the stronger your cross-hemisphere communication will be in your brain, and the more creative you’ll be. And for a quick fix, take 30 seconds and shift your eyes horizontally back and forth. Research indicates that doing this boosts creativity immediately.
Take a break
Whether you believe in the power nap or not, a break from the screen can help. Put your head down and close your eyes for 10 minutes, go for a walk outside, or do some stretching and breathing. Detach from your technology — no checking the phone!
Don’t stop here
Creativity is something that comes and goes, whether we like it or not. Having a go-to creativity boost is good, but there’s no shortage of things to try when you need to re-energize your brain. Want more ideas? You can find a bunch more right here.
What’s your go-to creativity hack? Share in the comments!