Out of steam. Out of juice. Out of gas.
Whenever you make a profession out of a creative endeavor, there comes a time when you just run out. Everything begins to look the same, and nothing feels interesting, let alone inspired.
When you get in a creative rut – and it happens to all of us – getting back on track is a matter of taking a new approach to your work. Or, in some cases, abandoning it altogether. These are some of my very best suggestions for climbing out of a creative rut.
Remove the obstacles in your way
Give it five minutes. If your creative well has run dry right at the beginning, one way to get going is to commit to working on the project for just five or 10 minutes. It’s often easier to keep moving once you get started, but facing five minutes is much easier to do mentally than to go up against an entire project.
If what’s keeping you from funneling creative energy into your project is distraction, eliminate the distractions. Drown out the noises irritating you, try sitting in a more comfortable chair, or get a blanket to warm you up. Take a pen and write down every last thing rolling around in your head so you don’t have to use up any energy trying to remember it all. You may even find it beneficial to knock out some of the smaller tasks on your list, just to clear them off your plate.
Focus on something else
Browse your inspiration files. Peek at the things that have inspired you in the past. Observe them objectively and see what you notice. Follow what speaks to you, and see what new ideas crop up.
If that’s not working, head over to Pinterest and build yourself a new board. Do a search for keywords related to the project (like a color or an idea) and see what jumps out to you in the images that pop up.
Take a new approach
Switch media. If you’re stuck on the computer screen with nothing working out, pick up a pencil and paper to make some sketches. If you’re working on font pairings and hating every combination, experiment with some hand lettering. I’m especially a fan of doing something with your hands to get my creative juices flowing.
Try taking the opposite approach to what you’re doing. If you’re trying to work up something light and feminine, step back and play around with ideas that are bold and edgy instead. Or pick a problem – related to your project or not – and come up with 10 potential solutions to it. These solutions don’t necessarily have to be serious or reasonable, but by the time you get a list of 10, you’ll have a few real winners.
Another idea: think about all the “rules” applying toward your project, or even your basic sense of “good design,” and then find ways to break them. Be radical! Be ludicrous. At best, you’ll have a sense of what to do by exploring what not to do, and at worst, you’ll have a fun diversion.
Change your scene
Get up and do something else. It’s no secret that sometimes the best ideas pop up in the shower, so use the opportunity to wash the old, negative energy off and give some space for new ideas. Similarly, taking on a cleaning project might have the same effect, with the added bonus of a newly freshened space.
The outdoors are rife with inspiration, so relocate your work outside, or take a little while off to go for a walk and see what you find. Being out in the open air will open up your mind; employing your physical energy will get your creative energy moving as well. Consider kicking your excursion up a level or two and getting some exercise. The endorphins flooding your system will fuel your creativity.
And, of course, if you’re blocked because you’re tired, get some rest. Take a nap, or call it quits for the day.
Bring your other senses into play
When your eyes and/or your hands aren’t getting it done in the creative department, let your ears do some of the heavy lifting. Introduce some music — energizing or soothing, whichever works best for you. Or try a new podcast or TED Talk to get you thinking creatively in a new way.
Another way to have a creative breakthrough is to bring in another person. Call up a colleague and talk about what you’re working on. It’s amazing what breakthroughs you can have when you start bouncing ideas off someone else.
Try something new
When you’re stuck in a creative rut, usually the least effective thing is to keep doing exactly what you’re doing and waiting for inspiration to strike. “Many times the key to overcoming a creative rut is to switch gears and try something different. ”
These are just a few ideas to get you started. What works best for you?