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What to do when you experience creative block

| By: Flavia Mayer (Illustrator / design support @ Briefbox)

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Creative blocks. We’ve all been there. Working with design everyday and within busy studios a lot of us can experience creative ruts. Especially when the pressure is on and we are required to turn up and be creative everyday. Though don’t panic! These phases come and go over time and  hopefully with these top tips below, we can help you to get through these blocks in a less painful and time consuming way!

Now, not all of us can afford to take a sabbatical year as Stefan Sagmeister does with his studio every 7 years. But there are day-to-day practices that can to help nurture ourselves with genuine inspiration. One of the things that helped me open my eyes, to this process, was a workshop I did with Anna Bianchi, based on the book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. (By the way, this is where the quotes in the image come from..!) In this book, you go through a 12 week course with different exercises and tasks that help you to get back in touch with your creative inner self, which can get so easily lost within the routine of our lives. It’s a good read for everyone creatively minded!

And so, based on Cameron’s book and our experience in the studio, here are some of the main things that will help you to get back on track!

1. Recognise it

Occasionally, as designers, we can be working from a place of denial. We assume that we can’t be stuck creatively as a designer! We are creatives by ‘nature’ and importantly we need this creativity to make a living! Forget about the others, about work, about clients, and really check in with yourself. Ask yourself if you are truly being creative? Are you still having fun when you’re designing? If your immediate answer is not yes, then you have work to do! Look out for little clues, such as how long you spend procrastinating, spending time on social media sites, TV, eating etc… We all have those little addictions that we use to avoid our real feelings.

2. Be compassionate with yourself

One of the things we can immediately start doing, as soon as we think we are creatively stuck, is to start punishing ourselves. We can get angry for having all these nice ideas in our heads and then not really doing any of them – but spend 3 hours on Facebook instead. Don’t get angry. Try to investigate why you don’t feel like putting in practice all these nice ideas you know you have. Cameron talks about something called ‘the Censor’ – that little voice we have in our head saying “Oh, your illustrations are not that great” or “Are you gonna post this? People will laugh at you”, usually connected with things we’ve heard sometime in our lives and made our fears grow bigger. Allow yourself a bit of space and time boost your confidence. Ignore what your ‘Censor’ is telling you and let things flow a bit more. One great exercise that the book suggests in beating ‘the Censor’ is writing 3 pages every morning. It doesn’t matter if you don’t write very well, that your handwriting is not nice or you don’t have anything interesting to write, just write whatever comes to your mind as soon as you wake up, fill three A4 pages with your thoughts (I know, it seems a lot, but persevere with it!). Don’t let the Censor guide you. With time, your ideas will flood back and you won’t even notice that they were gone.

3. Have fun!

Cameron’s key to creativity is the inner child. Children are creative without any effort, with a seemingly limitless imagination. As we grow up, we shut it down, learn to be realistic, to be an adult. Reconnect with this inner child, be silly and have fun. The book suggests you have an Artist Date every week: do something fun by yourself, take your own child to play. It can be baking a cake, watching a movie, playing with a dog, painting, climbing a tree, anything. Try to think about things you used to do when you were a child. Have fun and let your creativity flow without any judgement. This will help you get your confidence back and may even lead to great ideas. Being too serious is boring!

4. Be inspired

Inspiration is everywhere. But it only comes if you pay attention! Cameron talks about filling up this well: go on a walk and pay attention to the trees, the flowers; listen to a good piece of music; go to the beach; hear the birds singing; go and see a good exhibition… Be mindfull. These little things will feed your soul and provide you with endless inspiration.

5. Believe in yourself

Pay attention to your environment, keep up the playfullness and check in with yourself now and again. All these things will help you to get back on track and start believing in yourself. Try putting these little things in practice everyday, and the creativity will flow naturally through your work. The key is to balance the fun and the responsibilities: set goals, organize yourself, but also trust your imagination and crazy ideas. Or as Cameron summarizes, “Creativity lives in paradox: serious art is born from serious play”.

Creativity is not something mechanical, that you can turn on or off, that you can learn maths or science. So it’s essential to be connected with yourself and also to be surrounded by good people! We’re constantly asking each other advices here at the studio. There’s nothing like a fresh pair of eyes and a bit of constructive criticism to help your work progress – something which Briefbox is here to help you with! Do a little bit of all of this everyday and I’m sure the creative juices will start to flow!

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