3 Steps I Take to Overcome Creative Block

No one is immune from what I will simply call a creative block. These blocks can be momentary and episodic or dangerously stubborn and prolonged.

Typically a block will express itself when you’re staring at a blank page (or screen) and your usual stream of unending ideas just doesn’t flow. Not a trickle, sometimes not even one small drop. So there you are with a blank stare and questions like:
I have to come up with something soon, what am I going to do? Or, why does this suddenly feel so stale?

A Different Way to Think About Creative Block

These types of questions or thoughts are part of the problem, I think. In some ways the question your creative block is really asking is: Why is this project so important to me? Why have my standards elevated for it?

Creativity is a required daily element of my work and has been for many years. I generally expect it to be there when I need it. Now when I experience creative block it has become a trigger to me that it’s time to step things up a notch. The block is an interruption in the flow telling me I’ve got a new opportunity to grow creatively.

3 Things That Work for Me

So what are some practical ways to tap into the idea that creative block is just an interruption staging a potentially new, higher level of creativity? Here are three things I have found very valuable in breaking through creative block. They work for me and might be worth a try for you.

1. Make the Problem a Challenge

First, redefine the problem into a challenge statement. A challenge is more inspiring than the negative slog of a problem. A good challenge also adds an element of fun. It can also bring added energy to accept a challenge, rather than solve yet another problem. It’s like the attitude you might take to a chore like mowing your yard. You can look at it as an unpleasant task to be checked off the list, or you can present it as a challenge to yourself: how good can I actually make this yard look? It affects both your enjoyment of the work and the quality of the finished project.

2. Step Away from the Challenge

Second, step away. Far away. Forget about it completely. Leave it alone. But before you allow the subconscious to start working its magic on it, take one more deep dive into the facts and issues related to the creative challenge that you are blocked on. This deep dive is crucial in resetting the baseline to attack the challenge with more knowledge. One of the best sources of nutrition for creativity is knowledge fueled by curiosity.

3. Play with More Intensity

Be ready to work extra hard. (Think of it as playing the game with more intensity.) Ideas are dangerous, they are sometimes just good enough to stop you before you get to the very good, or great idea. Keep working even when you think you found an answer. Make it better, make it simpler, make it more original.
The more years I spend working in a creative capacity, the more I have come to appreciate simplicity. The simplest solution is often the best, but the word simple does not mean easy.

There are many excellent blogs on creativity and getting over a creative block. I wanted to limit my discussion to the simple three steps that have ultimately worked best for me.

Here are three other resources that may help you think differently about creativity and spark some renewed energy and ideas for you.

  1. The Psychology of Creativity: How to Come Up With More Creative Ideas & Beat Creative Block, Sparring Mind, @GregoryCiotti
  2. You are not your brain, Fantastic Machine, @peninasharon
  3. Do You Recognize These 10 Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking? @copyblogger
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Patrick Strother

Patrick founded Strother Communications Group (SCG) in 1992. His background is unique in that he has led both a public relations firm (Rowland Worldwide – Midwest) and an ad agency (Cevette and Company.) SCG was founded on the premise that […] Read Bio »


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