If You’re Struggling To Overcome A Creative Block, Try This Simple Solution

It all started with a blank canvas in Microsoft Word. I was ready to type the funniest but most romantic love story in the entire universe, the one that would even make Aphrodite laugh, but I hesitated. When I finally forced myself to write something, my fingers danced on the keyboard, but soon after, I pressed the delete button constantly. I felt like my sentences were not good enough or that my idea was not strong enough to start. In the end, I spent five minutes just staring blankly at my spotless canvas.

Have you ever experienced that kind of time? If yes, well, been there, done that.

I grew up in a creative field: I write, I design, I take photos, etc. Mostly, I spend my days (even before Covid struck and everything became all-online in front of my desktop, roaming around the internet and taking a short trip from Illustrator to Word to Photoshop. Ideas used to come naturally, creative juices used to flow easily, but once I decided to step up my game by taking more jobs than I’m capable of, they’ve gone.

For those who work in similar fields, I’m pretty sure you all know about creative blocks: art block for designers, writer block for authors, or maybe other similar terms. It’s when you need to be creative, or when you want to be creative but are unable to be. It’s not that you didn’t want to, but simply that you couldn’t. Ideas don’t flood you anymore, dragging yourself to work feels overwhelming, the mood changes as fast as how your cat eats when she’s hungry, and every creative work you do just seems wrong.

Speaking from my experience, I often drown in a nightmare called “creative block” because of having too much on my plate. I’m usually a motivated and optimistic person, but for anything creative-related, it’s easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy to get unmotivated while you’re flooded with too many jobs. Other times, criticism (internally or externally) or even jealousy can be a great source of creative block–the fear of creating a not-so-called masterpiece. That’s for me, and of course, it’ll be different for other people.

The thing is: How do we overcome those creative blocks?

I have both good and bad news. The good news is, I would like to say that a creative block is completely normal. Another piece of good news is that it is only temporary—but, as Einstein once said, time is relative, and one day of creative block may feel like a decade to others. And I’m sure that you all didn’t want to be haunted by the creative block for eternity. The bad news: You can’t sit still while waiting for the water to turn into wine, AKA for the miracle to happen. You need to shake those creative blocks by yourself.

And here I am, writing this for all the creative warriors out there–also as a reminder for my dearest self.

First thing’s first—charge yourself and your creativity. Your creative brain is like a phone battery: the more you use it, the more it drains. The more you force it to stay awake with less than 10% power, the more your battery health is going to decrease. The moment you feel that your ideas are stuck, it is a reminder for you to charge. Try to stroll for some fresh inspiration. You’ll never have a new idea if you never try to explore different things. You can start by surfing around the internet, taking a peek at others’ portfolios, browsing Pinterest, or maybe reading more books or articles. It’s not a life-changing moment when you suddenly get the “AHA!” thingy, but you’re doing yourself a favor by charging your creativity with new perspectives and inspiration.

After you charge your (creative) battery, try to start your work. It doesn’t matter how small it is, but you must encourage yourself to start. It may be as small as writing random puns that don’t even rhyme. It may be as simple as dumping all the design elements onto one canvas. It may be as little as pure, mindless brushing. It doesn’t matter. You don’t need to create a masterpiece in one go. What matters is your presence, that you keep going. That first step might lead you to a bigger picture: either you continue that piece, or you think this piece needs to be reworked (or else it’ll end up in your computer trash). I would like to tell you that you don’t need to feel ashamed about redoing your work over and over again. As long as you keep trying, redo your work as much as you want, until you feel that this is the masterpiece.

If any of those above didn’t work out, maybe all you need is simply to rest. Maybe this creative block is not about you being unproductive but about you being too productive. That you have reached your limit. That this is the time when you need to slow down and take a rest. As your body needs sleep, your mind needs rest, and so does your creativity, which also needs a break. After all, looking at the same things over and over again may bore us and burn us out, while creativity is all about new things and being different.

Don’t feel sorry for yourself for taking a break. Forcing yourself to work harder will not bring any good to your creativity. You may stop stressing out over a blank Word or Photoshop. You may set aside all your creative-related things. You are allowed to watch that K-drama that has been on your watch list for a long time. You are allowed to go out, catch up with some friends, and go café hunting. You are allowed to be a couch potato, munching snacks while watching funny dog videos on YouTube. You are allowed to enjoy your life to the fullest, doing whatever makes you feel good. Giving yourself a break is one way to overcome your creative block. Enjoying your life while exploring new things may give you inspiration you’d never had before.

When you spare some time to pause and relax, you’re also honoring your hard work. Take a look back at your journey and give yourself a big bear hug for coming this far. Thank yourself for all the steps you’ve taken before, all the struggles and pain points you’ve conquered before, all the achievements and happiness you’ve gotten into before. Because you, deserve it. For some people like me, I gained my strength back after taking a break and looking back. Realizing that I’ve come this far despite all the challenges makes me feel so damn proud, greedy, and ready to come back from my creative block stronger than before.

The creative block has always been an annoying phase. But I would like to remind you that a creative block is normal. Don’t feel guilty for stopping being creative for a while. Take your time to recharge your creative battery. Take your time to explore things that worked and didn’t work. Take your time to start small and finish your work. Take your time to slow down and rest for a moment. Take your time to appreciate and honor yourself.

Because overcoming the creative block is not always about working harder than before; it may be about working slower than before. Just keep going, no matter how small your steps are.