10+ Tips on Combating Creative Block
Thanks to readers for responding to my last blog post:
Tracy Graves, digital + social media consultant
When I’m stuck, the world easily descends into a maelstrom of despair. And then, to re-jigger myself, I spend oodles of time looking at other people’s work. I try and take the pressure off and create something for myself instead of for a client. I read something utterly escapist and don’t worry about whether I’m intellectually furthering myself. And most importantly, I accept the fact that I need to get at least 5 crappy versions of something out of the way, and then something will emerge worth keeping.
Christopher Harting, photographer + philosopher
@ Christopher Harting Studio
Go to Manhattan. Walk around and look at stuff. Drink coffee. Walk around some more. But you know the truth? I never have that problem. Never, ever, ever.
John DiCocco, creative director, writer + editor
(and reporter for the Tiny Mind Gazette)
I’m pretty fortunate in that I have rarely suffered this dreaded event, except when writing ad copy. And when that occurs, I have a standby tactic. I start asking outlandish questions:
“What if the whole thing was blue?”
“What if your parents spoke two different languages and you didn’t understand either one?”
“What if you knew everything that was going to happen one hour ahead of time?”
“What’s the worst that could happen—I mean, really, the WORST?
Okay, backtrack from there. “What if it/he/the nation were twice/half as big/small/loud/dense/bright etc?”
Michael Calienes, creative director + copywriter
Self-induced water boarding.
Cuban music in the background.
Kelley Rugg, producer, director, writer + videographer
@ Rowboat Productions
Creativity is not about making or forcing but about allowing and trusting, and so what I do when I feel any type of block is understand that I am causing it by trying too hard… so then I let go, get out of the way, and absolutely keep going.
Trebor Healey, poet + novelist
I think it’s best to shift your surroundings, take a trip, small or big, spend time in nature…go to museums, dance performances, concerts…other creative ventures will inspire your own, will put you in the creative reality. If all else fails, revisit your favorite writers’ or artists’ work like a bee dropping in on the hive of honey and you will once again know how to get to the flowers you seek.
Doug Eymer, creative director + designer
@ EYMER Design Laboratories + Think Tank
Procrastination is such a negative term. I prefer to think of it as getting all of your ducks in a row.
Here’s the real dear, you awake from hibernation in a cranky mood. Your immediate reaction to EVERYTHing is: “I’m right, the LOSERS that have been grinding their teeth all winter are WRONG!”
So, because you have been asleep and avoiding the family check book, you stand at the very end of the protective barriers and say, “So What! I have been dead for the last couple of months, what is the difference in a few eternal centuries more?”
Doug Williams, writer + director
@Writeous Outrage and FUSE5
Here’s one from the director I worked with in NY during my playwriting days. She said the best way to beat block was to find famous quotes on the subjects (or themes) you’re writing about, and then make them your own.
The quotes serve as idea factories that 1) give you another perspective; 2) take you in a direction you’d likely have never found yourself; and 3) reinvigorate the internal creative process by making you think about something familiar in a completely different way. I’ve been doing that for years – in screenplays, novels, speeches, PR/marketing, online writing, et al – and it’s never failed me once.
David Game, academic publisher (+ nice husband)
Terence Rattigan, British playwright, was advised to join the RAF [Royal Air Force] to cure writer’s block.
When in doubt or stuck, I doodle. Doodling to me is active so it literally gets me going. It’s my physical technique to kick start a mental stream of consciousness. Since my doodles are not even worthy of being called a sketch, they are uninhibited and uncensored. Also, I use scraps of paper, napkins, recycled printed sheets, anything that has no feeling of preciousness whatsoever, not even post-its or sketchbooks. (Think about how many artists who like to flaunt and show off their “sketchbooks.”) Start here, there, or anywhere – JUST DOODLE IT. As Bucky Fuller once said, “How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else.”