How to avoid creative block5 min read
Whether you’re only an occasional creator or that creating stuffs and « putting things out there » is the way you make a living, we have all been confronted at some point, with creative block. The writer’s block, or as they call it in French “le syndrome de la page blanche”, this horrible moment when you stare at the black cursor of your mouse blinking on the empty document you intended to fill. In this post I’ll dive in ways to get out of it when it happens.
Start by getting inspired
Alright so, I’m sorry to break it down to you but, you can’t exactly reinvent the wheel. I mean, maybe you can, by all means but… what’s the point? As Steve Jobs (who in turn took it from Picasso) puts it ‘Good artists copy; great artists steal’. We live in a world that was built on top of another one, no idea is ever really original, it’s just taking another idea further, with our own creative inputs, and even this one will be stolen in the future.
John de Salisbury (then copied by Newton) said : « We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours. »
So I’d suggest you to steal as much as you can, get inspired, see what’s happening out there. It’s only then, once you build your own idea of what exist that you can see what you can add, what you can contribute. For example, when I don’t know how to design something, I’ll spend hours moodboard on Pinterest, Dribble, Awwwards and other websites until at last, I have the « aha » moments I was waiting for.
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An interesting step that we often overlook and that can’t be applied in pretty much any field. When you can’t directly come with the perfect testers, drawing or code, and find yourself lost in thoughts just outline. Brainstorm all of your ideas onto the paper, see how they fit together and reorganize them.
« There is a simple but profound principle that emerges from understanding the way your perceptive filters work: you won’t see how to do it until you see yourself doing it. » – David Allen in *Getting Things Done*
Most of the time, this single step will give you enough clarity to start creating right away. And, even it doesn’t in the moment and you decide to take some distance from your work, it will be quite helpful and easier in the future.
Just do it
Well there is nothing more to add to that title, is there? Once you’re done with getting inspired and outlining, the only thing left to do is actually to sit down and do the work. You can’t escape it, so you should rather see it as an opportunity to do your best and to channel with your inner creative self.
One thing particularly helps me to reduce the pressures n that moment: I just write everyday. So, when the time comes, my brain is already set up, it knows the drill. Besides, writing a bit everyday and far from any deadline helps me take some distance with my work: it’s not some finished product I have hand over to anyone immediately. No, for now it’s just my craft, my little playground where I can have fun doing what I love.
First make it functional, then make it pretty
While designing, writing or developing something with code, I often get confronted with creative block. I like to create outstanding products and things that will blow away people but, that’s the very problem : usually I (and I imagine that you also) focus too much on the end output and not on the craft. But, you can’t make something perfect, if you have nothing to work on in the first place !
That’s why, as much as I can, when I’m in the creative process (as opposed to the editing/refining one), I try to focus as much as possible on the function. As ugly as it could seem, do I have an article that tells an interesting story and gets to the point? Does my design or my code meets the basics requirements? Before trying to perfect anything, I try to make sure I have something to begin with. First make it functional, then make it pretty. As soon as you have a head, a body to your craft, you can start modelling, not before.
To prevent being confused about what is functional and what isn’t, sometimes, I use checklists.
Step away from your work
Lastly, sometimes it is important to take some distance with the work you’re creating. If you truly can’t make significant progress, it’s possible that… you’re too emotionally involved. Whether it’s stress for a deadline or guilt for any reason, it won’t help you. So, the best thing to do in the moment is usually to step away from it : get take a shower, a walk around the block, spend time with your loved ones. If you do, I’m 99% sure, you’ll be inspired when you get back.
Thank you for reading! What about you? What are some tips and tricks you have to fight creative block when it happens?