You Haven't Lost Your Spark: Dealing with Creative Blocks
By Collin Funcannon
We’ve all been there before: we need an idea. Now. An insight into the lifestyle of a consumer, a hidden human truth–something, anything. But it just won’t come.
Every professional or aspiring member of the industry has felt this way at some point or another. No matter what we do, the big idea - the amazing, mind-blowing tactic or concept that’s going to change everything - is nowhere to be found. Sometimes inspiration simply evaporates, and we’re left staring at a blank computer screen or pad of paper. The only thing coming from our head is the hair we’re pulling out in frustration.
This feeling is, simply put, dreadful. A lack of inspiration often causes us to become stressed and frantic – pushing us even further from any sort of productive work. In these situations, I think the most important thing to note is that this experience is a completely natural and expected part of the creative process. Anyone who tells you that they don’t stress when their creative well dries up is lying; it’s an inevitable part of being in a field that demands constant ingenuity.
There are, however, some ways to combat both creative blocks and the stress that comes with them. Here are a few of my tried and true methods for sparking creativity when the thoughts simply won’t flow.
1. Walk Away: I know this might seem obvious, but one of the most beneficial things one can do when at a loss for ideas is to put the project down and do something else. Take a hot shower, go for a walk, read a novel – anything to get your mind off of the creative process. It’s important to note that if you’re feeling burnt out, you probably are. No one can create great work under these conditions. By allowing ourselves to walk away from the process, we give ourselves space to let creative thoughts back in.
2. Just Start Working: This may seem to be the exact opposite of my previous point, but bear with me. Once I’ve returned to my work, I like to start by writing down anything that comes to mind, even if it’s seemingly unrelated to the project at hand. Often, the most stressful part of not having an idea is staring at a blank page. It’s daunting (almost mocking, sometimes) and hinders our creative juices from flowing. It may seem cheesy, but Mary Poppins once said, “A job begun is half done,” and I couldn’t agree more.
3. See What Others Are Creating: In our current day and age, it’s easier than ever to view what other creators are doing. A quick Internet search can easily produce thousands of results brimming with inspiration. When I’m particularly pressed for an idea, I often find it helpful to see what inspires others. Sites such as Tumblr and Pinterest can show off some creative work, but my personal favorite outlet for inspiration is Google Trends. I particularly like this resource because it allows users to learn more about current events in culture and what people are talking about at any given point in time. Learning more about trends can sometimes be the match needed to spark creative thought and generate an insight.
4. Lather, Rinse, Repeat: I already mentioned the benefits of a hot shower (seriously, it’s a great way to stimulate creativity) but what I’m referring to here is the process of continually creating work, editing it, and striving for something better. Don’t be upset when your first few ideas aren’t perfect. They shouldn’t be. What matters is that we, as creators, continue to strive for our best work and put in the hours to achieve it.
The creative process is a difficult path to travel – it often leads to many twists, turns and dead ends. But, at the end of the day, know that you’re capable. What may seem like a fruitless process at times could spark an idea that is truly revolutionary. And yes, it does get stressful at times, but the payoff is worth it.