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Design Talk: Breaking the Creative Block

Tyler Zenk Sr Designer Heashot

By Tyler Zenk | January 2019

How every workday goes, right?

Come into the office, hit your groove, and get those creative juices flowing and you just start churning out amazing work. You never get stuck and everything you make is better than the last. The days fly by and you never hit a roadblock or lack creativity.

If only that was how it worked.

The reality is there are times you just get stuck, there is this invisible block in front of you and you just can’t seem to get past it. Your creative fuel is on E and everything you create sucks or what you do make just starts to become stale and uninspired.

Where do creative blocks come from?

These blocks are self-created. One way they get created is that you begin thinking too much and your brain just gets in the way. You overthink things and fall back to the comfort zone of not doing anything.

Maybe you are afraid you are gonna make something terrible or what other people will think of it. So you procrastinate and make excuses and end up not making anything.

An image of a pink Creative Block smashed to pieces.

How to break through this block?

You can hit up Google and you’ll find 100’s of ways to get past this dreaded block, but I was curious how different people here at Element5 break past their creative blocks.

  • Switch mediums, if I’m deep into development I try and do something on paper away from the computer screen
  • Watch Creative Videos (Tutorials and Process Videos)
  • Get away from my desk and grab a snack
  • Go outside for a walk
  • Sometimes I spend some time just going down a Wikipedia wormhole.
  • Spend some time intensively researching. Research is like discovering a story that’s already written rather than coming up with something on your own.
  • I think that thinking in a drastically different way breaks that creative block.
  • Stop looking at the computer screen for a bit
  • Get up and go for a walk
  • Look for inspiration around me – When I’m feeling uninspired I like to take a walk and look at physical things around me. Whether it’s a co-worker’s coffee mug or a sign I see outside.
  • Communicate with others – It also helps me to bounce ideas off other people when I’m feeling stuck. Collaboration is the key to exceptional work.
  • Take a break- For me, when I’m feeling overwhelmed by a deadline and creatively stuck I like to take a small break. Taking a walk outside to get some fresh air or stopping by other coworker’s desks to see what they are working on helps me take a step back from my work so I can refocus when I get back to my desk.
  • I will shift gears oftentimes for a bit or try to change my location. But caffeine sometimes does the trick too.
  • If it’s something I need to get done and power through because it cannot wait, I will try and break it down. Start with some simpler pieces of the task, such as putting together an outline or rough sketch, and then move into it to get it done.
  • Walking is a big help to me. I always have a creative breakthrough when I get away from the desk and walk somewhere.
  • Putting on a playlist that I normally wouldn’t listen to. I’ll go to Apple Music or Spotify and have them create a list based on one song outside of my usual genres.
  • Doodling.
  • My favorite after walking though is to parody the project.
  • Change up the type of music I listen to
  • Look at different creative disciplines like furniture design or architecture
  • Whip out the old sketchbook and draw something completely random
  • Get away from the computer for a little bit
  • Go for a walk or run to clear my mind

Unfortunately, there is no single tried and true method to break your creative block every time, but hopefully, this has given you some ideas to help you the next time you feel stuck. And remember creative blocks aren’t the end of the world and you won’t be stuck there forever.

How do you break your creative block?
Tyler Zenk Sr Designer Heashot

Written by

Tyler Zenk

Runner, coffee addict, homebrewer and designer. Acting at the sweet spot between modernism and function to craft delightful brand experiences.

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