how to get out of a creative block

how to get out of a creative block

how to get out of a creative block

Ah, the creative block – how we fear and respect thee. Tell me if you’ve been here… you’re sitting in front of your laptop (or canvas), you’re ready to get crackin’ and show the world how talented you are when…

Bam!

You hit a proverbial pothole on the road to creative genius.

The good news is… if you’ve experienced at least one instance of creative block that makes you question your talent and ability then you my friend, are in excellent company. In fact, I don’t know if it’s possible to truly be a creative without it.

Don’t believe me? Here are a few names you might recognize who’ve dealt (and overcame!) creative blocks: Jackson Pollock, William Blake, Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, J.K. Rowling, Virginia Woolfe, Stephen King and even Eminem.

Get my drift?

Repeat after me: Creative ruts are normal.

Yes, they’re normal but they are also frustrating as all hell. So, what can we do about?

Here are a few tips to help you get out of a creative rut:

 

1. Change up your routine

When we’ve hit a creative block, there’s a good chance it’s because our brains are stuck in one mode of thinking. In other words, your brain’s running on neutral – sure, it’s running but it isn’t really going there without either a lot of effort or it’s in a sort of free fall. Either way, it’s no good. We don’t want to be there.

What can you do about it? Change your routine. Typically take showers? Try taking a bath instead (and be sure to bring a notebook to jot down notes!). Take the same route to work or your studio? Leave a little earlier and take the scenic route. This will help activate your brain and get the ideas flowing at a time when you might normally zone out.

 

2. Think outside the box

Box? What box? We don’t need no stinkin’ boxes.

I’ll never forget the process of what it was like for me to design this site. Yup, the one you’re on right now. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t because I didn’t know what I was doing but because I had so many options, I quickly got overwhelmed. This is actually something so common for designers and creatives. When we work with clients or agents or fellowships, we’re typically given parameters to follow and thus, we work within those constraints. Whereas, when we’re our own client, we give ourselves a total blank slate and freedom to do anything and everything. Thus, our minds get stuck in a perpetual buffering wheel because it doesn’t know which one to load first.

That was what I was experiencing with The Bold Ones. I was wracking my brain on the layout. I even drew a wireframe on a sheet a paper but when it came to building it, I just wasn’t happy. It wasn’t clicking.

“So what’d you do, Janine??”

Glad you asked!

Here’s my secret to getting out of a creative rut: I forced myself to build my website from the bottom up. Yup Rather than working from the header to the main content sections and then end with the footer, I designed the footer, went up to the FAQs, to the services, and ended at the header.

I thought outside the box and came up with a new way of designing. This was an approach I never used before and once I did, everything came together so much more easily.

Here’s what I must have looked like when I got out of that creative block:


 

3. Get curious

As a creative, I’ve got no doubt that you’re a naturally curious person but, I want you to push your boundaries. Give yourself small (and fun!) challenges. Here’s a few ideas:

  • Typically listen to instrumental music while you work? What happens when you listen to ’90s hip hop?
  • Go to a museum or exhibit you haven’t been to already. (I personally love science museums)
  • What’s it like to work solely by candlelight?
  • Learn an interesting (and somewhat random) new skill on Skillshare.com* – this is an affiliate link
  • Join a friend on a date to enjoy one of their interests (e.g. watch a small independent film, go to a costuming exhibit, go on one of their favorite hikes). Keep an open mind and ask questions.

*Get 2 months of unlimited classes free when signing up with my affiliate link.

 

4. Do some journaling

Now, I don’t mean that you should do any ol’ journaling – although that is a great tool to capture your feelings. I mean do stream of consciousness journaling.

What is stream of consciousness journaling?

Stream of consciousness journaling is essentially a mind-dumping technique in which you write down any and every thought that comes into your mind as it makes itself known. This means you might write something like, “Umm… I don’t know what to say but I can tell you that this might be interesting and hey there’s a cute squirrel at the window”.

Yes, it can be somewhat random but it’s a wonderful way of getting your brain clear and some even use it as a sort of meditation. The important thing to remember is to go into it without judgment and have patience. You probably won’t come up with any “a-ha!” moments immediately.

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Set a stopping point. This can be either a timed stop or stopping once you reach a certain number of pages.
  • It’s best to do this first thing in the morning.
  • Write everything that pops into your head. Everything. The mundane, the silly, the bonkers, and even the most boring of boring thoughts.

5. Get your body moving

A lot of times when we’re stuck in a creative rut, it doesn’t just live in our minds. Nope! As we’re so frustrated with being blocked, it also shows up as tension in our bodies. So get to stretching, put on a fun playlist, and just dance.

Dance like no one is watching, queen.

 

There you have it: 5 tips to getting out of a creative block!

What I want you to get out of this is this main point: to get of a creative rut you need to get out of your comfort zone.

You need to be open to being surprised and to experiences that you might not have even considered before. Inspiration tends to live in those unexpected moments so get out of your own way. Change your perspective, your point of view, your routine.

Tell me: what’s one of your favorite ways to getting out of a creative rut?

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5 ways to avoid the burnout train

5 ways to avoid the burnout train

5 ways to avoid the burnout train

Burnout, are you experiencing it? If you’re feeling exhausted all the time, unmotivated, and even the smallest of tasks feels like you’ve got way too much in common with Sisyphus and this little guy…

Then you probably are burned out.

It happens to the best of us. Hell, I am so guilty of it myself.

We live in a time where our culture puts a lot of pressure on us to not only have a family and social life but to also always be producing at 100%. We’re working longer hours and many of us are juggling side hustles to keep our heads afloat from our student loan debt and housing costs. This is especially true for freelancers, solopreneurs, creatives, and entrepreneurs who feel like they’re chasing the next big job.

For me, personally, when I’m not working I almost feel… guilty. I feel like I’m wasting time somehow. It’s tricky to just relax as I’m always thinking of what new task I should be crossing off my to-do list. But, here’s the thing, without giving ourselves the time for self-care we wind up becoming burned out and naturally, we lose our ability to be productive. That’s where I’ve found myself so many times. How about you?

So, in becoming quite familiar with burnout myself, I’ve learned a thing or two in ways we can avoid hopping on that burnout train.

1. HIT PAUSE
If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, take a slight break from whatever it is you’re doing. Go out for a 15 minute walk. Pop on headphones and listen to some of your favorite songs. Pet your fur baby. Even the smallest of things can make such a difference. As for me, I made a Spotify playlist of my happy songs for me to enjoy when times get a bit overwhelming.

2. SET BOUNDARIES.
How many of us feel compelled to immediately hit reply when a client has emailed us? *raises hands* But, trust me, I urge you to set boundaries with your clients. Your life (not your work) should be the real priority and clients will respect you for it. After all, no one on their death bed wishes to have worked more.

So, with that said… with work email, set regular work hours and do your best not to check your inbox on the weekend. If you really feel like responding, go ahead and do so but schedule to send during work hours. Gmail’s great with this.

3. CHECK IN
Have regular check-ins with yourself. Does a particular part of your body feel tense? How’s your breathing? Are you holding your breath? Check in at least once a day with your body and listen to it. One of the things that completely changed my life was being able to identify that something was bothering me and then asking myself, “Why am I feeling this way?” I’d wait until the right answer showed itself which made it so much easier to let it go. It was the equivalent of saying, “I acknowledge you, but I don’t need you, girl.”

4. MARIE KONDO IT
By this I mean, surround yourself with what sparks joy. In other words: treat yo’self! Life is short and if you’re starting to feel burnout creeping up on you, do something you enjoy to balance the scales. Go to that pilates class, grab brunch with a friend, buy yourself an indoor plant that you know will liven up your bedroom, or play Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch. This is your life we’re talking about. Injecting the things that give you joy is what makes it all worth it.

I feel so strongly about this that I made a printable of the things that give you joy so that you can fill it out and reference it when times get tough/when burnout is being a bit too much. Download it below.

5. THE LONE WOLF DIES, BUT THE PACK SURVIVES
Yes, this is a Game of Thrones reference but I think (even if you haven’t seen the show or read the books) that you get what I’m saying. None of us can do it alone. We all need a little help sometimes and that’s perfectly OK. It doesn’t make you weak it makes you a living, breathing human.

Whether at work or at home, we all need to feel like someone’s got our back. Do you have someone you know who won’t be at all judgy if you ask for help? Either way, don’t be afraid to be a little vulnerable and ask someone you know you can trust for a little assistance. Ask your hubby to take care of dinner one night, ask a friend to just be an ear to rant to, ask your work-wife to read over a difficult email and give you notes, or seek out a therapist you can confide in on the weekly. We all need to belong in a pack.

That’s about it!

Do you have any tips on what helps you avoid burnout? I’d love to know! Share in the comments.

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