There are days when you just stare at a blank Word file and simply cannot write anything for an article, no matter how hard you try. The words just don’t come out. We’ve been there. We might even be here now.
There are also days when you’re in the middle of a task but suddenly stop because you just forget or don’t know what to do next.
This happens to pretty much everyone working in the creative field — writers, designers, musicians, painters and creators all know it and deem it as the worst. feeling. ever.
If you want to blame someone, then you’re in luck, because the feeling has a name. It’s called the blank canvas syndrome, which we commonly know as creative block.
Remember, the creative process is complex and complicated; it comes in many different shapes and forms. Creativity lies within each of us, as it’s a skill that can be learned by anyone. You can be and become creative at any age with a little help from socialization, education, training — and even solitude. However, there really are days when your creative muscles just do not seem to work and everything comes to a halt.
Why Does Creative Block Happen?
Before we delve into ways on how to overcome creative block, we first need to get to the bottom of why it happens in the first place.
Here are a few factors that contribute to creative block.
A major factor is mental fatigue. In the day and age of the hustle culture, a lot of people tend to overwork. Long hours can lead to mental exhaustion which depletes our creative juices.
Or maybe you’re overthinking basically everything. In this type of blank canvas episode, you find fault in every idea you have, and in effect, the critic in you stops you from trying out any of those ideas. You also fear rejection because you think your ideas are not good enough.
Sometimes, emotions can get in the way of your creativity. Raise your hand if you’ve been knocked down by your own insecurities. *raises hand* Another huge emotional factor is fear. You’ve probably been victimized by the idea that your creations will never meet your expectations and you fear that your work will turn out terrible. This sort of fear invites over another infamous frenemy: procrastination. Because you’re afraid that you will never come up with anything good ever again, you will make up tons of excuses and end up not doing or creating anything at all.
Personal or life-changing problems can also be a big bane to the creative process. Maybe it’s a breakup, death in the family, or health issues. Such huge and emotionally difficult developments can obviously exhaust you and can also decrease your ability to focus on the tasks you want to be doing.
Anxiety is another issue. You become restless and anxious because you have to beat a very tight deadline. This brings unnecessary stress and affects your creative process.
There may also be something wrong with your routine. Sometimes, you get sidetracked by distractions around you — or your brain simply does not properly function during the routine that you have set for yourself.
How To Overcome Creative Block?
Now that we have identified (some of) the annoying factors that block your creativity, we’re listing down some of the tips that can help you overcome the dreaded creative block.
1. Recalibrate Your Schedule
We’ve already said that sometimes, the routine you’ve set for yourself just doesn’t produce the best results. If that’s the case, you may want to determine the best time for you to be creative.
But how to do that?
You can experiment and observe how your mind and body work throughout the work day.
Are you a morning person? Maybe it’s best for you to create content and let those creative juices flow right after you take breakfast.
Or are you more of a night owl? If that’s the case, go on and create some work while staring at the moon or stars outside your window. Once you find the perfect time to feel creative, make it a part of your schedule and stick with it, by hook or by crook.
That routine helps you find your groove that will prompt you to get to work.
Setting a routine and a habit is scientifically proven to help overcome creative block. Working with a routine increases not only your overall output but the generation of new creative ideas as well.
2. Breathe In, Breathe Out
When you’re drowned out by the pressure of beating a tight deadline, take a step back to relax and calm your senses. Breathe in and breathe out. This will help you ease your mind and will allow you to regain your focus. Eventually, your creative process will be restored.
If you’ve been laboring for hours on a single task, you may want to take a quick break by going outdoors and reconnecting with nature. This change of scenery will help you refresh your mind and can greatly help you refill your creative juices.
This has also been scientifically backed, and as we wrote in one of our previous blog posts, walking in an urban green space for at least 25 minutes can help your brain be at ease and make it switch into autopilot mode. Being on autopilot is what sparks your awareness and fuels your imagination.
3. Take a Nap or Doze Off
Science also proves that sleep is one the most effective, if not the best, creative boosters. Sleep is an important component for processing all the information that the brain has acquired.
Sleep is also the best way to recharge. It is a respite from both the mental and physical exhaustion from work.
Research shows that sleep helps learning and memory in at least two ways. First, a sleep-deprived person cannot fully focus and therefore, their creative side is affected. No matter how hard they try to think, they cannot come up with creative solutions and ideas that will satisfy their expectations. And second, sleep itself plays a crucial role in the consolidation of memory, and as we have pointed out earlier, this is essential for learning and grasping new information.
4. Jot It Down
Another practical way of overcoming creative block is to journal your thoughts. You can use a notebook to scribble down interesting thoughts, quotes, and day-to-day observations.
Write down the films you’ve watched, the things you have noticed from those films, the quotes that struck you the most in the book you’re reading, and absolutely everything else you find interesting, awesome or goofy.
The power of writing and keeping a journal is that you’re actually creating a list of inspiration. You can revisit these pages whenever you’re stumped or confused with what you’re trying to finish.
You can also write so-called morning pages, where you take the time in the morning to jot down the thoughts that first come into your mind when you wake up. You can also take a look at these pages when your creative juices get depleted.
5. Take a Look at How Far You’ve Come
Speaking of revisiting, digging up your past work can do wonders. This will help you realize how far you’ve come in terms of accomplishing your goals.
The progress you’ve done will help you get back on your feet as it will inspire you to do more. Talk about reigniting the passion in you.
This will motivate you and in the process, this will energize your mind to think of creative ideas that will help you finish that content or work you’re struggling to finish.
Also, in digging up your past works, it will help you remember how you actually finished the work and the tools, strategies, creative juices that came with it.
Next time you’re feeling stuck, unmotivated or exhausted, try one or some of the methods we listed above and get those creative juices flowing again.