Overcoming Creative Blocks

Have you ever sat down to design and your mind just went blankk?

You have the most beautiful yarn and a collection of stitch pattern books right in front of you. Your computer is open to Pinterest for ideas, you cleared your schedule and yet: NOTHING. You have a deadline looming: NOTHING. You walk away and even give yourself a little time to process and reflect. You come back light and refreshed and: NOTHING.

What you have is a great big Creative Block. 

A creative block is a period of time when a designer just can’t connect with her inspiration or can’t bring herself to create any new work. This not only happens in design, but also in blog post writing, email newsletter writing, social media engagement. It can happen any time you have to call upon your right brain to create something.

Creative Blocks can come from a variety of sources including:

1. Busy-ness:

You’re busy, but you’re not really getting any meaningful work done. Busy work is spending four hours on social media and three hours sorting through your emails. Before you know it, seven hours have passed and you’ve gotten nothing that really helps your business accomplished. I can relate to this one. Social media is the rabbit hole of time suck.

A great way to deal with this is to create a daily routine or a daily to-do list. Make a schedule that includes your most pressing tasks and schedule when it will get done. Tim Ferris’ book: The 4-Hour Workweek is a great guide for helping you deal with the ‘busy-ness’ of self-employment.

Creative people also need time to process ideas so incorporate a regular block of time that isn’t assigned to a project in your weekly schedule. Use this time to process ideas, find inspiration, or just rest. This process also helps with Creative Burnout, where you’re just too tired to do anything. 

2. Scattered Ideas:

This happens when you have too much on your mind or your over-scheduled. Inspiration and ideas seem to come at you from everywhere and you don’t know where to begin. If you start a project you don’t finish it because something bright, new and shiny caught your eye. 

Shiny, new project syndrome without any proper organization or structure ultimately leads to you doing nothing. If you don’t find a way to capture your ideas you’ll get caught up in a cycle of Busy-ness. When ideas come, you need a structure to hold them and a system to help you organize and develop them.

A handy way to keep your ideas organized is to create an Idea Bank. You can do this by goinganalog and keeping an Idea Notebook and pen close by for a brain dump or mind map. Or, create a secret Pinterest Board to house ideas and inspiration. 

You tech savvy designers and go digital and use: 

Whatever tool you use, even if its good ole’ pen and paper, make sure you get those ideas out of your head and into your idea bank so you can make a withdrawal whenever you need to. If you try to keep them in your head, you’ll lose them. We both know how frustrating that can be. 

3. Feelings of inadequacy:

Everyone at some point feels that they’re not good enough. When you think your competition is doing better than you (comparison and jealousy) or you failed at something (not hitting your goal), you can feel like you just don’t have what it takes to be successful. That couldn’t be further from the truth. 

To get over your feelings of inadequacy, you have to embrace the fact that you ARE enough. What you offer IS valuable and STOP comparing yourself to other people. Turn down the noise of what others are doing and concentrate on being the very best YOU. 

Here are a few truths about comparison:

  • Comparisons are always unfair. We usually compare the worst we know of ourselves to the best we THINK we know about others.
  • You are too unique to compare fairly. Your gifts and talents, successes, contributions and value are entirely unique to you and your business. They can never be properly compared to anyone else.
  • Comparison puts focus on the wrong person. You can control only one life: yours. But when we constantly compare ourselves to others, we waste precious energy focusing on other peoples’ lives rather than our own.

You are a unique individual and your journey is unique to you. Embrace your own journey.

4. Fear:

Fear is a common problem for creatives. There’s fear of rejection, fear of success, fear of failure, and many other types of fear. There can also be the fear of trying something new, of putting yourself out there in the marketplace. Fear can certainly cause creative paralysis. 

One of the best ways to overcome fear is to give yourself permission to face it head on. Once you identify the fear that’s paralyzing you and tell yourself it’s okay if that fear comes to pass, It’ll be easier to act in spite of that fear.

Two questions that are helping me move through my fear, are also borrowed from Tim Ferriss:

1. What’s the worst that can happen if you _____ or _____?

2. Say the worst happens. How can you grow from your worst nightmare if it came true?

Maybe facing your fears is one of the most important life lessons: It teaches us to learn how to just be ourselves and watch how everything falls into place.

5. Perfectionism:

Are your designs never quite good enough? Do you have trouble feeling that a project is really complete? Many creative people are perfectionists, including me. I used to tell myself that I’m striving for excellence. But what’s the difference between perfection and excellence? It’s subtle but they FEEL different.

Perfect feels constrictive, judgmental, painful (especially when the mark is missed), and it’s fueled by feelings of lack, of wanting to be accepted and liked. 

Excellence feels warm, honorable, accepting, and is fueled by feelings of love and the pure intentions of being in service and becoming a better version of yourself every day.

Julia Cameron said it best in her classic creativity manifesto, The Artist’s Way: “Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. It has nothing to do with fixing things. It has nothing to do with standards. Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop—an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what you’re creating.”

When you come up a bit short of excellence, you still win. When you strive for perfect, you’re just never quite good enough.

6. Poor Self-Care:

Not taking care of yourself as an entrepreneur can actually threaten your ability to earn a living. Let’s face it. No one performs at their best on a diet of junk food or after only a few hours of sleep. If you get sick, your creativity will take an even bigger hit. To solve this creativity buster, identify your unhealthy habits and make healthier living (exercising, eating right, getting enough sleep, and regular checkups) a part of your routine. 

If you need some ideas, check out my Self-Care Pinterest Board by clicking HERE.

Inspired, creative designers like you, create inspiring businesses that inspire others. 

Your business needs you. Your customers need you. This industry needs you. Take care of yourself.

Sticks & String,