Creating in Flow

The world of creativity—with a twist of rationality

10 Creative Block Breakers That Actually Work

You CAN overcome the frustration of feeling blocked.

Writer's block
Doesn't matter what you call it: writer's block or creative block or simply "Where is my inspiration when I need it?!" All creative individuals find their work coming less easily at some times than others. That's when you need strategies, and plenty of them.

There are at least 90 such tips, tools, and techniques in Breakthrough! 90 Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block & Spark Your Imagination, edited by Alex Cornell, with a foreword by Erik Spiekermann.

Breakthrough! is a fresh compilation of practical, real world solutions offered by a range of creative individuals, including graphic designers, artists, writers, and photographers. These are people who are employed in jobs where they are required to be creative, regularly (brief bios are in the back of the book).

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The insights in this perkily designed, light-hearted, and useful little volume are sometimes amusing, often unexpected. It's worthy of being read straight through and marked and stickied and personalized by any reader who has ever felt not lazy but gooey in the brain in regards to a particular project.

10 Favorite Block Breakers:

1. Redefine the problem to find it more compelling. Ask yourself something like "What if Winston Churchill was designing this packaging?" That will provide an unfamiliar angle and perhaps a new perspective. (Christian Helms, Graphic Designer)

 2. Dirty your canvas. Place an ink-stained handprint on its blankness so you have something to fix. (Deru, Musician)

3. Draw blindly for half a minute. You can't criticize the results. Give yourself a theme (this works for freewriting, too, and let loose. Without expectation, you can break through to being able to work on your blocked project. (Paul Madonna, Illustrator and Cartoonist)

 4. "Look at creative block as growth." Consider this: "I'm not running out of ideas, just trying to push myself into better ones." (Mike McQuade, Graphic Designer and Illustrator)

5. Fill your head with your view of the problem, review your notes, then go do something else, something mindless and mundane. ( Daniel Dennett, Professor of Philosophy)

6. Look for patterns in your episodes of creative block. Take notes when it happens and you may notice a trend (maybe it happens mainly on Mondays). (Simon C. Page, Graphic Designer)

7. Choose a better way to conceive of your blocks. For instance, rather than having to root through a blocked drain to achieve flow, consider temperature. "I try to find out what's hot and start there, even if it may be unrelated to what I need to be working on." (Michael Erard, Writer and Journalist) [Also see this post about famous poet Philip Levine, who "fires," rather than flows.] 

8. Induce a feeling of panic by giving yourself a deadline and stating your committment to other people. (Ben Barry, Graphic Designer at Facebook) [If the very word "deadline" causes you psychic pain, consider making friends with the concept; see this post.

9. Come up with many solutions, not just one. Urged to list 20 possible next moves, your mind will stop fretting over finding the one perfect one. (Marc Johns, Illustrator)

10. Don't browbeat yourself when you're in the necessary in-between times when most creativity gets its start. A lot of thinking time is crucial, and it happens where you can't see it. (Douglas Rushkoff, Writer)

Breakthrough
For even more block-breakers, see these posts:

People Who Need People Get Writer's Block.

Keep a Writer's Notebook & Never Be Blocked

Blocked? Make a List, Lift a Brick, Read a Tip.

5 Tips for Postponing Procrastination (which often parallels creative block).  

Got a favorite of your own? Please share!

Copyright (2012) by Susan K. Perry

Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and author. Her current focus is on the creative aspects of rationality and atheism.

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