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Ask Lawrence: From creative block to creative knock-out!

24 Apr 10:00 By Lawrence Akers

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Being a creative isn't necessarily a vocation that someone does simply as 'a job'. As with any form of artistic expression, being a designer or a creative is often an extension of their identity and forms structure around who they are and how they view themselves. Regardless of if it is the struggling artist or the fashion trend setter, they do what they do because it offers something of 'beauty and vision' to the world.

If you had asked me to list the things I would suspect creatives would most be concerned about during this period of isolation, my immediate response would've been around the things that we all have in common such as health, relationships, finances and career. While these are still high up there with creatives, there is something else there that I wouldn't have predicted although once it became known, it made absolute sense – the fear of losing their creativity.

I think most of us can agree that creativity isn't a finite thing. It's not like spending periods of time turning the mind off is going to cause the creative spark to go out. It's more that they process of self isolation and the constraints that it enforces can often have a similar impact on their creative process, which can be a challenge when your creativity is what you're being paid to do.

This week at the Creative Recruiters Virtual Meet Up, we discussed the topic of creativity in isolation and shared experiences and offered insight into what you might be able to do if you found that your creativity was struggling.

Now, I know what it is like to experience a creative block. I frequently write (like what you're reading now) and I work in my own side business that requires me to be focused and creative when I'm working with my clients. I've learned over time that if I am tired, then my creativity suffers and so I ensure that I am rested and focused before I begin any session with my clients.

I know what the experience can be like to sit in front of a sentence that doesn't seem right, to second guess if what you're writing even makes any sense. I know my own personal style is conversational; I literally have the sentence I'm writing being spoken in my head as the fingers type on the keyboard. If I'm tired though, much like my ability to struggle putting together sentences when I'm speaking to someone, the end result can often feel dull and lifeless.

Below are a few tips that came from both the virtual meet up and from my own exploration as to what you can do if you're experiencing a period of creative block.

Step Away From The Block

Back when I was a musician, I had a rule around my songwriting process. It was a pretty simple one. I found that music often came quickly to me. I would get the idea down as quickly as I could, no matter how rough it was. I would then put it aside and I would come back to it a few weeks later. If the idea still excited me, I would then finish it off.

It felt like that distance from the piece allowed me to not only listen to it more objectively but also to offer a fresh perspective.

In our discussion with the virtual meet up the other day, many people commented that a quick break from the work that was causing the block often allowed them to approach it fresh. Even research has shown that a quick break during the day actually increases productivity. It allows the mind to reset for the moment and to change the state of 'stuckness' that the person was experiencing.

Another experience people mentioned during the discussion was the flow of ideas in the shower. There could be lots of reasons for this although it can often come from the relaxed state that the shower induces. Try it, you might be surprised.

Clear Your Mind

Is there something on your mind which is getting in the way of the creativity? If so, make this deal with yourself. You will write down those problems onto a piece of paper and put them aside and make a promise that once you have finished your work, you can then go back and revisit those issues for consideration.

It might sound silly but if you find that your thinking is being pushed and pulled in lots of directions due to thoughts fighting for dominance, clear them out so that you can come back to them later.

Likewise, if you have a messy workspace, clear it out. Or even better, go and work somewhere different for a moment. Break the routine!

What Would Someone Else Do?

Another approach would be to imagine that you were someone else approaching this problem. What would Eames do? What would Cato do? What would Kidd, Janoff and Bierut do? If you're stuck in your own head then perhaps stepping out of yourself and into the mindset of someone else can help to provide a new perspective on how to approach the problem.

Move

Much like going for a walk earlier, get up from your desk and get some movement or exercise in. That exercise can release endorphins and serotonin which can help to lift your mood and to feel re-energised.

Play

Let go of what expectations you have for the outcome and just play for the moment. Be curious about going in a wildly different direction. You can always go back to where you left off but sometimes some of the best work comes from unintentional mistakes as opposed to intentional direction.

Be creative in another form

If you're struggling with your design, then go and do something else you enjoy that is creative. Do some writing. Play the guitar or piano. Get out a blank canvas. Sometimes all it takes is to reignite the creativity else where and get into 'that state' so that you can take that back to what you were working on.

Rest

As mentioned earlier, people who took breaks during the day were found to be more productive than those who didn't. If you find that a piece is not going where it needs to go and the time is there, put it aside and come back to it later in the day or the next morning. That rest will allow you to return to it with a more objective head space.

Reach out and bounce an idea

We all have colleagues or mentors or peers who we can reach out to, show them what we've done, ask for advice and guidance, and perhaps see if you can explore the 'what next'. They may just say some nugget of wisdom that unlocks the problem and allows you to get into the next step.

Be curious

The simple fact is this; you're a complex human being, right? If everyone's mind worked the same way, then there would only be one solution to each problem but that is not how it works. What inspires some people may not for others and ultimately, when we experience a creative block, it is really an experience of us getting in our own way. This could be for a multitude of reasons however it is important to recognise that we ALL experience it in some form at some time, and we all have our own ways of either accepting it and allowing it to pass when it does OR doing something to work with breaking it's hold.

The key is to experiment. To be curious. To try a few different things and to cut ourselves some slack in the process knowing that this creative block will pass and we will manage to reignite our creativity once again.

Watch the replay here

You can watch the replay for the 'I Feel So Uninspired' virtual meet up here.

A special thanks to Alex Wadelton for joining us last Wednesday. You can purchase his book 'The Right-Brain Workout' here and you can listen to his podcast 'The Right-Brain Warm-Up' here.

If you're interested in joining us for the next meet up, click here, enter your details and we'll see you on Wednesday at 1:00 PM (Melbourne time).

 

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