Creative blocks happen to all of us. You don’t know where to take your story or project next, or you’re just plain burned out from working. Sometimes it feels like you don’t have an ounce of creativity left in you to give. I wish I knew a quick, easy remedy, but I don’t. What I do have is 7 ideas you can try out, to work your way through creative roadblocks, get refreshed, and approach your work in a new way.
1. Switch Up Your Routine
Sometimes you have to break out of the rut in your creativity. Throw a monkey wrench into your process. Do you always write on your laptop? Try writing by hand on loose-leaf paper or on your mobile device. Do you always work at the same cafe? Try working outdoors or in a library. Do you always work in the mornings? Give evenings a shot. Sometimes just taking a little vacation from creativity – a few days when you don’t think about your projects – helps you come back to it with fresh eyes.
2. Study the Greats
For me, there are a few films that make me feel like a director. They energize me and make me remember why I love what I do. Every once in a while I have to watch one of them – it’s like creative therapy. What creative works do that for you? Is it a favorite novel, TV show, or film? What is is about them that you love? It’s no secret that great artists emulate other artists, while still making their own unique mark on the world. Study those artists that inspire you the most, then see where your own creativity takes you.
3. Stop Studying the Greats
The flip side of that coin is that sometimes we reach saturation point, where we’ve ingested so much of other people’s work, we can’t hear our own voices. When I’m trying to learn something new, I tend to read and watch everything I can about it. But often, too much studying keeps me from actually trying and doing. Be sensitive to yourself when you need to take a break from learning and shove off into the great seas of DOING.
4. Get a Sounding Board
I recently hit writer’s block with a screenplay. It was the act 2 plot structure holding me up. I knew where the story had to end, but my act 2 plot was a little thin, and I needed more to happen to the characters. One conversation with a trusted sounding board (my husband), and we had the rest of act 2 sketched out. It’s valuable to seek insight from someone who’s not very familiar with the story. Personally, sometimes I get too close to a writing project and can only envision a limited set of scenarios. Talking to someone else, who can help you ask “What if…?” and challenge your assumptions can help you get back on track.
5. Have an Alternate Project
A tip I learned recently from a friend is to have a “back-burner” project that you can pick up for a little while when you reach a block on your main project. It helps even more when those projects are in different stages of development. Maybe your main project is a revision of your script, and your back-burner project is something in the early stages of brainstorming. It’s like using different muscle groups when you’re exercising – you rest one group while you work another.
6. “Doodle” in Your Art Form
Doodling is when you draw something absentmindedly, without really trying too hard. When you doodle, you aren’t making something for other people to see. You’re doing it for fun – or maybe out of boredom. Creating something without the pressure of anyone having to see it can be very liberating. Whether that’s freewriting, taking some snaps outside, or messing around in Photoshop, have fun doing your art, without trying to “produce” anything or meet anyone’s standards – not even your own. It can loosen you up to approach your other projects with renewed energy.
7. Set a Deadline
For some of us, having a looming deadline is enough to break ourselves out of a creative block. It’s do or die, and some folks work well under pressure. If you don’t have a real deadline for your project, impose one on yourself and then have a friend hold you accountable to meet it. Give yourself a reward when you do. Every few weeks I meet with a screenwriters group where we share what we’ve done since the last meeting. And somehow, I always manage to get a lot more done in the days right before our meeting!
There you have it – 7 ideas for busting through creative roadblocks and get on with your projects! Your turn now: What do you do to get over blocks? Help your fellow creatives and leave us a comment below!