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10 Tips for Those Days When You Don’t Feel Creative

Today’s story is personal. I woke up, got ready for work, sat down at my computer and then just couldn’t design everything. I mean nothing looked good. I was embarrassed to even call myself a designer.

The harder I tried, the less creative I felt. Was I a design failure? Was my career over? All these thoughts flooded my mind. And then… I just decided to do something else for a while. Some days, you aren’t going to feel creative. It’s going to happen. Here are a few ways to overcome that “designer’s block” and move on to other projects (and work) until you get your mind right.

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Recruit Someone for a Brainstorming Session

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The best way to beat that lack of creativity is to recruit help. Ask to join a brainstorming session about another project or recruit a few others to think about your project. Sometimes what’s holding you back might be an odd scope or that you just don’t have your head around what you need to do.

For the project that was bothering me, I finally realized the set of expectations was too massive. There were 23 requirements – yes, requirements, to fit inside a new brand logo. Once possible reason my creativity was lacking was that the project was just overwhelming. A few minutes of good brainstorming helped me wrestle it into smaller, more manageable bits.

Abolish the Internet

Step away from Facebook or Twitter or Dribbble or whatever is distracting you from work every few seconds. Pull the plug if you have to.

Create a workspace that’s free from these self-made distractions. You’ll be amazed at how much more settled and focused you’ll feel.

Catch Up on Housekeeping Tasks

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Those days when you aren’t feeling creative are the perfect opportunity to catch up on accounting, organization, file cleanup or any other housekeeping chores on your to-do list.

You won’t feel like you are taking away from other work and you’ll have a neater, more workable space when you finish.

Take the Afternoon Off

Did you ever stop to think that lack of creativity is a touch of burn out? Since you aren’t getting anything done anyway, take the opportunity to leave work early and spend that time doing something you enjoy.

Get outside, visit a museum, go play with the kids. Take a break and don’t feel bad about it. Chances are you’ll return feeling a little more refreshed – and creative – tomorrow.

Redecorate Your Space

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Is your space boring? Are the walls white? Or are you surrounded by color and artwork that inspires?

A drab workspace can limit the “brain sparks” that are related to creative thought. While you might not be able to paint your office, you should spruce up your space to make it more reflective of your design personality and style.

Find a small copy of a bit of artwork that you love or even splurge on a new Moleskine in your favorite color. Clean off your desk and add touches to the space that make you want to think … and work.

Color, Sketch or Just Make Something

You need to design something off the screen. Grab some markers and doodle, sketch or color. Enroll in a class where you can paint or craft a pot out of clay. Think about design in a more physical way and get your hands dirty.

Try to make this part of your regular routine. The best way to make the commitment is to find a class or set of classes that you pay for and therefore feel like you must attend. Using your body will help sharpen your creative mind as well.

And when all else fails, just sit on the floor and color with your kids.

Take on Creative Challenge

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Take on a project to break out of that rut, by challenging yourself to a creative project.

Spend 30 days creating that typeface you always wanted to draw or taking one photo a day. Hold yourself accountable with a friend or on social media.

This works because it gives you room to explore creativity in other ways and by taking a break from the problem you are trying to solve, you just might find the answer. Take your challenge to the next level and enlist a friend or two to do the same thing in a competition-style format.

Think Like a Child

Ask lots of questions – why?

Bring back some of that child-like curiosity to conversations and to your idea of what a project should be and how it should work and look. Bringing a new perspective to work can change your idea of what it should be, how it should work and how to design it.

Asking a lot of questions might not feel like a creative brain booster, but think of it this way: With every question, you get a chance to learn something new. And every one of those ideas could send your thought-process into a new direction. Now that’s creativity!

Recreate Something You Like

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Before you think I am advocating design plagiarism, this statement should be followed by “and then delete it.” But there’s a real goal here. You get to create something using your tools while not thinking about the problem at hand.

The familiarity of doing (and completing) a project will give you that mental confidence and boost to start thinking forward on the project that’s causing concern. You might need to learn a new trick along the way, and use a technique that’s fallen out of your repertoire. (At the very least, it’s one more way to procrastinate.)

Don’t Force It and Don’t Give Up

While there are a lot of things you can do any try, forcing yourself to be creative isn’t really one of them. The harder I try to be creative, the flatter my ideas become (and then I get stuck in that cycle of self-doubt).

So don’t force it. Some days will be bad. Do everything else on your list and try to come back fresh later. (That’s what most of these tips try to help you do, in case you hadn’t noticed the theme.)

And don’t give up on yourself just because one project is giving you fits. It happens to us all from time to time. If you really can’t get anywhere, have a conversation with your client or boss to see what other options are out there. You may be able to trade projects with someone else or get further clarification that provides just the kickstart you need.

Conclusion

And if none of that works? Find a song that makes you happy. Crank it up. Sing and dance until you feel better. Then sit back down and get back to work.