Creative Block? Here are a few ideas to get your creativity back on track
Posted on 18th April 2018 by Phil Ainley MCIM CMktr
As a freelancer you will undoubtedly experience creative block at some point in your career and for most of us it’ll occur more than once.
Creative block can be experienced by anyone who is tasked with solving a problem as part of their work, but it is synonymous with those who work in the creative industries including: designers, writers, photographers, web developers and marketers.
Here are a few top tips that you can follow to help you get around creative block and ensure all your projects run smoothly and profitably.
Creatives are renowned for working in cluttered environments… otherwise labelled as ‘creative spaces’. Desks are filled with papers from different briefs and half-filled mugs of coffee, walls are adorned with different imagery and sketches and plans, some relevant to projects and others kept as permanent decorations. Bins spill over with cuttings, scrunched-up balls of paper and sandwich wrappers… you get the picture.
To ensure you can think more clearly it is a good idea to declutter and ‘clear your desk, clear your mind’. Tidy papers and briefs into separate job bags and file them away. This way you can focus on one task at a time.
Another way you can focus is to concentrate on one or two market sectors or one or two product offerings ie: you could become a specialist copywriter to the medical industry, or you could be a contruction specific graphic designer.
This way you can become a specialist for certain products and market sectors and will not be distracted by, for example, thinking of your new hair and beauty salon brief whilst trying to design a brochure for a construction company.
Don’t expect perfection:
Perfect does not exist! There, I’ve said it and we can move on.
If you’re looking for the perfect headline for your article or you’re unhappy with a bézier curve on a logo you’ve designed, then you may be struggling with ‘perfectionism’.
While it’s great to strive for excellence, none of us are perfect. You have to remember that what you like will not be to everyone’s tastes, hence why perfect is an impossible ideal that we can never achieve.
If you are struggling to complete a brief, then a great way around the problem is to take a step back from your project and leave it overnight before you submit it. When you return to it you’ll find you renew your efforts the next day with a different perspective, your thoughts will be clearer and you will be more likely to achieve your desired goal.
It is also a great idea to get a second opinion. Ask someone for their help, no matter who they are or what career they have. Everyone has something of value to say and you may just learn something new.
Key points to remember:
1 – Don’t be too hard on yourself, perfection does not exist.
2 – Take a break.
3 – Ask for help.
Look for inspiration:
Inspiration can be found in some of the least obvious places. Aside from looking at your clients’ competitors, you can look at the world around you. Many great designers, artists, writers and architects have found inspiration in nature, architecture, technology, music etc.
You could even take yourself outdoors and away from your desk when brainstorming and forming your initial ideas.
Here is a quick process you can follow to generate inspiration:
1 – List all your ideas, no matter how random or uninspiring they may seem.
2 – Pick each idea in turn and write down everything you know about it. Even a benign or comical thought/fact can help create a new idea.
3 – Now look back at your list. You should notice a few standout comments/notes that you can develop further to the benefit of your designs or copywriting.
Beware of the afternoon matinee:
This point is certainly linked to keeping your focus. Creative block can be demoralising, but burying your head in the sand and putting off tasks until tomorrow that you should be dealing with today won’t get you anywhere.
Procrastinating and settling down to watch the afternoon black and white movie on a seldom seen freeview channel is common in the freelance world. Procrastination is a bad habit and if you allow it to take a hold it can become a hard habit to break.
Here are some easy steps to overcome procrastination:
1 – Be accountable. List all your projects for each day and tick them off as you finish them.
2 – Reward yourself. Just as dieters reward themselves for little weight loss victories and runners reward themselves for running their goal distance or time. So you should reward yourself for completing your important tasks and reaching your project goals.
3 – Seek out competition from your peers. This is optional, but can be highly beneficial. In short, if you can gauge what you produce against what your peers are producing you can use this to motivate you to work harder and get those problem tasks completed.
One of the best ways to do this is to attend social meetings, such as Meet Ups or Freelance Folk.
At these events you’ll find like-minded individuals, some of whom may be experiencing the same issues as you. Talk about it and compare your work, you’ll gain new perspective.
Appraise yourself regularly:
Appraisals in the workplace are nothing new and are there to ensure staff are motivated and to find out if their situation has changed at all or if they need help or further training to enhance their skills set.
Appraising and/or critiquing yourself is difficult and takes practice, but you should do the same for yourself.
1 – Have my interests changed?
2 – What has changed in my life away from work?
3 – Am I working too hard without a break?
4 – What drew me to this career in the first place?
Creative block doesn’t last forever and these few pointers should help you to overcome it quickly rather than expecting a miracle to happen.
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