We all go through periods of feeling uninspired. Maybe, we can’t come up with any good ideas, or we aren’t motivated to work on anything. Sometimes, this feeling passes in an hour or two. But at other times, we can’t seem to get out of our rut no matter what we do — not great news if your job depends on that creative spark…
Don’t panic. There are ways to hack your creativity and push through, even when you’re feeling uninspired. Here are some tips to help you deal with a creative block. Let’s go!
Acknowledge your feelings
The first step is admitting you’re just not feeling it. From here, you can start to unpack the reasons why you can’t think creatively or productively. Perhaps, you feel blocked; you know what you want to do but can’t seem to get started. Or, you might feel completely tapped out with zero ideas or motivation.
Anxiety is a big reason people don’t want to start on a creative project: they’re worried about how the final product might turn out. You also might feel like you’re not good enough or that someone else’s work is always better than yours. The best way around this is to get started, but you should do so with the following advice in mind. Here it is…
The first draft is always rubbish.
Once you know this and respect its truth, you’ll find it easier to just get some initial scribbles down.
Here are some more tips:
- Make a list of ideas: get the ball rolling and loosen up your thinking. Write down anything and everything that comes to mind, no matter how silly it seems.
- Try a different approach: if you’ve been struggling with a project for a while, it can help to try a new method.
- Work with someone else: collaborating with someone — whether it’s a colleague, friend, or family member — can help the creative process. It takes the pressure off of you, and having the extra input could give your creativity a boost.
- Set deadlines: having a timeline for your project can help keep you on track and motivated.
Work out whether you’re blocked or empty
Keep in mind, there’s a big difference between a creative block and emptiness.
- A creative block is caused by resistance of some kind, such as anxiety, perfectionism, or distractions. To overcome it, you need to make a concerted effort to move forward.
- Emptiness, on the other hand, is a lack of energy and/or inspiration. You can’t overcome it simply by pushing through; you need to step away and take a break. Pushing through will generally end in nothing except deeper exhaustion.
How to tackle emptiness
Here are three ways to help:
- Take a break: step away from your work, and do something completely different. Try watching a movie, going for a walk, or reading a book. Basically, free your mind to think about something else.
- Reboot your system: sometimes, all you need is a fresh perspective. Change up your workspace, or take a new approach to the project you’re working on.
- Stimulate your mind: get out of the house and do something that stimulates your mind, like visiting an art gallery, doing a puzzle, or hitting the basketball court.
How to tackle creative block when you’re feeling uninspired
Here are some tried-and-tested tricks to help you get your creative groove back.
Attack the resistance
Face what’s stopping you from working, and try to overcome it. This could involve confining yourself to working in one specific space, setting rules for yourself, or avoiding certain distractions.
Find a way to get started
The more you pull away from the task at hand, the harder it is to build momentum. So, focus on ways to get yourself in the right headspace. You can begin by brainstorming ideas, for instance, or just start with the rough basics to get your mind working. Just put pen to paper. If you’re still not sure of where you’re headed, try a mind map. These diagrams help you organize ideas by branching out from a central topic.
Having a timeline for your project can keep you on track and motivated. Organizing your task on a schedule is especially useful if your actual deadline is a long way off (something that’s highly dangerous for the serial procrastinator, who will generally leave things to the last minute, and then freak out).
Consider breaking your project into smaller, more manageable tasks to help with time management. Then, set milestones you can check off your list. Setting regular goals and monitoring them will help you keep moving forward, while celebrating small wins will give you a well-needed dose of dopamine (the feel-good hormone).
Get someone to push you
Having someone there to encourage and motivate you — whether it’s a friend, family member, or colleague — can be the difference between success and failure. Chatting can help you see your problem in a new light and might give you some helpful ideas on moving forward.
If you’re a remote worker and feel like you’re missing out on the daily interaction with others that usually inspires you, turn to tech. Chat apps are a great way to stay connected with friends and colleagues, and they can help you feel more inspired. Since they’re less formal than email and require less planning (and energy) than video, chap apps make the interaction feel easy and casual — two things that are perfect for sparking creativity.
Take a walk
Take a walk outside. Fresh air and sunlight can help to jumpstart your creativity. There’s a reason walking outside — and especially in nature — gives our creativity a boost. It allows us to take a step back from our work and see things from a different perspective.
Try a different skill or hobby
Often, perfectionism and other people’s expectations give us a case of imposter syndrome. We’re scared to fail at something we’re supposed to be very good at, so we procrastinate. Doing something creative that’s new to you could be your way out of this block. For example, writers can try painting or vice versa. This allows you to get into the creative mindset without worry. After all, who cares if you suck at it? You don’t claim to be an expert here.
Take a break
Doing nothing might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes, the best way to get out of a rut is to take a break. Get up and walk around, or just step away from your work for a bit. All you need is some time away from whatever’s bogging you down to clear your head and come up with new ideas.
Take a nap
How many of us have some of our best thoughts while drifting off to sleep? Napping is a great way to get your subconscious working on solutions to your problems. Edison reportedly relied on slumber to spur his creativity. The inventor is said to have napped while holding a ball in each hand, presuming that, as he fell asleep, the orbs would fall to the floor and wake him. Just remember to keep a diary by your bed or sofa so that when inspiration strikes, you can write it down.
Listen to music
Music is one of the most powerful tools we have for sparking creativity. It can help us access emotions and ideas that we might not be able to reach in any other way. Different genres work for different people, so find what works best for you and stick to it.
One of the easiest ways to boost your productivity (and creativity) is to get organized. Make sure you have everything you need at hand, and your work area is tidy. Not only does this make it easier for you to focus, but it can also reduce stress levels, which can sap your creativity.
Be careful, though. There’s a reason people make jokes about procrastinators having perfectly organized music collections and sock drawers. If you find you’re organizing things that have nothing to do with the task at hand, it could be a sign you’re moved from reasonable prep to procrastination. If this is the case, it’s time to stop organizing and bite the bullet.
And on the flip side, opponents of this theory believe that a cluttered environment is actually more conducive to creativity, as it allows for more stimuli and different ideas to clash. The important thing is to find what works for you and create a space that’s comfortable and inspires you.
See a professional
If you’ve tried everything and you’re still struggling, it might be time to see a professional. A therapist or counselor can help you deal with any underlying issues that might be preventing you from being creative. Or, you could consider using a career coach. These pros can help you work through any blocks and give you tips on moving forward.
Align your team
When everyone’s pulling in a different direction, it’s tough to get anything done. This can be especially true when it comes to creatives. If you’re feeling uninspired, it might be time to talk to your team members and see if they have the same issues.
Chances are, someone on your team has some great ideas and could help jumpstart things. And, even if they can’t help, getting everyone on the same page will make it easier for you to move forward.
Get inspired by other creatives
In many cases, the best way to get out of a rut is to find inspiration elsewhere. Read about other people’s creative processes, watch documentaries about your favorite artists, or take a class in something completely different. The more you expose yourself to new and diverse ideas, the more likely it is that some of them will start to rub off on you.
It’s completely normal to feel uninspired at times. After all, our creative juices aren’t going to flow every day. The key is not to get too down on yourself. Everyone experiences blocks and emptiness at some point; it’s part of the process.
- If you’re feeling uninspired, it might be because you’re blocked or experiencing emptiness.
- Emptiness can’t be overcome by pushing through — you need to take a break.
- You can usually overcome a creative block by attacking the resistance, finding a way to get started, collaborating with others, or taking a step back.
In the end, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how to overcome these problems. What works for one person might not work for another. But with a few tricks up your sleeve, you can push through and produce great work anyway. And who knows? You might even enjoy it.