How to get out of a Creative Block

As creative artists and designers we often ‘create’ a time, space or mindset that nurtures our creativity. This can be anything from one’s favorite desk, park or a particular time of the day when we find the best ideas available to us. In my last post, I spoke of using uses the discipline to instill discipline, routine and regulate one’s life which ascribed to the ’350-words-a-day-no-matter-what’ system of writing by Graham Greene. Using that analogy this time we will focus on Jack Kerouac‘s fabled ‘wrote-it-on-a-roll-of-toilet-paper-while-drunk’ methodology. While many may find my contradictory perspective unnerving, it may well be so. This is an ancient Zen technique which advices the disciple along one path only to advocate the very opposite once the disciple grows comfortable in his chosen methodology. Intrigued? Read on..

Mortal Kombat – Let your best ideas battle it out!

When one has different design directions in place for a certain project, this helps decide on the best possible course of action. This might be easy to do if it is a ‘Design By Committee’ strategy, but what I’m encouraging you as a sole creator to do here is fight for and against your own ideas. Schizophrenic isn’t it? It is a fun exercise and well worth the insanity associated with the practice. Seriously though while your therapist might not take very kindly to such behavior, it yields very effective results, not to mention making you an individual who is more capable of accepting constructive criticism and dismissing the negative critique. Think of it as playing chess with yourself. It reminds me of that Pixar short film of an old man playing chess all by himself on a park bench. Watch it if you need that extra impetus to try this technique!

Just Do It!

Nike’s famous tagline has inspired many an aspiring athlete. Closer to our realm of the Interwebs, we have Seth Godin echoing the same philosophy with his ‘just ship it’ philosophy. Stanford professor Robert I. Sutton says ‘Creativity is a function of the quantity of work produced.’ Judge not the quality of work produced at first. We are often our own worst critics and can cramp our spontaneity and creativity by belittling ideas and efforts. We must as creative artists nurture our efforts and reward both success and failure and punish only inaction. The opposite poles in this case are only doing something or doing nothing. Any work is good work just like I always like to say ‘No news is good news’. Swedish ad man Per Robert Åhlin says ‘The most creative way of thinking is; irresponsibly, quick and unwise.’ What’s stopping you now?

Be Reasonable. NOT!

We have all heard the quote by George Bernard Shaw; ‘The reasonable man looks around and sees what can be done and what cannot be done and acts accordingly. The unreasonable rejects this distinction and does what should be done. Therefore all progress, throughout all human history, has been made by unreasonable people.’ Be unreasonable. The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him. The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself. Unleash those ideas that are constantly berated by ‘common sense’ and default sensibilities. All of us are products of conditioning like Pavlov‘s dog and creativity can be instigated by breaking the bonds of conditioning by environment, peers and society at large. Think out of the box you say? I say ‘What box?’

Be unpredictable not unreliable!

If you have developed a Modus Operandi for your work and have created standard templates to streamline your work pipeline, that’s a commendable thing! However reliability has a tendency to breed predictability. A corollary of this is that unpredictability equals unreliability. I don’t believe it and neither should you. Break your own established patterns and pipelines. Attempt something new and unfounded. Bend your own rules and work on a direction hitherto unattempted. If you are game for more adventure, play with an entirely new medium. If you are an astute raster artist, attempt vector-based design. Why, you may even throw the entire digital medium out of the window and dabble with oil paints or water color to achieve your intended result. Perhaps clay sculpture can replace the need for a 3D model? Let your imagination run riot while you stand back and watch the fun.

Vacation from Vocation

For most of us art and design is also a vocation, not merely a hobby or a past time. Does that change anything? Yes, the pressure to perform and deliver can often kill creativity and spontaneity. The best way to break free from this inspiration deprived state is to take a vacation. Do not carry your work with you! Soak in Nature’s warm embrace and leave behind your worldly worries. Use this precious time to converse with yourself and meditate on your own personal evolution and growth. As the Zen saying implores ‘Empty your bowl..’ let not just your anxieties and worries dissolve away, but also your desires and ambitions as well. Take a pitstop from the vicious rat race and stop to smell the roses. If you are wondering how all this is going to help you in your art, remember that our best years of curiosity and creativity were when we were young and playful, when the pressures of adult life had not yet creeped in. Attempt to reach the state of playfulness and carefreeness that you enjoyed and took for granted in your youth. This is your true nature and the source of the fountain of youth and creativity.

Whats your truth?

To end this post on creativity, I’ll quote Thomas Edison who said ‘Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.’ Inspiration is all around us today, it’s the dearth of effort that causes the drought in our creative oasis. I choose to write with the very same ‘stream of consciousness’ method rather than creating a dozen drafts before editing the final version. While I do not necessarily encourage such brazenness always, the lesson here is to unabashedly do what is spontaneous thus nursing your own inherent creativity. Each one of us must look within to find that which works best for us as we are all unique individuals in our own right. Looking forward to hear what methods you use to refresh and rejuvenate your own creative oasis.


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Ritesh Reddy

Dr. Ritesh Reddy, PhD aka Reddy2Go is a Creative Generalist, who uses the magic of the written word and the allure of the visual medium in conjunction with bleeding edge technology to creating communication collateral for the New Media. He believes in the power of the individual & inspires independence through the Freelance Firestarter. In the spirit of selflessly sharing knowledge with the community for the betterment of society, he does not charge any fee for the same.