For creative marketers, there’s nothing that brings more joy than bringing an idea to fruition through a campaign, creative asset or captivating content. However, taking a creative concept from your mind and executing it in real life isn’t always easy. Sometimes creative block—a barrier to inspiration caused by a variety of emotional, mental, physical or external factors—gets in the way and can leave you feeling frustrated rather than inspired.
Whether you’re a marketer, writer or artist, it happens to the best of us. In fact, it happens more frequently than you may think. As a content creator and former social media strategist, I’ve certainly had my fair share of experiences with creative block. While it feels scary and almost impossible to deal with at times, I can assure you that you can get through it.
Creative block is not one-size-fits-all
Creative block looks different for everyone. For writers, it may be difficult to come up with the words needed to explain a thought even after scouring a thesaurus. A painter may find themselves in a place where they’re staring at a blank canvas and not sure which brushstroke to make first.
No matter who you are, what you do or what your creative process is, it’s important to recognize that your experience with creative block may be different from others and that’s okay.
Jaylynn Little, a content creator and visual storyteller says, “I’m currently experiencing a creative block and the impact varies. This time around I just feel stuck or maybe uninspired which creates a barrier between ideation and production. I’ve been here before and while creative blocks are random and frustrating, I know it’ll pass. I’ve learned to lean into other passions and interests such as reading, cooking, indulging in self-care or visiting a new speakeasy. Sometimes I just sit for a moment of stillness. I like to give myself time to be and after a while (one to two weeks usually), I’m back and better.”
There are a few common scenarios in which someone may encounter a creative block—before, during or after the creative process.
- Before: Let’s say you’re working on a presentation for a client and they give you one week to submit your deliverables. While you may have initial thought-starters, the pressure of submitting your work on a deadline may override your creative process and force you to complete the task without generating innovative ideas.
- During: Feeling blocked when you’re already in the creative process can be very challenging because you’re not necessarily sure if you should stop working on the project or continue. Often, being so focused on a singular idea can prevent you from leaving room for more creative thoughts.
- After: When you’ve completed a creative project, you’re definitely going to feel a sense of accomplishment. However, when it comes time for your next project, you may realize that you’re blocked after the fact and feel tapped out of ideas.
Any of these experiences can leave you feeling “stuck,” but like in Jaylynn’s experience, it is possible (armed with a bit of patience) to get rid of your creative block and get back to ideating.
Having to be creative when going through a creative block, especially when having a deadline, means spending copious amounts of time just staring at the computer waiting for that creative spark to hit and not knowing if or when it will happen.
And I don’t wish this on anyone.
— Racquel Coral (@Withloveracquel) April 28, 2022
3 ways to get rid of creative block
Creative block can be scary when you feel like it will have an impact on your job. Last year, I experienced a six-month-long creative block while trying to revamp a social media content strategy for a beverage brand. It was very challenging to come up with ideas for social media, especially because the success of my content was determined by how it performed.
There were many times when I worked to create fresh video content, copy or designs that did not perform the way I thought they would, despite the creative energy I invested. After a while, I felt physically and mentally burned out. That ultimately had an impact on my self-esteem and left me searching for ways to deal with the block. I quickly realized that I could take control of my experience by making small changes.
1. Take a pause
We are people—not robots. Sometimes you need to give your brain a little breathing room so that it can have the space it needs to create new ideas. Putting pressure on yourself to ideate will only delay the creative block, so it’s best to treat the time that you’re blocked as an opportunity to either refocus on projects that you’ve put on the back burner or not focus on a project at all.
Taking a pause could look very different for everyone. I used my PTO and took several trips to new cities to eat, explore, relax and find new sources of inspiration. I also made a conscious effort to not think about how to build exciting content for sparkling beverage consumers.
The takeaway: Whether it’s a vacation, working out or sitting in your own quiet, the ultimate goal should be to give your mind the break it deserves. Brains need time off, exercise and peace too!
2. Switch up your routine
Doing anything over and over again gets mundane. Now, when more people are working remotely and often at home, the line of separation between a work routine and a personal routine can be blurred.
I noticed that working from my home office every day was impacting my ability to think outside the box. It also made it very difficult for me to prioritize the areas of my life that focused on my wellness like meal planning, exercise or cleaning, so I began working at different co-working spaces in my city. Changing the spaces I created in not only allowed me to spark conversation with people who weren’t on a computer screen but it also helped me to tap into new sources of creative energy.
The takeaway: A change in scenery (or schedule) is a simple but effective way to get re-inspired.
3. Find a new source of inspiration
Think of inspiration as a well of water. The more you pull from it, the more it will deplete. While one particular source of inspiration may have served its purpose for a while, it may be time to find a new one.
The beautiful thing is that inspiration can come from anywhere. I used to find the majority of my inspiration while traveling but turned to nature when I realized it was no longer serving me. There’s something about the stillness of rain or the sounds of trees blowing in the wind that brings me a sense of peace and allows me to think clearly.
You can also find new inspiration by looking in a space that’s completely different from what you’re familiar with. If you’re a marketer that consumes a lot of content about social media or advertising, you may find inspiration from content that’s about cooking, dancing or even science.
The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to tap into a new source of inspiration. You may find that you’ll be able to create your freshest (or even best) ideas and bring them to life.
Getting back on the path to ideation
The reality is that creative block is bound to happen. When it does, just remember that it’s temporary.
coming out of a creative block feels like magic
— thai (@morenathai_) February 21, 2022
Extend yourself a little grace and encourage yourself to use the block as a time to reconnect with your mind, body and spirit. Before you know it, you’ll be back to creating big ideas again and your brain will thank you for giving it the space it needed.
In need of immediate inspiration for your social content calendar? Read through our 20 ideas to keep your brand’s feed fresh.
Overwhelmed at work? Here’s how to talk to your boss about burnoutPublished on October 31, 2022 Reading time 6 minutes
Brand awareness: What it is and strategies to improve itPublished on October 25, 2022 Reading time 12 minutes
How prioritization frameworks can make you a better marketerPublished on September 19, 2022 Reading time 5 minutes