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I often get this question from a lot of people, “How do you keep your creativity intact and flowing?” The funny thing is I never knew what to really say until one morning when I woke up and I couldn’t think of anything to create or do. This was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever had to go through. Sure you get a creative block now and then, but that is easily trumped by simply picking up a magazine and paging through it. This feeling I had was different. I had no motivation to do anything creative.

Now you might put up your hand and say that perhaps something happened in my life that triggered this, “meaningless feeling.” The matter of fact is nothing out of the ordinary happened. Yes it was the beginning of December and Christmas was approaching, but this is usually the time my creativeness blossoms into a beautiful bouquet of flowers, if you know what I mean. Yet, this time around there was nothing for me to work with, my holsters were empty and I was about to dual with one of the most feared opponents in the creative industry, “The Ultimate Creative Block.”

Ok, I made up the expression, “The Ultimate Creative Block,” but this is genuinely how I was feeling, there was this huge solid wall in front of me and the only weapon I had in my hand was a paint brush I didn’t know how to use. I mean come on, how does a paint brush match up against a wall without creativity anyway? Let me show you how I was feeling when I was hit with this, “Ultimate Creative Block.”

Credits: Little Sad Boy | Textured Brick Wall | Paint Brushes | Wolf Face by Wegraphics

Now as you can see the image above portraits a sad young artist being blocked from creating by a wolf, obviously this is fictional in so many ways, but I have to express it to you guys somehow. Now that you know how I felt, let’s look at what I did to break through this wall and get to the other side.

Step 1. Get some exercise and be active

At the beginning of December I stopped with my regular gym routine as everyone started settling down. I never knew that it had such a diverse effect on my daily life until now. Once I stopped being active my body started missing the exercise and it totally disrupted my daily routine. Exercising doesn’t only take your mind off your working situations or designing, it stirs a different feeling in you when your blood starts rushing through your veins and the sweat starts dripping. Exercise can spark new ideas too, simply because you are in a total different mindset when training.

Step 2. Get out of the office and draw

This is something you should seriously think of doing on a weekly basis, choose any day in the week and take 3-4 hours and get out of the office for a relaxation drawing session. This won’t only make your mind run wild with ideas, but give you a fair amount of personal time to reflect back on things that have happened. Choose a public spot where you can make yourself comfortable on a bench or against a tree and have a lot of public movement around you. Favorite places: Public parks, Sea side, River banks, Big Ponds etc those are just some examples. The things you need to make sure you take with are: Camera, Sketch book, pencils, crayons, pastels, strictly no laptop or internet enabled device. No checking your emails or Facebook on your iPhone. The entire point of this exercise is to isolate yourself from the tech world and go old school. If you do this exercise constantly you will be amazed by the results you will achieve creatively.

Step 3. Experiment outside of your comfort zone

Let’s say you are a web designer, all you do everyday is design website layouts. Remember too much of a good thing is a bad thing. If you don’t understand what I mean, let me use another example. If you have 2 beers with friends, you are socializing and having fun. If you have 12 beers, you’ll be socializing with the pavement instead. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Designing only websites could get you caught up in a certain routine and trend that you would actually wish to avoid. The thing you should do is for a day or two, leave the layouts alone and see if you can’t come up with some wicked photo manipulations or some digital art. Invent your own campaign and start off with writing out a little brief as if you were a client and then see if you can come up with something that a potential client would like. Once you are happy with your potential campaign series, step over into creating a web presence for the campaign whilst incorporating the theme you designed. This will not only make you a better web designer, but brush up on some old skills of yours too.

Step 4. Take your camera on a adventure

Yes, you heard me. Today your camera is your only friend. Get in the car and take it for a drive, capture some extravagant moments you two spend together. You might feel a bit dorky, but this won’t only spark fresh ideas, you will be capturing useful images along the way. When you get home or back to the office, download these images and choose at least 5 or more of them and create a personal artwork out of each of those photos or use all of them together. Making use of your own images will not only show you that you got what it takes to create something beautiful from scratch, but also motivate you to take on more personal projects in the near future. Remember a camera can help you say a thousand words with one picture, in which other way would you be able to express so much emotion?

Step 5. Renovate your office

If you have been sitting in the same office for more than a year without any new additions, its time to make some changes. If it means painting the walls a different color or printing some posters and having them blocked for hanging purposes. If you have a International client base you can buy yourself some clocks and put them up with all the different countries times enlisted. The clocks I have in my office are all different colors, “Pink, Green, Blue, Orange.” Yes they can be irritating some times when the click out of sync, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Another addition to the office can be a plant or some new gadgets that you have been longing for, everything new adds some form of inspiration. Perhaps you just acquired a new docking station for your iPhone; why not make a fictional ad for the new docking station. Start off by photographing it and then doing the digital work after wards. There is just so much you can do to help yourself get back on track.

I hope these steps will help you as much as they helped me. I will definitely be frequenting these steps from now on to make sure my creative juices are flowing. Sure there are hundreds of other steps you can go about doing too, like listening to new music, learning to play a new instrument, going for a bungy jump or skydiving. The possibilities are endless. Let’s see where I ended up after following these steps in a descriptive way.

As you can see in the image above, I have successfully broken through the wall and I’m patiently waiting for the next project to pounce on. I hope you guys enjoyed the article. See you in the next one.

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About the Author:
Jacques is the CEO and Founder of the An1ken Group. Connect with him: Jacquesvh.com - @Jacquesvh - Facebook - Instagram - Pinterest - Google+

7 Comments so far

  1. Thanks for the advice! The dreaded creative block gets the best of us. I’ve assembled a photo album packed with inspiring artwork that I’ve collected over the years. I refer back to when I’m feeling particularly stumped and often the synergistic effect stirs something in me.

    I like your idea about getting out of the office too. The beach is one of my favorite drawing spots. You can also sit in a scenic cemetery… it’s a sobering moment that gets you out of self-pity mode. You think, “Well, artist’s block isn’t so bad… I could be dead…”!

    • I agree with you on the cemetery Michael, we have a lot of things to appreciate that others only dream of in their lives and most of the time we take it for granted. A album of artwork is another thing you can resort to when feeling baffled.

      Thanks for the comment

  2. Cosmin Negoita says:

    Hey An1ken, nice article! I’m not sure about the 1-4 steps, but the 5th works wonders. I’ve been around my workspace for 2 or 3 years. Finally, one day, I decided to tell my mom I want a new office desk (told my mum, cause I’m still a kid) and yeah, after cleaning my room, settling the new desk, I’ve done some nice web layouts :)

    Thanks for the tips!

  3. Velinda says:

    This is awesome. I can so relate on the creative block and I definitely need a change of scenery. I just got a new camera that I am anxious to get out and use. Thanks for a great article. I’m saving this one!!

  4. Amy Spreeman says:

    Renovating is a great idea! Better yet, I’ll start with a clean spot on my desk…

  5. TJ McDowell says:

    So basically, we just need to break the patterns we’ve established to see life in a different way, right? Also, with your tip on exercising, why not take along a book and ride a bike at the gym? That would be engaging your mind and getting your heart rate up at the same time. For me, the gym is the place I get to do most of my reading.

  6. exercise especially running always puts me in a completely different mood with all these endorphins going through the roof i feel im on top of the world like i could do anything and no one can ever stand in my way. this high spirit is usually enough to fuel back any dead creativity and put me on the right track again!

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