I guess it’s time we have the talk now.
No, not that talk. A different kind of talk. The one about why I haven’t been posting anything these past couple of weeks.
I’ve been trying to get this out of my system in a couple of different post drafts which have ended up discarded for being too sappy or missing the point of what I wanted to say. Long story short, I was stuck in a huge creative block for weeks. By creative block here I mean like a writer’s block, but even more widespread: I kept on underperforming and not producing anything good in academics, design, writing, music, everything. It was like hitting a wall over and over again in terms of good ideas, which was honestly super draining physically and mentally because it led to being so busy but producing nothing.
It took me a while to finally figure out how to tear those walls apart and start coming up with ideas again and in that process, I learned a lot about being creative itself which I thought I should share as my “hi I’m back” post. So if you feel like you’re just stuck in coming up with creative ideas or just not performing as well as you should in life, here are 10 ways I dealt with my creative block which would hopefully help.
You know how in sports like soccer, basketball, and hockey, a team sometimes asks for a time out to re-group and strengthen their strategy? I think every individual should also do that every once in a while to various areas of their life for the same purpose. The thing is, if you keep going on and on, trying to keep doing everything even though you’ve hit a wall in creativity, it’s just physically and mentally draining which can actually cause more problems than creative block. Sometimes, you need a day off or two from what you do to re-group yourself. That’s what I did with this blog when I felt stuck – I stopped blogging for a couple of weeks instead of forcing myself to do it and producing nothing anyway. I took a week off from work as well and focused on university work which actually made me come back to work with twice the energy and creativity. Though it may sound counter-productive, sometimes you just need that time out to be twice as productive.
I learned this tip from a wonderful book called Do Less, Get More by Shaa Wasmund. Basically, think of a week in your life as a plate and consider everything you need to do that week. What does that plate look like? Is it full with just the right amount of things? Or are there simply too many things that you try to fit on it that nothing hardly stays on the plate too long without some spilling going on? If your plate is way too full, then I think it’s time to remove some things from it. If you’re trying to do everything at once with some things actually not being useful or building you up, you’re just setting yourself up for a burnout which includes creative block. This is where taking a time out from some areas of life could come in handy because when you take a step back from something, you can actually see the bigger picture and re-think the things you do. Does it help you get further to the big goal or plan you want to do in life? Does it make you a better person? Does it allow you to contribute something nice for other people or humanity in general? These are the questions I used in evaluating my plate and if the answer is “no”, I figure out how I can do it less, delegate it to other people, or just get rid of it completely from my plate.
Re-Arrange Your Space
Sometime last month, I suddenly felt so trapped in my own room where I usually worked and I decided to spend an entire day to clean it up, particularly the area I consider to be my work space. I cleared out my desk, threw away junk that filled it up, and even re-arranged my book shelves and storage areas. After that, although I felt super exhausted, but it felt like my room is no longer a confinement and I just felt the way my room looked: clean, fresh, new. Sorting out what I wanted to keep in my work space and move elsewhere or throw away was also somewhat therapeutic because it got me to find old stuff that inspired me and got rid of stuff that reminded me of bad things or feelings. Also, working in a clean work space felt better because well, having a lot of junk sitting on my shelves and desk just made me feel engulfed in them. So if you have some spare time, try to clean your work space and refresh it. Sort out the stuff you have there to discard or relocate and even make an inspiration board if you have the space. It honestly helps in making you think of fresh, new ideas. (If you need some tips on how to best clean your space, this video helped me a ton!)
Open Yourself Up to Inspiration
I think there are two ways you can find inspiration: on purpose or by accident. I learned how to find inspiration on purpose by learning this trick of scheduling inspiration from Lilly Singh and it basically means making time in your day to find inspiration from various sources. It could be watching a movie or checking out other people’s blogs or watching funny YouTube videos or meeting with people who have succeeded in what you’re planning to do, try doing new things such as camping or going tech-free – anything as long as you can find inspiration out of it. It could mean different things to different people as well. For me, it includes watching the show Raw Travel on Nat Geo People, and browsing through Pinterest or other travel blogs (my favorite is Adventurous Kate). Although it seems weird (how can you schedule inspiration?), it’s actually helpful for me since being someone who always has so much in her to-do list, scheduling a time to sit down and find ideas is a way to actually trigger my brain to think “okay, we can actually do something like that but change it up by doing …” It’s also important to keep your mind and senses peeled to find inspiration by accident because it can honestly come from anything anywhere and anytime. So don’t be stuck in your own little bubble of your social media feed, but look around, observe things, and take notes of things that give you ideas on what you can create.
Surround Yourself with Creative People
This one has proven to be the most important thing for me because the people you have closest to you define who you are as a person. If you want to be creative, then you need to surround yourself with creative people too – people who dare to think differently and have all these ideas running through their head along with no fear to actually execute them. You can’t be creative and come up with ideas if you’re surrounded by people who only follow the trend and say yes all the time. So check the circle of people you have around you – do they get you to look at life differently? Do they think creatively and live with curiosity? Do they push you to create things instead of just following instructions? Try to spend time with some creative people at least twice a week and see how your life changes because mine has changed quite drastically from doing just that.
Let Go of Perfectionism & People-Pleasing
These two were my demons that built the creative block up within me. Perfectionism got me striving for a standard that’s unattainable and thinking nothing I created in my head was good enough to be released or even to be put down into words or photos. People-pleasing got me trying to do everything for everyone and making everybody happy which made me turn into a follower of the trend with no creative ideas on my own. Although it’s good to have quality standards about what your produce and it’s good to make other people happy, too much of something is never a good thing. So set your mind on letting go of that perfectionism and people-pleasing. Write post-its about it, put quotes that remind you to let them go. I’m not going to write the how to deal with it because I’m no expert, but it helped for me to think about this: your work will never be perfect nor will it ever please everyone. So focus on what it can be which is published and helpful for some people.
Create First, Edit Later
This last one is a bit more on the practical side and is something I’ve been doing in writing for a while, but thanks to the whole issue with my creative block, I actually began doing this on everything I need to create: from essays in university to censoring my own ideas. Basically, what I do is let the content I want to create flow out without censorship first. I write down every idea I have in my mind first with brutal honesty, just the way I think about it in my head. The hardest part is staying on track and continuing to do it if you feel like you wanted to come back and change something up, but you have to do it. Afterwards, it’s time to start editing. Cross out the ideas that seem harmful or you don’t find suitable for yourself or your target audience. Rework the words (if it’s a piece of writing) or the idea if you’re just brainstorming. Be your own editor. Change things up to suit your quality standard – but make sure to do it only after you’re done with the first draft of the whole thing because if not, you’re creating barriers for your own ideas just when they start pouring out.
I’m sure there are many more ways one can deal with creative block but these are just things I did that actually worked for me and I think could work for other people as well. If you have any other ideas on what to do to deal with creative block, do comment below and tell me what they are because I’d love to hear them!
Anyway, to end this post I just want to say thank you to everyone who has kept on reading this blog during my absence. I see you and I want to thank you. Thank you for the likes and comments you left here too – they actually motivated me to come back here and blog again. So, thank you so much for staying h(a)ere – get it? Haha – when I wasn’t. I’m coming back here with more consistent posts over the next couple of weeks so be on the look out for them!