Take a deep breath. Right now. Don’t think twice about it. Inhale. Exhale.
Everything is going to be alright.
I know exactly what you’re going through. The idea factory in your brain has apparently shut down for the season and you’re desperately trying to get it up and running again. But wait! What’s that in the distance? Is it someone from the idea factory’s board of directors coming back from vacation?
Nope. It’s a deadline.
That’s right — the due date is approaching. You have to come up with something quickly. Don’t panic. Every creative person has been where you are now, and guess what? We got through it.
Today is the day your creative block ends. Here’s how to get out of your design rut.
Carry a Notebook
Inspiration can’t be manufactured. You can’t think really hard about something and become inspired.
Inspiration comes from experience and observation. You have to get out of your bedroom and explore. Go for a walk in the park. Visit a coffee shop you’ve never been to before. Check out the closest aquarium. Live life and observe as much as you can. You’ll soon find plenty of inspiration, and you’ll want to have a notebook on you when you do.
Ideas come and go in a second if you don’t pay close enough attention. Make sure your notebook is always ready at a moment’s notice. Write down everything that comes to mind. And no, your phone won’t suffice. You’ll get too distracted and forget all about what you wrote. Meanwhile, a notebook is a tangible representation of your ideas, and its existence will remind you that you hold a treasure chest full of designs.
Anything that remotely resembles an idea should be put on paper. The pattern of that butterfly’s wings might not mean anything to you now, but it could inspire a new design a few months later.
Don’t let great ideas run away from you. Have a notebook at your side so you can keep track of ideas and go back to them later.
Look at All Types of Work
What’s the cause of your rut? Why aren’t you coming up with ideas as easily as you used to?
The answer to these questions could be the fact that you’re designing the same thing over and over again.
Yes, you change your designs for each client. But your basic techniques and mindset are the same for everything. You’ve developed design habits and you’re unconsciously following them for each project. Design is no longer exciting because you’ve developed a routine.
It’s time to shake up your work.
You need to take a few steps backwards and become a student again. I’m challenging you to open your mind and soak in as much information as you can. Read design books you haven’t read. Look at designs you don’t particularly enjoy. Talk to other designers and observe their work. These designers should vary from college graduates to established veterans.
Re-evaluate your perception of what design can be. Before you know it, that creative bug will come back.
The deadline is looming over you like a shadow you can’t get rid of.
That shadow is stress, and you can get rid of it. Don’t let stress consume you.
There are a few ways to relieve stress. However, the most effective stress-reliever is exercise. This doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym for two hours every day. Running a mile in the morning or going for a 20-minute walk is all you need. Exercise causes your body to release endorphins, which are your “feel-good” hormones. This will relieve stress by making you happier. Exercise also gets the blood flowing to your brain and induces your creative-thinking ability.
Take time out of your day to exercise. Your creativity will thank you for it.
Wake up Early
I know, I know. I don’t like setting my alarm either. But waking up early might be all you need to do to get your creative juices flowing. Try to sit at your desk before you take that first sip of coffee. You should be drowsy and barely awake.
Why am I suggesting you work in this state? Sometimes your most creative ideas come when you don’t have enough energy to think. You aren’t fully conscious yet, which means you can’t second-guess your ideas. Ideas for designs will emerge before you have the chance to tell yourself why it won’t work. These ideas might just be what you’re looking for.
Technical work like editing and coding should be done when you’re more awake and focused, but creative thinking should be done before the sun rises.
Step Away and Incubate
Yes, that deadline isn’t going away. But you should step away from your work.
That’s right. Take a break and forget that your project even exists. Momentarily leave your ideas at your desk and focus on anything else. Maybe you have a side project you’re working on. There could be a podcast you listen to every week. Just get away from your work.
I know what you’re thinking — how does avoiding my work help fix this problem?
You aren’t avoiding your work. You’re unconsciously incubating ideas. Stress and panic are currently occupying your conscious mind. By taking a break, you’re letting your unconscious mind go to places your conscious mind can’t.
This incubation process lets you unconsciously process ideas. The next time you go back to work, your solution may be sitting right there in front of you.
Relax. That next big idea will come to you eventually. Until then, try to get some sleep and trust the creative process.