9 Strategies for Overcoming Creative Blocks

Cecilia Li  |  02-19-2024
9 Strategies for Overcoming Creative Blocks

Creators of all kinds are bound to experience creative blocks from time to time. Whether you are staring at a blank page or rearranging layers in your timeline to no avail, feeling stuck can beat down the best of us. 

Here are a few tips that I’ve used to help break through those moments when everything I make feels wrong, all my ideas seem dumb, or my mind just decides to go entirely blank at the most inconvenient time. 

Consider the Root Cause

First things first. Before diving into solutions, it can be helpful to understand the underlying cause that’s got you feeling stuck in the first place. 

Fear of failure, perfectionism, burnout, lack of inspiration, and external distractions can all be contributing factors to creative blocks. 

If you know the source, you’ll be better equipped in choosing which strategies will be most effective in the current situation.

9 Strategies for Overcoming Creative Blocks

Let’s explore some targeted strategies to help you navigate through the murky waters of creative blocks. Each approach offers a unique angle to tackle the beast, whether it’s the pressure of perfectionism or just the absence of inspiration.

  1. Quantity Over Quality
  2. Change Your Environment
  3. Take Inspiration From Other Fields
  4. Practice Free-writing
  5. Take a Break & Practice Self Care
  6. Set Limitations
  7. Find Collaborators
  8. Add Silliness
  9. Reframe Your Concept of Creativity

By adopting one or more of these methods, you’re not just attempting to break through the block; you’re also redefining your relationship with creativity itself, turning obstacles into opportunities for growth.

1) Quantity Over Quality (Embrace Imperfection)

Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way is an incredibly powerful tool for removing creative blocks — although not a quick fix, this 12 week program will change your relationship with your creativity forever. One of my favorite takeaways is that it’s not your job to worry about the quality of the work you create, but rather to focus on the quantity. 

This counterintuitive suggestion bypasses perfectionism by giving you permission to create imperfect or just straight up bad work. 

In my own experience of putting this into practice for the first time, I spent a whole night on a drawing that pretty much immediately went into the trash. But as I laid in bed that night thinking about what a waste of time it all was, inspiration hit me for a piece that I am deeply proud of. 

This strategy is all about trusting that if you show up to the page, something worthwhile will come out of it down the road. Your only job is to carve out the time and create. 

2) Change Your Environment

A quick fix for creative blocks is just to change your environment. Pack up your laptop and notebook and get out of your routine. It can be as simple as moving to another room. 

Personally, I like to head to a coffee shop, making a point of changing up the route I take to arrive, ordering something different, and trying out a new spot or a different table. 

3) Take Inspiration From Other Fields

Sourcing inspiration from mediums other than the one you are working with can be a terrific source of creativity. Look at a wide variety of creators outside of your usual interests. 

Check out a gallery of work that isn’t quite your taste and see if you can find something intriguing there. You can head to a museum, have a conversation with someone you don’t know very well, or find a scenic spot to allow nature to inspire you. 

Let all these seemingly unrelated experiences percolate through your mind and give you a richer pool to pull from.

4) Practice Freewriting

Determine a set number of pages or a time limit and write until you hit your goal. Don’t self-filter, just write whatever pops into your head. 

This can often feel trite and silly but by bypassing your inner critic, freewriting helps you to tap into your subconscious mind and generate fresh ideas and insights. This simple practice can help to quickly re-establish your creative flow. 

Personally I was always resistant to this (never been much of a journal-er), but when I finally tried it out I was surprised at how much and how quickly it revealed insights from my life both personally and creatively and pushed me towards action. 

5) Take a Break & Practice Self Care

Assess your energy levels. If you’re feeling tired or burnt out, perhaps you are pushing yourself too hard. Resting can be productive. Sometimes taking a pause is better than pushing through. 

Take some time to do something that nurtures you so that you can go back to nurturing your creative endeavors later on with a full cup. 

6) Set Limitations

Sometimes, an infinite sandbox of possibilities is your worst enemy. Set parameters for your creative endeavors by composing a list of “don’ts”. 

By defining what you DON’T want to create, you help hone in the boundaries of what you DO want to create.  Having stricter boundaries also helps you to problem solve in a more creative manner.

7) Find Collaborators

Allow someone else in on your process. Fresh eyes can help you see things in a new light and make new associations. 

Aside from a more varied background of life experiences to pull from, the back and forth dialogue required in collaboration will help you hone your ideas.  

8) Add Silliness

Try taking whatever you’re doing less seriously. Let your inner child be playful and explore freely. Follow your whimsy and laughter, embracing spontaneity and curiosity as you allow your creativity to be an experimental and fun process. 

9) Reframe Your Concept of Creativity

In our modern era, we have collectively accepted the image of the tormented artist, we hold a belief that creativity and suffering are inherently. 

Some artists are held paralyzed by the fear that perhaps their greatest success is behind them. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic she describes how before the Renaissance, people determined creativity to be a disembodied entity outside of the self. This free-roaming genius visited creators for unknowable reasons and acted through them. 

Therefore, the outcome of a person’s work wasn’t due to individual brilliance and the responsibility of creativity, success and worthiness didn’t fall entirely on one person’s shoulders. Perhaps try on this idea and see how it feels. 

Creative Blocks Happen to Everyone

But you don’t have to lie down on the floor, accept defeat and just groan until you are out of air. 

Try to enjoy the journey of finding your creative expression and allow each block to be an opportunity for further growth and discovery. 

Hopefully these strategies can help you to move past obstacles when they arise. May your creative path unfold before you in unexpected and inspiring ways.

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