How to get yourself out of a creative rut

Balled up paper to symbolise writer's block or creative rut

Here’s what you need to do when you feel fresh out of ideas

Every great artist has struggled with a creative block at some point. Leonard Cohen wrote eighty (80!) draft verses for “Hallelujah” and ended up in his underwear, banging his head on the floor before he finished the version we know today. Hans Christensen Andersen took constructive criticism so badly he cried face-down on Charles Dickens’ lawn after reading one bad review. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote in his notebook of one bad season, “so completely has a whole year passed, with scarcely the fruits of a month.—O Sorrow and Shame … I have done nothing!” So, if you’re suffering from a dearth of ideas, you’re not alone.

In fact, after a prolonged creative rut, you might actually have some of your best ideas. Giving your brain a change of scenery in order for it to restore and compartmentalise a bit can pay dividends, as it’ll allow you space to better scrutinise your ideas and sort the wheat from the chaff. If you’re bored of creating nothing, here’s some tips to kick-start your creative juices to start flowing again.

Play with new functions or features

Tinker around and play with some new features in your editing software or camera, and look at how other creators have used the functions. Read industry articles about new tools and tricks, and have a play with functions on social platforms you might not have used before. The trick here is not that this will suddenly turn into an amazing idea, but that it will reactivate the pathways in your brain that are linked to creativity. Who knows, you might start to develop an idea that actually has legs, or you might be able to learn a new skill to strengthen your creations. Stop worrying about perfect, or even good, and just shoot for something.

Revisit your roots

This could be a great opportunity to revisit the things that made you want to start creating in the first place. Maybe a life-changing holiday gave you a passion for travel, or a skin condition made you a beauty buff, or one seriously good meal turned you into a foodie. Whatever it was, go back to what originally inspired you to start creating and remember the drive and the impetus you had then. How far have you come since that point? How well have you achieved your original goals? What more do you think you could be doing to serve that first spark you had? Take this opportunity to reconnect and revisit your first inspiration, and let things flow from there.

Get a change of scenery

In an ideal world, we’d all have mountain cabins tucked away in the foothills that we could retreat to, totally alone, when we needed a break. Realistically, most of us either can’t afford to get away, or it’s simply not practical to be away for long due to real-life commitments / a terrifying virus sweeping its way around the globe. That doesn’t mean you can’t switch things up though – maybe if you usually work at home, try spending part of the day in a co-working space or cafe – or if you have to stay inside, move your desk elsewhere in your home and change where you sit. If you always work alone, reach out to some other creators to see if they’re up for working in a group where you can bounce ideas off each other. Any new experience, no matter how small, flexes our brains and might just be the trigger you need to spark up a new idea.

Widen your scope 

A creative block is a really good time to look to other creators, both your peers but also writers, directors and photographers, to get some inspiration. It doesn’t directly have to be in your niche, either; if you’re a food creator, maybe watch some travel content, if you’re a travel creator, maybe watch some food content! If you’re into beauty, brush up on some historical styles and some fashionable films and documentaries to get you thinking outside the box. Just look at any kind of creator you admire, even if they’re light years ahead of you in terms of their budget and their career. Inspiration can come from the strangest of places, and even the world’s greatest creatives take inspiration from those who’ve gone before them, so don’t be afraid to push the boundaries.

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