Posted by Gillian Rhodes

It’s a perfect mix of exhilaration and trepidation that a lot of what I do for a living relies on my ability to be creative. Everything from sketching a new greeting card design to coming up with an advertising budget for a client requires that I am able to think creatively to do the job the best way I possibly can. But creativity (and the creative process) has always been one of those things that is impossible to define and is radically different from person to person. This is sort of terrifying – yes? That a feeling or an ability that I can’t even describe is so important to, well, everything.


I would guess that most in similar shoes have had that kind of “oh my god I’m never going to figure this out/everything I do today is ugliest stupidest thing I’ve ever done/my whole life is a sham” moment. (No? Just me?) These are usually balanced by days where you are killing it and could just beam yourself to the moon with excitement from the stuff you’ve accomplished. But when I’m feeling kind of stuck and on the brink of one of those moments, I like to just take a second a rearrange my thoughts.

I kind of imagine creativity as a process of connecting dots. Imagine every piece of knowledge, experience, research, anything that gives you creative ability kind of existing in your brain, the creative process is like finding paths between those dots and creating meaningful ways to express ideas. Knowing that the ability always exists is comforting when I’m feeling stuck – it’s not that I’m not capable of doing what I need to, I’m just having trouble connecting the dots and making those paths. Ultimately, that little mantra alone will help clear up some of the fog and frustration and help me along my way.

Though I do think there is still a bit of mystery to this whole thing. Some days “connecting the dots” or finding creative solutions comes easier to me, other days it feels like I have to put more effort into facilitating that process. External forces like how late was I up working/watching episodes of the 90’s sitcom gift to mankind Home Improvement (no, just me?) definitely factor in, but creative blocks can hit even if I manage a really restful sleep.

No matter what the reason, there are a couple go-to ways that help me feel unstuck:

    1. Clarify my goals and objectives. When I’m feeling stuck on a creative solution, I find it helpful to go back and look at the problem. If I’m designing a website for a client and I’m struggling to find a color scheme or font pairing that I am satisfied with, I go back to the goals and objectives of that project. Maybe that means re-reading the client notes or going over my research of a client’s niche to refresh the purpose of what I’m doing. This is also an opportunity to re-define these goals. Maybe I’m having trouble because my perception of the goals and objectives are different than the intention. Sometimes a slight tweak here can realign what you’re doing and help the creative process along.
    2. Move on. By taking a step back from the problem at hand and focusing on a different task, I still feel productive but can give myself an opportunity to take a break. I’ll often do a simple task that doesn’t require a whole lot of brain power. This allows me to kind of ruminate (good word!) on the problem kind of in the back of my brain. I don’t know how many times I’ve had an “Aha” moment while folding laundry in the basement.
    3. Master the tools. This is basically another way of stepping back from the source of the creative block while staying productive and a little more on task. If I find I’m having trouble with a certain aspect or element of a project, I’ll seek out ways to improve a skill related to the core issue of my block. If I’m stuck on a logo, I might go to a place like Skillshare and complete a tutorial on Adobe Illustrator. Or if I’m creating a rebranding plan for a business and I’m finding that it’s not coming together as fluidly as I’d like, I’ll download a new branding strategy book to my kindle and get readin’. If I keep the tutorials or books in the realm of the project I’m having trouble with, it’ll inevitably help spark something I can use to get past the creative hurdle. There is so much knowledge and information in the field and it’s so easily available – it’s a great way add to your creative repertoire and have an immediate impact to what you produce.
    4. Coffee. Kidding. Sort of.

What do you do to encourage creativity when you’re feeling stuck?

— G.

Ways to encourage creativity when I’m feeling stuck
appeared first on Palmer Street Press.