Overcome a creative block in 5 easy ways

For the days when inspiration doesn’t strike.

Harper's Bazaar India

“I’m struggling to think of ideas.” 
“I’m feeling lost, confused, and I can’t concentrate.” 
“I can’t write for the life of me!”

To all the artists, writers, photographers, filmmakers, and creators out there: take solace in the fact that you are not alone if you’ve caught yourself saying these lines before. We’ve all experienced that numbing feeling while staring into the laptop screen (read: space), waiting for inspiration to strike. A creative block is often defined as the inability to access one’s inner creativity. According to research, some of the most common causes of a creative block include self-doubt, fear of imperfection, and even burnout. When we asked author Robin Sharma what he does to overcome writer’s block, his answer would please many. “I take a nap,” he said. 

Here’s the thing about creative blocks—they can last from anywhere between a few hours to a couple of weeks and will be a frequent challenge throughout your life. The good part is that you’ll eventually master the ways of overcoming such blocks. The bad part, as event anchor and media trainer Suresh Venkat puts it, “Creative blocks themselves morph and evolve as you age. So the challenge you faced in your 20s is likely to be very different from the ones you face in your 40s or 50s.” 

But, besides taking a nap, there are many other ways of overcoming a creative block. Read on below to know more about them. 

Take a break

Take some much-needed time off from work. Listen to your mind and body and allow it to rest. You can spend some time reassessing and collecting your thoughts, or you can spend some time not thinking about the thousands of thoughts running through your mind, and instead focus your energy on activities that you enjoy. Here’s your cue to play Taylor Swift’s Shake it off and dance your heart out, cosy up with a book, or go for a walk amidst nature or crowded streets—take your pick. Venkat recommends, “Practice some of the 'whacks' described in the book, A Whack on the Side of the Head.” And if nothing works, follow author Ashwin Sanghi’s advice, “There’s nothing that some whiskey doesn’t cure.” 

Work through the block 

Let this be your reminder that it’s okay to produce bad work, to make mistakes, and fail, but it is not okay to give up trying. Here’s what award-winning author Jerry Pinto has to say, “Every time I hear the term creative block, I ask the person who has used it, would you consider cooking a creative art? If you do, then think about your cook coming to you one day and saying, ‘I really am not getting a vibe from the onions: the potatoes are saying nothing to me. Can I please be excused from cooking, because I have a case of creative block?’ You would probably tell your cook, 'Get in there and cook me something, anything.' 

As creative people, we are very good at inventing reasons for not working. I would say that when you find yourself blocked, you must create, through the block. You work your way through it. You produce bad work, if necessary. That can always be thrown away, destroyed or concealed, burned if you want. But you work through it, and in the process of working through it, you will break out into clear water again. But you will not get to clear water unless you work through the block. And think on this: If your creative work is not as vital and as important as cooking, why do it?” 

Talk to other creative people 

When you work in a creative space and are out of inspiration, talk to others; it could be your co-workers, superiors, and even members from other departments. Instead of beating yourself up for the lack of creative juices, broaden your network. Have conversations with people you’ve never spoken to before or seek help from seniors, because conversations always lead to more ideas and innovative solutions to problems. 

Break it down

Sometimes, a creative block can arise because of the numerous and large tasks at hand. When you feel lost and confused, and find it exceedingly difficult to concentrate, the best thing you can do is break down the large tasks into smaller ones, prioritise them, and work towards completing each of the smaller tasks. Go step by step, taking it one task at a time. You’ll find yourself being increasingly efficient and producing stellar work, with fewer mistakes. Give yourself the time and space to work at the pace you need to, and working may just feel inspiring and exciting again! 

Do something new 

It’s time step out of your comfort zone and seek inspiration from new and different experiences. Take part in a blind book exchange, treat yourself to a dinner and some dessert and don’t be afraid to go on your own, watch a genre you’ve never watched before, go for a trip, jump off that plane or dive off that cliff—explore the unknown because you never know when inspiration strikes. Don’t let anything hold you back. We promise you won’t regret it.