Breaking Through Creative Blocks

By   |  Stashed in Graphic Design, Webdesign

Working in a creative field, such as design, can be taxing on the imagination. Day in and day out, designers are called upon to get those creative juices flowing and splash a little of it around (that ended up sounding worse than intended…but lets move passed it, shall we). The constant dip in the pool of ideas can lead to creative blocks that keep you coming up empty and lacking the imaginative edge you need to work. It happens all the time, and to even the most inspired among us. There comes a day when those fantastic feats of enterprising vision flounder, fall short and in general, fail you.

It happens. Breathe. The important thing to remember when these menacing moments occur, is that they are merely moments, and they too, shall pass. It is not a personal failure on your part, and this too, is good to keep in mind. It is not something you have done, it is simply something that is happening to you. And there are some ways that have proven effective to folks who have faced these times, and come through them with success. And they all involve taking a mental five.

The Mental Five

What we mean, is you need to unplug and give your mind a rest. Not always the easiest thing to do, we know, especially when you have a design deadline looming in the distance. But believe that one of the worst things you can do, is to panic and try to force your way through it. Take some time, and unwind. Like we said, take a mental five!

#1 – Music or Podcasts


Tyler Hayes recently posted an article on Fuel Your Creativity about the benefits of music during crucial creative times with Music to Feed Your Soul During Crucial Design Moments. It explores the value that music can offer when you are experiencing these blocks. Podcasts have helped us in the past as well. Pick your poison, and let it play.

#2 – Board or Video Games


Speaking of playing, let your mind have a little fun. Take time from the stresses of work to engage your brain in a completely different way. Board games and, more so for us, video games offer an easy escape from the burdens of being blocked, and need to be mentioned here as they are extremely helpful.

#3 – Movies or Shows


Another easy escape that can be made to ease the anquish of creative blockage that helps the mind take a much needed vacation from creation, are movies or shows. Losing yourself in some storyline and letting it touch you, can offer the mind a chance to work on something else as you take in the tale. Feeling something other than the stress that may have brought on the block, in the first place.

#4 – Reading


Books, blogs, comics, whatever you fancy flipping through, go for it. This is another great way to lose yourself and your worries for a taste of something different for a time. Pages can provide that proverbial free passage elsewhere. Afterall it’s all about giving your mental faculties a nice, relaxing stretch.

#5 – Get Outside!


While we are on the subject of stretching, lets venture to the last of the mental five, getting outside. This recharges you in so many ways it’s almost unbelievable (almost…BELIEVE!). When escape is in order, make a literal one! Get away from the confines of your office space, ground zero for your uninspired grind, and reconnect with nature. Breathe in the great outdoors, and smell the freedom they can offer. Inspiration soon to follow.

It seems that as long as you surrender to your senses, and let go in your mind, your subconscious will continue on your quest. It may take minutes, though it could take hours, but the blocks will melt away and the creative inspirations will flood back in giving you the edge you need to complete or at least continue your work. Time may be of the essence, but quality should never be sacrificed to force your way through a creative block. Instead, step back. Your mind is trying to tell you that it needs time off. Ignore at the possible detriment of your design. Too often in creative pursuits, you come across work that comes across as forced, rushed. Creating takes time. Someone once told me, that if you are going to do something, then take the time to do it right. We think that holds true here, as well.

About the Author

Angie Bowen is a freelance web & graphic designer and co-founder of Arbenting and Dead Wings Designs.

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  • Matt

    Great article. Thanks!

    Matt´s last post was… 20+ Sites to Find Design Inspiration

  • kyle steed

    My favorite thing to do to clear my head is to get outside. Whether that means taking my dogs for a walk or just hoping in the car and driving around, anything to get out from behind my monitor helps.

    Great article, thanks.

    kyle steed´s last post was… branded designers

  • Aaron Irizarry

    I usually try to do something completely unrelated to the computer or design… I will go for a walk with my kids or go outside and play with them. Sometimes just play some xbox.

    great read

    ~ Aaron I

  • David Perel

    Nice post, I especially agree with getting outside. for me it is the best solution to a creative block.

    David Perel´s last post was… Get clever when buying advertising space

  • Veronica Domeier

    Love the article, nice job!

    I have to agree w/Kyle, getting outside and away from the home office works best for me. My favorite thing to do is to get out there with my Nikon and wonder the city or hill country.

  • Tom Ross

    Nice article, and very applicable to me at the moment. I might just pop outside now for a bit :)

    Tom Ross´s last post was… Daily Image Inspiration #18

  • Jason

    Yeah, I agree with everyone so far, it’s going to be around 80 today in Phoenix, what a great day to get outside.

    We try to help out at our office (Gangplank HQ), we have a area with couches, tv and consoles. As well as some cool Peepcode videos to watch.

    It’s good to take regular breaks to break up the day.

  • Annie Brunson, Composer of Relaxation Music

    A creative block happens in all walks of life – from business to art. I’ve had dry spells sometimes of months, because I’d start to avoid writing music as the last time I sat down I was empty. I started to doubt myself as a composer – “Have I lost my ability?” “What if there is nothing else left inside me?” But talking yourself away from your project, whether graphic art, computer design, music, a strategic plan for business is one of the few ways you ARE going to find your muse again. Relax the brain, let the spirit rise up again. Then all of a sudden, you’ll start humming something, or doodling an idea on a napkin and “VOILA!”, you’re in business again.

  • Angie Bowen

    Thanks for all the replies. It seems that everyone really likes getting outside for inspiration. That’s our favorite too but we thought that it might be because we live in the mountains and have such breathtaking views. But there’s something that’s rejuvenating about nature, the fresh air, sunshine/moonlight and the overall energy.

    But there’s still a lot to be said for just kicking back and playing some xbox too ;D

    Angie Bowen´s last post was… Inspiration in Purple

  • Preston Lee

    What an excellent post. Unlike others here, i love to go to the big city to get inspired. I live in the country and when I go into the city, I see all the great new creative advertising etc. Its an inspiration to me and really gets the gears moving.

    Preston Lee´s last post was… Recreating a product image | part 3b

  • Tanaka13 – Créations du Net

    very interesting article! i prefer myself taking a walk in the countryside with my family or listening to music.

  • Megastar media

    for the past 15 years..the thing that helps me the most in this situation is to totally forget about it, go for a long drive in my charger rt, listen to great music.

    but, even if the “vibe” is not have to “man up” and get it done…i have learned that if you focus on the main goal of the site,even if it is hard, the right ideas will come to you.

    thanks for the tips


  • Rizwan

    there are times when you have to just get it right….with people staring at you and those eyes piercing your back….but then if you focus on the goal at hand and try to – as megastar media says – focus on the main goal of the site

    Rizwan´s last post was… I am alive!!

  • Johnson Koh

    Interesting article :D Dugg!

    Johnson Koh´s last post was… Nokia Music Almighty Headset Design

  • Tyler

    Nice article!

    I like to walk downtown with my DSLR and find cool things to shoot… wether it be cool textures, buildings, signs, posters, whatever! LOVE IT!!!

  • Jon Williams

    Nice post. Usually a 5-10 min break is enough to give me a little refresh but these are all great for the major roadblocks.

    Jon Williams´s last post was… Design issues are fixed

  • Haxn

    Nice post :) thanks a bunch…
    Has anyone listened to “Make Your Mind Work for You” by Joan Minninger ?
    here is the amazon link:

    PS: I don’t work for amazon neither am I Joan Minninger’s friend :P