It’s the day before the deadline, and you’re stuck. You need help fast.
Whether you’re a writer or some other type of creative professional, you’ve probably experienced creative block. (It’s also called writer’s block). It strikes both seasoned professionals and those who are new to their field.
There are many posts on how to deal with creative block (I know I’ve written several). Most of the tips you’ll read are helpful, but they don’t deal with the root causes behind creative block.
In this post, I list four causes of creative block and explain how to deal with each cause. This post is for writers, but other creative professionals may find it helpful as well.
Cause #1. The Perfectionism Block
“I just can’t seem to get the right words down. I hate what I’ve written. It all seems off somehow.”
If this sounds familiar, perfectionism may be the cause of your creative block.
While it’s good to strive for excellence, none of us are perfect. You are probably your own harshest critic. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your project that it feels like your work isn’t good enough.
One way to deal with perfectionism is to step away from the project for a time. If time permits, go a day without working on it. Focus on other things.
When you do return to your project, imagine that someone else wrote it. You’ll find it’s not as bad as you thought when you look at it with fresh eyes.
Cause #2. The Inspiration Block
“I couldn’t finish the project because I didn’t have an inspiration.”
If you’re always saying this, you may have an inspiration block.
Many creative professionals have a wrong understanding of what it means to be creative. They expect that brilliant ideas will suddenly strike them if they wait long enough. In truth, the creative process rarely works this way.
Try this when you don’t feel inspired:
- List several ideas, even if you don’t feel excited about them. Try to include at least five ideas on your list.
- Pick the first idea and quickly write down everything you know about it. Don’t try to organize your thoughts, just jot down what comes to mind.
- Continue on to the second and third ideas and do the same. Continue on down the list, recording your ideas and impressions.
- Now, look back over your list. You’ll notice that several ideas stand out. It’s likely that, with some research, you can develop one or more of these.
Now you have someplace to start, even if you didn’t feel inspired at first.
Cause #3. The Procrastination Block
Are you always putting your projects off until tomorrow? Does tomorrow never seem to come?
If you answered “yes” to both questions, you have a problem with procrastination. Procrastination can definitely affect your creativity.
Procrastination has many causes (see The Motivation Block below), but at its most basic procrastination is a bad habit.
Fortunately, most bad habits can be broken. Procrastination is no different. Here are some easy steps to overcome procrastination:
- Start by holding yourself accountable. Each day, list project-related tasks that you intend to carry out that day.
- Find an accountability partner. It’s been shown that peer pressure can help change behavior.
- Sweeten the pot. Reward yourself for meeting project-related goals. Choose something you want as a reward, but wouldn’t ordinarily get.
Conventional wisdom says that it takes at least thirty days to break a bad habit. Avoid procrastination for at least thirty days and you’re on your way to a procrastination-free work style.
Cause #4. The Motivation Block
Everyone has a few mornings when they get up and just don’t feel like working. But, if your work feels like a grind and you no longer look forward to it; you probably have a motivation block.
A lack of motivation can hurt your creativity. If you’re struggling with this, it’s time to do some serious soul-searching. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Have my interests changed? Perhaps you started out in one niche, but now your interest is somewhere else.
- Have my life circumstances changed? If your life circumstances have changed, creativity may no longer be a priority.
- Do I take enough breaks? If you haven’t taken a vacation or even a weekend off in a long time, you may be in danger of burnout.
- Have I forgotten what drew me to my field? Remembering why you became a freelancer could be enough to get your motivation going.
There are no easy answers to this type of block. After looking over your answers, you may find it’s time to make a change.
The change could be as simple as changing your niche or making sure that you take time off. Or, it might be time to do something else entirely. The decision is yours.
Do you struggle with creative block? How do you overcome it?