5 totally obvious ways to shake off creative block (or, how to waste time when you're supposed to be working)

Tips that will 100% change your life... or not.

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Being a graphic designer is pretty great. You get to doodle all day, play with colours and shapes, and be artsy fartsy (I’m a writer, not a designer but I’m pretty sure that's what you guys do, right?). But sometimes even the most passionate designers I know can hit a rough patch. It happens to writers too and our name for it is better—writer’s block.

Whenever you're completely overworked, stressed, or don't know how to order the ideas that are bouncing around in your head and it is the worst possible time, it hits you… DUM DUM DUM… the dreaded creative block. And the faster that deadlines are approaching, the worse it is. How the hell do you go from staring at a blank screen to putting the art in artsy again (still not sure exactly what you guys do)?

Here are some tips that will either save you or make you lose your mind (but hey, at least you'll have an excuse for why you missed the deadline).

1. Take a break (Duh!)

I know, I know. When you're under pressure, taking a break seems like the last thing you should do. But hear me out. Your brain is a muscle, and like any muscle, it needs a break after hours of intense workout. If you've been working on the same project for too long, your brain might be feeling fatigued and struggling to come up with new ideas. The solution? Get up from your desk, stretch your legs, and do something completely different. Something that requires zero brain power, like cleaning the kitchen, folding laundry, or playing with your cat. Trust me, forcing your brain to focus on something else will give it a chance to recharge and come back fresh and ready to tackle the problem.

2. Immerse yourself in other people's creativity (or, stalk your favourite artists)

If you're stuck for ideas, why not borrow some inspiration from others? Organise a creative inspiration day and go to an art exhibit, watch a movie, read a magazine, or start a new book. Immerse yourself in different perspectives, styles, and techniques that you might not have thought of before. Maybe revisiting some of your favourite artists will remind you of ideas you had in the past. Exposing yourself to other people's creativity can stimulate your imagination and encourage you to think in new ways. Just don't get too inspired, or you might end up copying their work (which is, you know, illegal and unethical).

3. Go for a walk (and touch grass)

Stress is the enemy of creativity, and if you're feeling overwhelmed, a good walk might be the thing that gets you back on track. Going for a walk can reduce stress and anxiety, clear your mind, and make it easier for you to think creatively. A change of scenery can also do wonders for your creativity. Get out of the office, breathe some fresh air, and surround yourself with new stimuli for your senses. Plus, walking is a form of mindfulness, and being present in the moment can help you gain a clearer perspective on the project you're working on.

4. Talk to other people (or, bother your colleagues or friends for no reason)

Sometimes, all you need is a fresh perspective to shake off creative block. Talking to other designers, or even non-designers, about the problem you're working on, can be incredibly helpful. Exchanging ideas, receiving feedback, and collaborating on solutions can lead to new ideas and creative breakthroughs. Not to mention, talking to other people will remind you that you're not alone in this struggle and give you a sense of community. Just don't talk to me. I’m busy.

Ask for more time (or face the fact that not everything is for you)

If you’ve tried steps one to four and you’re still a bundle of nerves, sweat drops dripping on the page (or keyboard), it might be time you tackle the source of the problem—ask for a deadline extension. The earlier you do it, the better. Offer your client a sneak peek at your work-in-progress or give them a revised timeline. The more info they have, the more likely they are to say yes.

But if they say no, don't worry! It just means this project wasn't meant to be. You can always recommend another designer who may be a better fit (I’m sure there are plenty of people you know who would love the work). Not every project is going to be a perfect match and that's okay. It's all part of growing as a designer. Plus, you can always take a look at how the other designer tackled the project and learn for next time. Don't beat yourself up over it! Creative blocks happen to the best of us and learning to roll with it is just as important as learning all those fancy design terms.