13 inspiring tips for when you’re in a creative rut

Maya Lekach

We’ve all been there. You’ve been working hard for days and all of a sudden it seems your creative juices are completely used up. But have no fear! We’ve got your back and will help you find ways to get your imagination kickstarted. Here are some fun, fresh ways to fight off your creative block.

1. Start a design journal

notebook

Photo: Viktor Hanacek (via picjumbo)

You never know when inspiration will strike you. Maybe you’ll see something interesting while strolling the streets. Perhaps you’re having drinks with friends and something pops into your head. Don’t let these ideas go to waste!

Instead of trying to remember (that never really works), write — or draw — it down. Revisit these ideas later when you’re looking for ideas or where to get started.

2. Find inspiration around The Web

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Inspiration is everywhere and, of course, the internet is certainly one of the easier and most extensive resources we have at our fingertips, literally. It’s full of pictures to stimulate you visually, and words to stimulate you mentally. Here are a couple of great resources for you to look at. You can:

Or check out some great sites like Designspiration or Get Inspired! Magazine. You can check out a slew of logos with criticism at Under Consideration (one of our faves), or just pages upon pages of packaging designs. And there is always good old Google. The possibilities are quite endless.

3. Check out other people’s work and portfolios

museum

Sure, you must be creative and original to be a designer. However, all of the best artists have always been inspired by the work of others. Checking out others’ work could provide you with some inspiration, or give you the competitive edge you need to start working. Head to a local museum or gallery, or browse portfolios online. Here are some portfolio sites we enjoy:

Do remember though: ALWAYS keep your art original!

4. Get off the computer

beauty

You’re a graphic designer, and a graphic designer needs a computer. But how many hours of your day are spent looking at Facebook rather than Adobe Illustrator? Probably more than you would like to admit.

While the internet is amazing, it can often be a time zap if you’re already not working, not to mention distracting while you are working. So if you’re stuck, instead of clicking around, go outside, read a book, find something to put in that design journal of yours.

5. Use the dictionary

dictionary

Maybe you’re not writing but consider this: every single word is an idea, waiting to be made into so much more. Open up to a random page, or take a word from your assigned project and check out similar words. While we cannot emphasize enough the joy of an old-fashioned hardcover, online dictionaries are very easy to use.

We like this VisuWords, although its visuals leave something to the imagination. You can enter a word and see a whole map of related words, graphically represented. Maybe it’s the writer in me but words are a whole lot of fun.

6. Use the 2 Minute Rule to stop procrastinating

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Procrastination is one of the biggest deterrents to our success and creativity, more so than lack of ideas. But how do we get around this sticky situation? James Clear, an all around doer and blog writer, has crafted the nifty 2 Minute Rule.

Whenever you’re facing a task you find daunting in some way, simply think about a part that will take only 2 minutes. Afterall, who doesn’t have 2 minutes? You’ll either end up accomplishing your task in lots of small parts, or you’ll get wrapped up and work longer than 2 minutes.

7. Do something physical

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You’ve turned off the computer and it’s time to get active. Not only is this good for your muscles and bones, but it’s also great for your mind. Exercising releases happy, natural chemicals in your brain called endorphins.

These endorphins will not only elevate your mood, but also increase your memory ability and your mental capacity. It will give you the extra energy you need to make a jump out of your rut and into a groove.

8. Go back to the beginning

trash

If we’re stuck at a certain part of a project, we may realize we’ve been going down the wrong path. If you really can’t figure out where to go next, the next place to go is back to the start. You’ll be surprised by how many other new ideas you’ll have because even if you are starting from the beginning, you’ve learned a whole heck of a lot making your way back.

9. Be silly

silly

This isn’t law school — it should be fun. While you’re not reading volumes on ancient politics, there still is a time when the fun stops and you must get down to the dirty work. But when that’s getting you down, its alright to stop, take a break, a get a little crazy. Maybe draw something that makes you laugh or dance to one of your favorite songs. Wear a silly hat. Pretend you know how to play the guitar.

10. Look, but don’t see

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Maybe you’ve been thinking a little too hard. Instead of scouring your surroundings, looking desperately for the hidden inspiration, just let it wash over you. Without trying, sometime will eventually pop out at you. Or, at the very least, give your brain and your eyes a bit of rest. It’s a lot like meditation — how very New Age.

11. Listen to music

music

Whether you’re taking a break, or listening while working, music has been proven to jump-start our creativity. It keeps our minds active and interested in the task at hand. It’s also possible to listen to music to get into a mood.

Say the client asks for a grunge-style design, listen to Nirvana. Looking for a girly design for a cosmetics company, listen to pop. It has been proven that music can shift our brainwaves, and thereby shift our mental state.

12. Walk a mile in their shoes

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You’re not getting good feedback on your designs, but did you ever think about what exactly that client is looking for? Consider your client, their company and target audience. Get out of your own mind and spark up new ideas.

13. Get together with your peers

collaborate

Meeting up with friends in your field is a great way to bounce ideas off each other, or just commiserate with someone who is going through the same thing as you. Soon enough, you’ll both have the inspiration to go back to the drawing board.

If you’d like to meet up with designers in your area, then join or start a 99designs Meetup.

How do you kickstart yourself when struggling with a creative block?

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