Smashing the Barrier – Overcoming Creative Block

By Tamuka Nyoni

As a professional, a creative block is not something to be minimised – it has the potential to affect your career. Especially when you rely on your craft to build your reputation and pay the bills, you really cannot afford to be short of ideas or the energy to put them into action. If you are anyone that is in the arts industry, you have at some point experienced this. Creative blocks, or as some people like to call the BARRIERS TO INSPIRATION, can be described as the inability to access one’s inspiration. As a graphic designer who has been practising for a few years and here are some exercises that work for me when I feel a little constipated, creatively that is!

  1. Step back a little

A creative block serves as a much-needed pause for thinking deep in the project. Sometimes, we forget to take breaks because we get too invested in our work. This block also can be a signal that the way you are working might not be the right one for you. Step back and take a good look at how you are working, and where the pain points are. For example, it might be emailing. Take time to learn a new system for dealing with those emails. Maybe you just don’t have enough energy to work, that’s when you need to ask yourself am I working the right hours of the day? Or am I working too much? Sometimes you might have a bit too much of freedom when working, introduce a bit of structure and order into your day. Or maybe the opposite is happening, you feel constrained by routine, find room for improvisation and flexibility.

In case you have a deadline, you might not have the privilege of setting aside some time off. Nevertheless, feeling stuck might be a good reminder to dedicate some time, even as little as a few minutes, to think the project through before diving deep into it.

  1. Do a digital detox

 I mostly work on a computer, which means I’m glued to my screen all day. The routine of always creating on a digital screen can affect your ability to be creative. Sometimes you just need to ditch the screen and get back to the basics. Draw on actual paper, paint or anything that does not involve a screen. This can make you discover and see different perspectives to your work. You may be surprised by the ideas that start flowing through your head when you swap a glowing computer.

Image by Tamuka Nyoni

Besides working on a computer screen, social media and the internet has increased the amount of time we spent on digital platforms. There are plenty of beautiful social accounts and inspirational online resources to get your ideas flowing. And while the internet does have its ways of filling us with great insights and quality content, it also tends to feel overwhelming during a creative block. It’s therefore recommended to step away from your laptop, mute your phone and put it away for a set amount of time. A decent dose of digital wellness can help you clear your head. It can also relieve the constant measuring of your work in comparison to other professionals in your field, as we too often do.

  1. Find new sources of inspiration

As a creative, it’s recommended to be out of your comfort zone at times. At times we tend to relax and stick to our type of work when it comes to getting inspiration. Try something completely out of your comfort zone, is there an artist that you admire that does work that is unrelated to yours? Great! Try getting insight into them and you might learn something new while getting rid of your creative block. Note that it’s worth to look outside of your own discipline, too. As a ceramicist, you might look to fine art photography for a breath of fresh air. A typographer or illustrator might turn to film, indulging in the many movies that graphic designers love. Keeping up with works by others in your discipline is a good practice and a reliable well of inspiration. Yet during a rough-patch, seeing other people’s polished and completed works often results in self-criticism and frustration.

  1. Collaborate with other creatives

For freelancers and those who work independently, work can often be an extremely solitary affair. When coping with a block, meet up with friends whose professional opinion you trust, for advice or a brainstorming session. You could also schedule to meet with a friend to work side-by-side on your separate projects, a practice that can help inspire and motivate you both. Connecting with your creative community can also contribute greatly to your productivity. Attend events that are frequented by people in your professional circle, not only to mingle and network – but also to reignite the spark and remind yourself of what it is that you love about doing what you do. By then, hopefully, inspiration will be an effortless outcome.

A collaboration between Tamuka Nyoni and Enocq Matambure

You can connect with Tamuka on the following platforms:

Instagram – Behance –

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