By Jordan Dean

As it turns out, being in the creative industry means we’re often tasked with creating things. I hate to admit it – but I don’t always know exactly what to do. There are riddles to solve and unique challenges that call for unique solutions. The pressure builds to deliver the exact solution that all the data, conversations and scribbles are looking for. It’s great when everything just clicks. We breeze through projects and everyone is stoked. Often this is followed by rewarding comments or gestures from our peers, including but not limited to: high fives, chest bumps, knucks and sayings like “crushed it,” “awesome,” or one of my favorites… “No Changes.”

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is for when you get stuck. Don’t worry, it happens to everyone. It happens to doctors when they are diagnosing symptoms, mechanics trying to shut off the check engine light, musicians writing new music and you… well you need to make a logo (or something spectacular).

So here is a genuine, bonafide, guaranteed, failproof antidote for creative block.

1. Fill your head
Before you try and get unstuck… go over all the data, the notes, the conversations you’ve had, the scribbles and whatever else is relevant to the project. With your mental bank filled with what’s required or expected, get ready to look at it from a new angle. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Reframe The Problem
I once heard a story about the folks looking for Osama Bin Laden. I wasn’t there – so the details are fuzzy, but I hear they were looking in caves out in the middle of nowhere until someone pointed out that in order to run a global terrorist group, he needed to be connected. So with a new outlook on his whereabouts – they found him in a compound in a populated area. Granted it was a bit trickier than that – but with this in mind they began scribbling down ways to capture him and end his reign of terror. Which brings me to my next point…

3. Scribble
There are no rules and no bad ideas when you’re vomiting ideas with pencil and paper. Sometimes it helps to see several bad ideas before you can get to the good ones. Word association and key ingredients to the project help keep you in the ballpark so it doesn’t look like you’re just horsing around if someone happens to walk by. Which brings me to my next point…

4. Talk to People
Naturally, somebody else has a different point of view than you. So ask. Ask what they think of your scribbles. Talk through it. Ask what they would do if they were in your shoes. Which brings me to my next point…

5. Walk in Their Shoes
Imagine you’re on your own internal team… what would you expect to see from yourself? Imagine you’re the client – what is it that you’re looking for? Imagine you’re the customer. If you haven’t made a breakthrough yet – physically get up and go experience it first hand. Not only does it help to experience it in person – but it also gives you a chance to step away from your work. Which brings me to my next point…

6. Let it Soak
This is a tactic I often practice while doing the dishes. Step away for a bit. Not only does it give you a break but it allows fresh ideas a chance to surface when you least expect them. So give your work time to breathe and attack it again later. If you have a deadline breathing down your neck then just go grab a coffee. Which brings me to my next point…

7. Deadlines
The bittersweet nature of deadlines is that we can’t really ignore them, but at the same time, they force us to dub something “final.” Being conscious of deadlines and what it takes to meet them helps us balance our desire for perfection with the need to finalize a project. So make deadlines your friend. Set miniature deadlines to keep yourself on pace for meeting the big ones. This requires us to be disciplined before and after we’re given a timeline. In an industry driven by deadlines, we run the danger of only creating when a deadline is near. Psychologist Robert J. Sternberg once said, “People who always take laxatives become dependent on them – they can’t push for themselves.” So the trick is – being prepared for creativity before we’re forced to be creative. Which brings me to my next point…

8. Hoarding
Often the problem can be solved before it ever starts. Capture anything that is inspiring or cool – you never know when you might need it. Some of my favorite projects have spawned from an experiment or note I’d jotted down earlier. So, get good at organizing random thoughts knowing that one day you will be scouring through them in search for a creative answer. Which brings me to my next point…

9. Peace be the journey
Offset the pressure of how important it is – with how unimportant it is. Find that happy medium between how much it matters to everyone involved and how little my 4 year-old son cares about it. Enjoy the simple fact that you get to do what you do. Yes, your reputation is on the line today. Your credibility stands on what you’re about to create. But at the same time, will it go down in history as the greatest thing ever made? Well let’s hope so.

10. If none of that worked

Here is a list of other remedies to get the creative juices flowing again:

  • Surf the internet – there is a lot of stuff on that thing
  • Calisthenics – exercise your mind and your body if you’re up for it
  • Ride the city bus – it takes forever, it smells and you see some interesting things
  • Interpretive dance – or at least blast some music loudly and let your body take over
  • Go to the pet store – pet a puppy, watch the gerbils, look at the packaging
  • Take a shower – this is just recommended in general
  • Play nerf basketball
  • Walk through the cemetery
  • Make a prank call
  • Clean your desk – you’re going to have to do it sometime
  • Party – everything seems like the best idea ever when you’re partying