A list of tactics to overcome a creative block.

  • Stoic
  • 05/31/2013 09:15 AM
It's been a few weeks since I've finished Labyrinthine Dreams, and since then I've been in a creative rut. I have the full intention to work on a project and even set time aside, but as soon as I open the editor I can physically feel the block in my head materialize. I just can't seem to pull anything out and end up staring at the editor for several minutes. Then in frustration I close the editor and go back to playing TF2 or watching Game Grumps or some other time waster. This lack of productivity ends up making me feel even worse and strengthens the block. I'm at the point where just thinking about working in the editor brings up anxiety.

As a way to combat this, I decided to do some research on how other artists who struggled with a creative block eventually overcame it. I compiled a list of the tactics I've found most useful.

  • Chunk your work. Sometimes when you're in a rut, even the thought of working on something can give you a headache. But if you tell yourself, "I'll only work on it for 15 minutes," then it suddenly becomes an attainable goal. Even if you work less than 15 minutes, it's probably more time then you would have invested otherwise. If you find yourself working more than 15 minutes that's great but don't burn yourself out. Coming out of a creative rut can take some time.
  • Don't force it. If you really don't feel like working on the project then just step away. If you keep forcing it you'll start to resent working on the project and it will become a chore. In my experience, I find that when I forced myself to work on a project when my heart wasn't in it the results were half-assed and I ended up redoing them later anyway. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your project is to walk away for awhile.

  • Delve into another project. It can help to have more than one project going at once. This way if you lose motivation to work on one project you can jump to another. Often times, working on another project can give you added insight and perspective that you can bring back to the one giving you trouble.

  • Do free art. Even if you're doing your project just for fun, it can be challenging sometimes to work within the restraints you set for yourself. Try just doing some "free art" where you have no constraints. Create a new project and just start messing around and see what you come up with. Prototype a crazy idea you had. Sometimes this can be the trick to unplugging the cork blocking your creative flow.

  • Unplug your brain. It could just be your brain is overloaded due to stress at work, your personal life, or whatever. We're constantly plugged in these days with all the technology we have and there aren't many times of the day when we just give our brain a much needed rest. Step away from everything and let your brain just decompress. I recommend things like meditating, taking a shower, or going for a long walk. Nature can be truly rejuvenating.

  • Play something inspirational. It doesn't have to be a video game, but often times I find revisiting my favorite games can help remind me of what I truly love about the medium. But it could also be a movie, a book, a song, anything that inspires you. It can just take one powerful moment to turn things around.

  • Play some of your previous projects. Sometimes the best way to get reassurance that you were creative at one point in time is to revisit your previous works. You might find new insights evaluating your old work again from this perspective. If you're far along in your current project, then just replaying it might help re-motivate you.

  • Surround yourself with creative people. If you're surrounded by other creative peers, especially teammates, then it is A LOT easier to keep your motivation. I know personally seeing their work reminds me of what I can achieve working alongside them and that's a great motivator in itself. Don't feel ashamed that you're having a block. Most creatives have been in the same boat and will be sympathetic. They might also have good advice for how to get your creative mojo back.

Hopefully if you've hit a creative roadblock you found one or more of these tactics useful. If you have your own experiences with overcoming creative block, please share them in the comments!


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Great article. I also find that sometimes, even when you work on your game for a very long period of time for many days in a row after getting a creative boost, you just wake up that odd day and stare at the screen and go, like..."Um...I can't think of anything for today... WHAT THE *bleep* IS WRONG WITH ME!?!?!? *cries*," or you're just super indecisive when trying to figure out something. But I always find that the best tonic is to just take a day break, go outside and play some sports to keep your mind off of things, or listen to some new music and just spend some time dreaming of brand new ideas...

Of course, it's always interesting to hear what other people do to get over that creative rut, as not always the same type of advice will work for everybody.
Thanks for the comment. I'm one of those people that usually work in spurts too. I'll be in a real creative mood and just pump out content and then I'll hit a dry period where I'm not really working on the project at all. This is especially true for longer projects. I find more success with shorter projects like my last one since usually I can keep the creative flow going for at least a few weeks.
Good article, ArtBane.
One thing I try not to do is compare my work to fellow artists; trying to live up to their standards.
Great advice. A lot of people do suffer from anxiety.
My name's Toby. Yeh... Yeah.. YEAH!!!!
I am filled with blocks. someone needs to UNBLOCK ME!!
I decided to do a new project, but then it was too hard. so now I'm sad.
Drawing gets my creative juices flowing again quickly. Or playing my latest obsession, Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen. lol.

Also I agree, surrounding yourself with optimistic & creative people is a huge help. Seems to create good energy.
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