e all know the feeling of staring at a blank sheet of paper and having no idea what to put on it. Creative block is frustrating and can feel impossible to overcome. Whether you’re looking at a lump of clay, an empty canvas, an instrument, or a blinking cursor, these methods will help you deal with your creative burnout.
1. Just Make Something
Creative Block from Perfectionism
Okay, the advice to make something when your whole problem is coming up with what to make may seem useless and honestly a little rude, but don’t scroll yet! A common source of creative anxiety is the need to make something perfect, or at least something that meets the high standards you have for yourself.
It’s good to have high standards for your work, but the pressure of those standards can lead to creative burnout. You don’t feel like you can make something great so instead you make nothing at all. You need to remove those constraints in order to get back to creating work you’re truly proud of.
Fix Creative Burnout by Not Thinking
Write stream of consciousness style exactly what’s in your head without worrying about making sense or using proper punctuation. Draw with your eyes closed and see what shows up on the page. Take photos of anything you see as you walk down the street. Whatever your form of art is, do something without thinking.
There’s a good chance whatever you create this way will end up in the trash but the important thing is that you’ve moved beyond the blank slate. This will hopefully lead to inspiration or at least give you something to work on until your creativity comes back.
2. Change Your Scenery
Is Your Favorite Work Spot Causing Creative Burnout?
There’s probably a reason you work where you do. You choose to work at your favorite coffee shop, in your makeshift garage studio, or at a cluttered desk in front of a great window because that’s the spot where you focus and get creative. However, if you’re not being creative there now then it’s time to move.
You don’t need to move permanently, it could just be for a few hours. Whatever it takes to get you out of your creative rut. If you don’t have a lot of options for where to work you can change something else about your work environment. Switch out your chair, play different music, bring lemon water instead of coffee--anything to break the pattern and change the routine.
Working in a different place can solve your creative burnout by giving you some new inspiration. Put yourself in front of a beautiful landscape or get comfortable on a park bench to do some serious people watching. You don’t have to paint the scene in front of you or write a story about all the dogs that walk by but giving yourself something new to look at might jump start your creativity.
This can be especially helpful if you tend to work in a very solitary environment. Being stuck alone with your thoughts, or lack thereof in the case of creative block, can make it hard to find inspiration.
Remember not to pressure yourself to create even in your different workspace. Be ready to take down notes or a sketch if inspiration strikes you, but don’t sit there with your pen poised waiting for something amazing. You’re there to give your brain something new to think about and that can’t happen if you’re still putting yourself under pressure to create.
3. Do Something Else
Walk Away from Creative Block
Don’t underestimate the benefit of walking away from the project you’re stuck on. You might be able to deal with creative block quickly by doing something else you enjoy and not thinking about your creativity issue for a little while.
Do something fun that won’t add to your feelings of pressure or creative anxiety. This might mean returning to an old creative project that you know you can do well, whether that’s a favorite song, drawing, or writing exercise. Doing other creative activities that you can enjoy pressure-free will distract you from creative burnout and let you flex your creative muscle.
Do Something without Creative Anxiety
You can also try completely switching mediums to something fun and creative without anxiety. Painters, pick up an instrument. Writers, grab some clay (or even Play-Doh). This allows you to be creative without worrying about making something great because you’re working outside of your area.
It will likely be nice to return to your usual work after taking a creative break doing something unrelated. Using your creativity will help you deal with creative burnout and you might even find inspiration in whatever you do during your break.
4. Respond to a Prompt
Take a Break from Total Originality
It’s okay to do what someone else tells you when you’re trying to get over a creative block. There’s a great deal of pressure in the creative world to have your own original ideas all the time. Yes, you want to be original, but if you’re stuck without any ideas why not use some suggestions so you can use your creativity until you find inspiration again.
Using prompts is a good way to practice your skill and your creativity with a small, low stakes project. Prompts can be fun, distracting, and a great way to get your creativity back on track.
Prompts for Writers
You might already have some favorite prompts from a writing class or book about writing that you can use to help solve your creative burnout. If you’re not a fan of prompts, go back to an old piece of writing and rewrite it from a different perspective.
Here are just a few of 500 writing prompts for creative block:
- The dark family secret that’s always been hidden comes to light.
- Write a scene detailing your greatest fear. Now imagine that has come true for your character.
- You start realizing that at least one aspect of every dream you have comes true the next day.
- Go back in time to the era of your choosing and describe how you live.
- You wake up one morning to find out that you get to move to any planet of your choosing.
Prompts for Artists
Prompts are commonly associated with writing, but there are prompts available for other art forms as well. Explore some of these 20 artistic prompts to get out of a creative slump and then adapt them to your art form if you need to.
- Pick one subject and illustrate that thing an entirely different way every day for thirty days.
- Pick a color or material you normally avoid and use it in excess.
- Illustrate a cause or current event that you are passionate about.
- Create something memorable from your childhood.
- Brainstorm a list of random phrases then create an illustration based on the phrase.
Prompts for Musicians
As a musician, you’ll need different prompts depending on whether your creative block is hindering you in writing lyrics or in composing. If you’re struggling with lyrics, writing prompts are a good place to look for inspiration.
Otherwise, try some of these 20 songwriting and composing prompts. This link includes song examples that match each of the prompts.
- Use only two chords.
- Play one riff or melodic idea for an entire piece.
- Write a sequel to an old or existing song.
- Take a song you’ve written, separate all of the parts, and re-order them.
- Write a piece with contrasting dynamics.
5. Have a Jam Session
Collaboration Leads to Creativity
In order to get the benefits of working with others to stimulate your creativity and improve your craft you have to ignore the idea that creativity is solely solitary. Surrounding yourself with creativity by working with other artists can help cure creative burnout.
Sitting around with other creative friends talking about ideas and projects is a great way to get over a creative block. This type of low stakes environment fosters creativity without the pressure to make something great.
You can also find inspiration from the work other artists are doing or even some of your own work you’ve forgotten about. Outsiders probably have different perspectives on your work than you, which means collaboration might let you see your work in a different way and be inspired to get back to it.
Where to Find Creative Collaboration
No matter what your art form is, you’ll be able to find a group to work with and talk to about your work. Classes, workshops, and jams are usually advertised online and through word of mouth so start searching and asking around.
A nearby college is a great place to start looking. If you can’t find a group that’s doing the same kind of art as you expand your search to creative people in general. Reach out to friends who write, paint, act, or anything else that includes creativity and schedule a time when you can all get together and share thoughts. Everyone benefits from creative collaboration.
Creative burnout is not the end of the world, although it can feel that way when you’re stuck staring at a blank page. Move around, work on something else, follow any idea you do have, use your resources, and communicate with other creative people. Creative block is a challenge of being a creative person, but with this guide you can get through it ready to make more amazing work.