Figuring out how to be creative when your creativity is blocked can depend on simply choosing appropriate creative thinking techniques to boost your creative inspiration.
Here are 26 ways to overcome a creative block that you can use when you are struggling with creativity and boosting your innovative thinking.
Pick as many of these tested creative thinking techniques as you need to re-start your creative process, find creative inspiration, and overcome a creative block.
26 Ways to Overcome Your Creative Block
Try Simplifying Things
1. Start your Creative Process with Things You’ll Throw Away
Decide upfront you’ll discard anything you create in the next hour, then simply dive in and start doing something toward your creative goal right away. You’re willing to trash it, so don’t let any self-criticism block your creative inspiration.
2. Doodle and Eat
Many restaurants use white paper in place of cloth table coverings. Go to one nearby with pens, markers, or crayons and doodle your way through dinner. Write, draw, diagram, or do whatever else will trigger your creativity.
3. Try Trait Transformation
Write down 6 descriptors or characteristics of your creative challenge. For each descriptor, ask how it would help meet your creative objective if it were bigger, smaller, turned around, removed, customized, standardized, or simplified. Asking these questions to twist your situation leads to lots of new creative ideas.
4. Create an Artifact
Find a small something to create that’s more easily achievable than your whole project (it could be working on something you’ve already put in the creative trash heap). Create your small start and use it as a tangible first step to get to your next bigger creative ideas.
Change Your Creative Environment
5. Finish Something
Maybe an obligation completely unrelated to your creative challenge is hanging over your head. Drop your creative project and focus on other nagging deadlines which may be affecting you subconsciously. Getting pesky non-creative deadlines out of the way can free you for a new perspective on creativity.
6. Go Get Sweaty
Studies show it and so does any great workout – physical exercise is a wonderful way to shake your mental cobwebs loose. Pick your favorite exercise and participate in it aggressively, putting your creative block to the side. When you’re done, you’ll see your creative challenge with new clarity.
7. Embrace Mindless Activity
Perform an activity you’re able to do without thinking or using any creative thinking. Maybe it’s cleaning or lawn work or driving around. It has to be active with plenty of opportunity for your mind to wander creatively.
8. Change Scenery While Staying Where You Are
Alter as much as you can about your current environment – vary the lighting, rearrange the furniture (avoiding creativity constricting right angles), sit in a different chair, stand up or lay down, look out the window, step away from the computer. Whatever you’re doing where you are, do things completely differently to stimulate your creative process.
9. Change Scenery By Changing Where You Are
Get as far away as you can from your creative block’s “home field.” At the office? Go to a museum or a hotel lobby. Spent too much time inside? Get outside as quickly as you can. Bored with your hometown? Start traveling. Whatever it takes, force yourself to change your physical surroundings for a creativity boost.
10. Take advantage of “Crowdspiration”
Go where there’s a crowd of people and use the looks, conversations, and buzz of the crowd to catalyze your creativity. Remember: the crowd can be in real life or virtual, because wading into the Twitter pool is another great source of random crowdspiration too!
11. Switch to a Bare Wall
Completely change the “canvas” on which you’re trying to express your creativity by switching to a new, blank one. If you’re stuck on a computer, get a new notebook and start handwriting. When you’re not able to draw something with a pencil on paper, switch to painting on an over-sized canvas.
Borrow Creative Inspiration
12. Return to the Familiar
Use the forms, styles, characters, and media that are old standbys for your creative expression. Take advantage of familiar forms to get your creativity re-started.
13. Revisit Your Creative Pinnacles
Go back to a past creative success and create a variation on the theme. When stuck while blogging, redo your favorite post from a different perspective or angle. If the music isn’t flowing, play a favorite piece in a different key or tempo.
14. Seek out Someone Else’s Creative Pinnacle
Pick some output from one of your creative inspirations and do a BIG (i.e. non-copyright infringing) variation on a successful theme they used.
15. Use Real Simple Magazine
Real Simple magazine, in particular, is a great creative inspiration. Take your creative block and go page by page asking how the images and headlines you see could shape your creativity, writing down ideas as you go. If you prefer a different magazine, look for one with lots of images and big headlines.
16. Random Wikipedia
Random inputs help trigger innovative thinking, so here’s a quirky approach to try. Take a period of your life, pick a starting point (i.e. an actor or author you enjoyed then), and look it up on Wikipedia. Click on a random link in the first Wikipedia entry and keep surfing for semi-random inputs. You never know ho you'll be inspired to amazing creativity.
Stop Trying So Hard to Be Creative
17. Stop Everything
Walk away from your creative process and take a 30 minute nap (or whatever length leaves you refreshed). Let your mind wander and imagine anything at all as you go to sleep. Come back to your creative process refreshed and ready with new creative inspiration.
Drink water. Take a shower. Eat your favorite meal. Eat something you’ve never eaten before. Take care of the basic needs of life and then restart your creative efforts.
19. Laugh Like Crazy
Watch an incredibly funny TV show or movie and laugh like you never have before. If laughter isn’t your best medicine for creative inspiration, pick something else to watch that you know will tug on other emotions. The key is triggering your emotions to open yourself to new creativity.
20. Be Patient
You know what? Now might just not be the time you can muster your creativity to respond to the goal at hand. Embrace patience. Put the project to the side (maybe for an extended period of time), apply your creativity to areas where it is readily flowing, with the faith (you may want to say a creativity prayer) that the spark you need will happen at the right time, even if you don’t know when that is!
Seek Out New Creative Inspiration
21. Turn to Fresh Eyes
Ask a creative friend who doesn’t have any background in the area of your creative block how they’d approach your challenge. With a new set of eyes and fresh thinking, chances are the other person will see a creative key you’re missing.
22. Find Someone Who Loves Something You Created
People who think you’re creative are great creative catalysts. Seek them out and ask what inspires them about creative work you’ve done. Use how you’ve inspired them in the past to inspire your creativity now.
23. Put Your Kids in Charge
For little kids, the whole world is new and full of creativity. Get your kids (or borrow somebody else’s, but ask first) and see what kind of creative fun they’d like to have. Whether it’s playing in the yard or going to Chuck E. Cheese, throw yourself into creativity with childlike glee to uncover new inspiration for creativity.
24. Seek out People with Dramatic News to Share
For some people, angst leads to creativity. For others, happiness triggers creativity. When stuck creatively, find the people in your circle with compelling stories to share – whether of challenges or of successes – as new inspiration sources.
25. Host a Creative Happy Hour
Invite a group of cool, creative people to join you for a happy hour. Have fun, share some stories, ask for some creative input from your companions, and get in a creative spirit once again.
26. Get a Copy of Idea Magnets
My book, Idea Magnets - 7 Strategies for Cultivating and Attracting Creative Business Leaders is filled with ideas for imagining innovative and unexpected possibilities with incredible ease for you and your team.
Are You Inspired Yet?
These 26 creative ideas should get you started as you rekindle your creativity when it's elusive for you.
What creative process tips or creative ideas can you add to this list of creative inspiration techniques? We’d love to include your ideas to overcome creative block as well. - Mike Brown