Alex Cornell has compiled advice from 90 creative professionals such as Debbie Millman, Paula Scher, and Nicholas Felton, all on overcoming creative block. And he’s packaged it all neatly in a book titled Breakthrough!: Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination.
My advice is found on page 47. With Alex’s permission, reprinted below are my remarks.
My process for battling creative block is to not prescribe a process for battling creative block. By that I mean no two creative blocks are alike. To assume the same process can cure each and every block would be a little bit nutty, if you ask me.
Sometimes just plowing through a block works great for me. The more I crank out bad or mediocre ideas, the better my chances of cranking out good ones eventually. Then again, sometimes that doesn’t work.
Sometimes temporarily conceding defeat works great. I leave a design alone for a time, only to return victoriously later in the day or the following day. But sometimes that doesn’t work either.
Sometimes just staring at a screen or printed matter works great. In fact, I find I tend to stare at my designs, comtemplating the rightness or wrongness of them, more than I actually spend time designing those designs. Of course, that doesn’t always work.
Sometimes I get lucky and amazing designs slip from my fingers as if fate was in the driver’s seat. Rarely does that work for me.
So, how do I overcome creative blocks? By having several block-curing methods at my disposal, rather than a single method. Overcoming blocks is an art, not a science, and we all know art is much more about trial and error than established practices.
I’ve not read all of the other strategies yet, but I’ll be taking the (nearly) pocket-sized book with me on my flight this evening to Brooklyn Beta, where I’m positive I’ll hear epic war stories about overcoming creative block. (Creative block is an all-out war sometimes, is it not?)