Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Creative Life Series: Overcoming Creator's Block


So here we are, we have arrived at the last in my Creative Life series. You can read the rest of the series right here.

I want to address the problems of creative inspiration and ideas generation. It’s well documented that anyone who creates regularly will experience barren phases. The well of creative ideas runs dry, the bucket comes up empty. It happens to bloggers, crafters, artists… in fact everyone with a need to regularly produce fresh creative ideas.

For me the adage, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got,” rings true every time I have this problem. And I’ve learned this:

If my bucket keeps coming up dry, continuing to lower it into the well is senseless. It’s time to go out there and find fresh sources of water.

In other words, get out more.

Each time I’ve found myself stuck for new ideas, whether for this blog, or for craft projects or new button designs, it’s been because I’ve fallen into the trap of doing the same old, same old. Namely, getting up, going to work, coming home again, doing dull tasks like my laundry, making the next day’s packed lunch or washing up… and going to bed. The need to keep money coming in and my awareness that I struggle to be efficient without a dependable routine means that I become dull and my creative output dries up. No wonder when I next sit down with my notebook and try to plan the next few blog posts or designs I keep coming up empty. It’s incredibly frustrating.

So here is what I do whenever the Creative Block of Doom arises.

I’ve said I struggle without a routine. If I threw my routine entirely out of the window I’d always be late to work, my car would run out of fuel, my emails would never get answered and this blog post you’re currently reading wouldn’t exist. And you’d hate me, because I’m incredibly stressed when I’m not organised. So I do little things around my everyday routine to find fresh sources of inspiration. Here are a few:

  • I wear a different hairstyle.
  • I change the music or radio station in my car on my drive to work.
  • I take Bea on a different route on our regular evening dog walk. Twitter followers will know I often ring the changes by seeking out new creatures to talk to as well, which is how I recently came to trip over a goat. Did I just share too much?

...This is Thomas!

  • I spend my lunch half-hour researching something I’ve always wanted to learn about. This week it’s how an engine works.
  • I try a different lunch recipe. This has been fun because I’m so lazy when it comes to packed lunches usually. Dry ham sandwich and a strawberry yogurt, anyone?
  •  I read a new magazine or journal.
  • I challenge myself to photograph a small detail to prove inspiration really is everywhere if you look (more on that next week).

These are all tiny little things that help to keep my perspective on life fresh and interesting, because I know that if I’m interested, the inspiration will always come. The main approach I take to tackling this problem though, is to get out more!

Actually, I don’t have a problem with not getting out enough. In your average week I’m lucky to have more than one evening at home (yet another reason why I love the anchorage CreativesUnite provides!), and there’s always something happening in my weekend. Some weeks are so busy that I’m not at home at all. I like to have a full diary, it means I’m challenging myself and life stays fun, but I’ll often find I’m so busy rushing out from work to my evening plans, that I don’t stop and take inspiration from the activities themselves.

Notice more
Now I try to take stock and notice more when I’m out and about. And it’s amazing how much inspiration there is, absolutely everywhere you look. That interesting-looking building reminds me of my love for Art Deco. Could I incorporate that style into my next craft project? I’ve never seen that butterfly species before. Wouldn’t it make a lovely button design? I like her hairstyle. Maybe trying something similar will cheer up Monday? That song lyric about being stuck in a rut, heard in the pub… I can identify with that feeling, so maybe a blog post about getting over creative block? And I write all this down, either in a notebook or on my phone or iPad, because I’m a sod for scribbling notes and then losing them.

I noticed these interesting buildings in Sheffield recently so I snapped them,
thinking they'd work well in a story.

Photograph more
If you find something remotely interesting, quirky or thought-provoking, snap a photo. With all this modern technology around there’s no excuse. Next time you’re at home feeling creatively stifled you won’t need to get out to find inspiration; you’ll have a bank of images from your last adventure. A good way of getting into the snappy habit is to take part in a photography challenge through Instagram or Twitter. ‘Things I’m Thankful For’ and ‘Simple Pleasures’ are popular ones which I’ve found truly inspiring to participate in. #snappyhappy! 

Talk more
People often bring inspiration to me. Because I blog, my interests are pretty much worn on my sleeve, and because those interests mean I spend a lot of time with similarly-minded people, I regularly find that when I’m at WI or book club, round at a friend’s for tea or seeing regular faces at a craft fair, people say things such as, “I was at a flea market the other day and I thought of you when I saw a load of Pyrex.” or, “Anna, they serve Yorkshire Tea here! Have you tried their new blend?” or “Those buttons I bought from you last month. Have you thought about making them into brooches?”
       This made me realise that quite often people know me better than I know myself, but they have a different perspective on my world than I do, so they’re able to present solutions to problems, opinions and fresh inspiration. By telling people about my interests they then reflect ideas back to me, and share similar stories; “Ah yes, I have a friend who loves doilies too. She sews hers onto her handmade quilts.” Bingo! Another idea to play with.
     Social media is invaluable for this as well, with online friends sending me links to sites and events they think I’ll find interesting. Just talk more.

Find events
When I say get out more, you need somewhere to get out to, right? Get on Twitter or Google and you’re bound to find all sorts of events going on in your area. Some cost money, yes. I’m very excited to be going to Folksy Summer School this weekend but it has cost and I can’t afford to go to many of the events in Sheffield I’d really like to. But most of the events I go to are very cheap, costing only my transport, or are even free. I attended a lovely bloggers’ event at Lush recently. Craft fairs, art exhibitions, live music down at the pub, beautiful gardens, picnics, country walks, town walks, craft or book clubs, library events, food fairs… the list is endless. Set yourself a challenge of having a full day out on a fiver. Start a club. Organise a crafters’ picnic. Get out a proper map and plan a five mile walk. See if you can find some live music for free. If you can’t find anything to interest you, sign up for an event you know nothing about, like a medieval joust re-enactment or a mushroom forage – you never know what wondrous inspiration may hit you, and if nothing else you’ll have a tale to tell! I do love a fungi foray.

Some activities don't cost a penny.

Doing the same things every day means that the brain has to look inwards for inspiration. While this can be a useful exercise in resourcefulness the brain does also need a constant supply of stimuli to keep the creativity flowing. I promise you that a world of inspiration waits for you just outside the window of the room you’re sitting in right now. Have the adventure of your life finding it.


  1. Very inspiring Anna! I am like you and need to be organised to be stress free!

  2. A lovely post. I also like to get out and find inspiration. I actually also took an e-course by Dex Diva on Creativity and Ideas Generation. It was really worthwhile.

    C x

  3. This is very inspiring, I often say I'm going to get out more/ go on that walk/ go to such and such an event, but find I'm taken over with boring things like the housework needs doing etc. I will definitely have to try involving more inspiring activities around the usual day routine!

    Lauren x

  4. Hey Anna,
    I have nominated you for the Liebster award. I love your blog & always find your posts interesting to read! Check out my blog for more details on the award & for the 11 questions :')

    Have fun answering my questions :')

    Love ♡
    Rach xxx


Thank you for your comment!