How to be creative when you’ve hit a creative block

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

Andrew Bret Wallis / Photographer’s Choice RF / Getty Images

It’s a devastating thing for an artist to feel that he or she has lost inspiration, to encounter a creative block. But suffering from artist’s block doesn’t mean you’ve lost your artistic ability and it can be overcome. Dr. Janet Montgomery has some tips to help beat artist’s block.

Fight Fear

It’s the fear of not being able to do it that is making you feel you’ve lost your inspiration. To get rid of the fear, you must approach your painting as if it were a job and just do it.

Give Yourself a Number Goal

Force yourself to set a goal of “X” number of paintings. Copy if you must use kitchen tools as models if you must, but simply getting into the paint itself will begin to inspire you, even if you don’t like the subject matter. There’s always something to learn.

Switch It Up

Change media. If acrylic, go to oil. If oil, go to printmaking.

Get Inspired

Search for new painters on the web, using Google’s image search. Go to galleries. Try to find an artist who’s doing something that appeals to you, something that the voice inside you says, “I could do that” or “I’d like to be able to do that.” Secure an image and copy it to find out what that artist did and how. Then think about recombining ideas.

Ask What If?

Play the “what if?” game. What if you painted this old subject matter on a tire? What if you put together a still life of bricks? How can you use new material, new subject matter, new style? Be wild in your considerations.

Ride It Out

Remember that everyone has fallow periods. Don’t consider them fallow, just the subconscious taking a breather and getting ready to take a different direction.

Hit the Books

Check out some books on creative thinking to give you a jolt.

Go Somewhere New

Take a trip to somewhere you’ve never considered, even if it’s only to a local town you’ve never explored. Always take a sketchbook, everywhere you go. Or grab a digital camera. Imagine yourself a Lilliput or a giant to change your perspective.

Keep a Journal

Keep a journal of drawings and writings for a month. Pick something from the journal to paint. Review it in six months or a year.

Collect Portraits

Compile a scrapbook of family portraits—not just faces, but each family member doing something typical—a “candid” sketch with writing about the person, the time, your impressions. Keep it in a journal for your kids’ kids.

Draw New People

Go to a senior citizen center and draw the people there. Talk to them about their life stories. Try to express your response in mixed media using copies of their old photographs, etc.

Go Back to School

Take a class that forces you to produce in a structured environment.

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

Franchise Your Business

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

Mental blocks are every professional’s worst nightmare, yet they inevitably pop up when you work on a big project. You start out bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, making a ton of progress, and then for some reason, you hit a psychological wall and can’t move forward. Or else you lose the motivation to continue.

Perhaps you are just so fixated on making every detail perfect that you become paralyzed with the fear of failure. Or maybe you have so much left to do that the task ahead seems too daunting to handle.

These experiences are normal, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re stuck in a rut. Instead of trying to power through these complicated and often conflicting feelings, consider the following seven effective — yet decidedly nonintuitive ways — to surpass mental blocks.

1. Freewrite.

When you are feeling stuck, open up a new Word doc, and start writing about whatever is on your mind. This technique is called freewriting, and it is commonly utilized by prose writers to brainstorm new plot points and re-energize thought processes. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes and write down everything you think of, both related and unrelated to your work. It may start out as a page of gibberish, but soon ideas will start to flow.

Group similar thoughts and phrases together and leverage them to move forward. For more tips on how to freewrite, check out author and marketing consultant Mark Levy’s book, Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content.

2. Tackle smaller tasks first.

If you feel overwhelmed by how little you have progressed, take a break and work on a few mindless tasks that require little attention or thought and allow the mind to wander. Wash the dishes, organize your bookshelf, sift through unread emails or do laundry. By accomplishing small wins, you develop momentum and confidence to overcome your mental block.

Taking a step back may also help you gain clarity and perspective on the root cause of the block, allowing you to think about how you can move forward more efficiently in the future.

3. Change your environment.

The cleanliness of your workspace affects your performance and mood at work. Having a neat, organized desk will improve your productivity and focus. On the other hand, a messy space can enhance creativity and help you gain fresh insights. Play around with your home or office environment and discover what works best for you.

If you find yourself still stuck, then switch up your scenery. Our minds associate places with feelings and activities, so if you are consistently frustrated or are procrastinating in your cramped studio apartment, you may discover that your mind is actively sabotaging your success while you’re at home. Move to a coffee shop or even a beach towel in your backyard, and leave your mental block behind.

4. Learn something new.

Oftentimes when we encounter mental blocks, we ruminate over the same old ideas without thinking outside of the box. Expose yourself to new ways of thinking by learning something new. Read an article outside of your field, cook a meal that you have never attempted before or follow a how-to guide on juggling. Whatever you choose to engage in, line up new experiences to set your brain on course to think in novel ways. Get your mind to expand laterally, enhancing your creativity and problem-solving capabilities.

5. Revisit past experiences.

Remember a time when you felt happier, more creative or more inventive. Look at old pictures or listen to music that reminds you of better days and visualize yourself back in those environments. By returning back to a time and place where you felt less discouraged or unproductive, you can harness the positive energy you had back then to push yourself forward and accomplish even more.

6. See what your friends are up to.

Social media can be a great place for sourcing inspiration, but instead of actively looking for things that will spark your creativity, spend time researching what your acquaintances, family members and friends have been up to. This may give you new ideas on how to approach issues that you are stuck on, or may lead you to connect with folks able to help you move forward.

If you feel low about yourself, be careful not to compare yourself with how your friends present themselves online, as that is an ineffective way to connect with your network. What’s more important is that it is harmful to your productivity.

7. Analyze other people’s ideas.

If you have thought backwards, forwards and all around your mental block to no avail, take to the Internet and research how other people have approached the issues you are trying to solve. Break down what makes their ideas work, gain inspiration from their theories, then slowly create your own ways of doing things or understanding different concepts.

What are your best tricks for breaking through mental blocks?

How to be creative when you've hit a creative blockCreative blocks, or barriers to inspiration, can be described as the inability to access one’s internal creativity. Those in creative professions—writers, musicians, performers, artists—are often more likely to be affected by creative blocks, which can last for days, weeks, months, or even years.

When creative blocks surface, they can affect work, performance, and well-being, but a mental health professional may be able to help individuals work through creative blocks and access their creativity once more.

What Causes Creative Blocks?

A creative block might be experienced by anyone, for a number of reasons. Many writers, artists, and musicians reported periods of stalled creativity at some point in their careers, F. Scott Fitzgerald and cartoonist Charles Schultz among them. It can be difficult to get past a creative block, but often simply becoming aware of when, how, and why a creative block develops can help a person work to address the creative block and prevent it from returning.

One’s inner critic, often useful in the process of completing work or developing one’s role in society, can sometimes come to dominate certain aspects of feelings or behavior. This self-critique may sometimes be overcome through focused meditation that acknowledges the internal critic but disregards it. A need for approval might also stifle the creative process. Author Jeffrey Eugenides said in an article for the New Yorker, “ No one is waiting for you to write your first book. No one cares if you finish it. But after your first, if it goes well, everyone seems to be waiting.”

“No one is waiting for you to write your first book. No one cares if you finish it. But after your first, if it goes well, everyone seems to be waiting.” – Jeffrey Eugenides

Some may fear that their work or ideas will not be appreciated and hold back out of fear of rejection or failure. A fear of the unknown may also be a factor in the development of creative blocks. One might worry that a discussion of certain ideas, even through a media outlet, may have unforeseen circumstances and resist expressing these ideas.

Some more recent bodies of research, such as that undertaken by neurologist Alice Flaherty, suggests a biological theory for the development of blocks. However, her belief that creative blocks may originate due to issues in the frontal lobe of the brain are still controversial.

Creative blocks may also occur as a result of:

  • The death of a loved one or the end of a relationship
  • A lack of financial support
  • The depletion of all creative energy after a fully immersed period of creating
  • Self-doubt, both pertaining to ability and talent
  • Repeated rejection of one’s work
  • Anxiety regarding the outcome of a project or task
  • The need for perfection
  • The dependence on substances to be creative
  • Onset of an illness or medical condition
  • A sudden loss of meaning and purpose in one’s work
  • Negative self-talk or criticism

Psychological Issues and Creative Blocks

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Some turn to substances to resolve creative blocks, and the abuse of substances can lead to further harm, such as addiction.

Creative blocks may also be experienced along with a mental health concern or other issue, though the issue experienced may or may not have led to the block. An individual experiencing depression or the effects of trauma, for example, may find it difficult to access creativity. Major life changes may also lead to diminished inspiration or the inability to produce creative work. A compassionate therapist can help individuals overcome these creative blocks.

If you’ve never felt stuck because of a mental block, you’re in a lucky minority. Whether feeling stuck in a career, unfulfilled by relationships or discontent with the day-to-day, most people at some point have hit a plateau.

Feeling trapped in a mental block is extremely frustrating and can impact your professional life and even your personal relationships. Many factors can cause you to feel blocked in your thinking, from overanalyzing everything to overloading your plate with too many responsibilities. When you’re stalled by your own mindset, understanding how to get over a mental block can help you finally make progress. What is a mental block, and how can you overcome one? By learning to take control of your mind and emotions, you empower yourself to create forward momentum in your life.

Ready to overcome your mental block?

What is a mental block?

It depends on who you ask. “Mental block” is a layman’s term encompassing a range of experiences related to feeling obstructed in one’s thinking. Depending on who you ask, you might hear terms like “mental fatigue” used instead – especially by medical professionals, who use it to describe a condition caused by prolonged cognitive activity. Merriam Webster’s dictionary delineates related terms like “brain fog,” “writer’s block” and “stumbling block” to describe varying states of diminished mental capacity.

Whatever the terminology used, mental blocks feature the same conundrum: an inability to concentrate, think or reason clearly, resulting in a lack of drive. Forbes reports that unchecked mental fatigue can even impact your physical health . If you don’t learn how to get over a mental block, it can truly derail your productivity and sense of contentment with life.

How to get over a mental block

The most effective strategies for how to get rid of mental blocks focus on the root of what keeps people stuck.

1. Take control of your state

Understanding how to get over a mental block is much like overcoming a plateau – those places in life where the mind, body and emotions grind to a standstill. To regain your momentum, harmonize your mind and body to reach your peak state . Oftentimes a little activity is all that’s needed to break through a mental block. Your state is ultimately the framework you operate out of in life, so use it to your advantage to unblock your thinking.

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

2. Focus on the present

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

Understanding how to overcome mental blocks is about mind over matter. If you’re experiencing a mental block, chances are there is something bothering you from the past. Other times it may be a concern about the future that’s causing you to become preoccupied and blocked in your thinking. To gain some traction, take a few minutes to sit and think about the present moment. Focus on your breathing until your mind becomes calm. From this peaceful state, you’re able to think more clearly and find proactive problem-solving strategies.

3. Recognize the signs of a breakthrough

As you work to master how to get over a mental block, it helps to recognize the signs of a breakthrough. As unlikely as it sounds, the more frustrated you feel, the closer your breakthrough is. You may feel a vague sensation of discontentment with life, like you’re reaching your limit and something needs to give. You may have already reached the point of feeling fed up, like you’ve had enough. Realize that these feelings are normal as people grow and evolve to overcome obstacles in their lives. These feelings signal your breakthrough around the corner.

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

4. Reprogram your mind

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

To take the first step in understanding how to get over a mental block, all you have to do is decide to try to reprogram your mind . With that decision in place, you have the focus you need to develop a sense of mindfulness. Write down exactly what you’re thinking and feeling. When self-limiting beliefs come up, practice replacing them with empowering beliefs . Visualize where you want to go, and surround yourself with people and an environment conducive to clarity.

5. Calm your environment

When your environment is cluttered or uninspiring, learning how to get over a mental block becomes all the more difficult. Your environment is more than just your physical surroundings – it also encompasses the sounds, people and activities that surround you in your day-to-day life. If you’re overworked with too many responsibilities on your plate, you’ll have a hard time working up the extra energy necessary to overcome a mental block. The same is true if you’re not getting enough sleep or if you hold yourself to impossible standards. To beat mental exhaustion, stay organized and set realistic expectations of yourself and others. Rethink how you spend your energy and create a schedule you thrive on. If you’re taking on too much work, learn to delegate and adjust your workplace operations for optimal efficiency. By taking control of your environment, you’ll be able to make massive progress on how to get rid of mental blocks.

The secret to making your next creative project a success—whether you need a new logo, website, video, marketing campaign, or eBook—starts with a thorough and well-thought-out creative brief.

A creative brief is a document that explains the ins and outs of a project for the creative team, agency, or designer who’ll be working on it. Think of it as a blueprint for your project that not only helps the creative team but also will help you as you shape the overall strategy and goals for the project.

While it takes a bit of time to develop a solid creative brief, it’ll be well worth it to help ensure the deliverables you receive align with your expectations and business needs. Not to mention, it’ll also make the whole process smoother and more efficient, and most likely save you money in the long run. So, before you start working on the creative brief, take time to carefully think through your project and objectives.

When it comes to format, the brief can be created in a variety of file types: Word document, PowerPoint presentation, PDF, Google document, or Google presentation. While you can use the same template each time, you’ll want to create a new brief for every project, and make sure you’ve covered and thought through all of the critical details each time.

While it’s a good idea to go into detail, keep in mind that you don’t want to go into so much detail that your brief becomes overwhelming. Make it informative but digestible.

It’s also important to note that a project shouldn’t start until both you and the creative team have discussed and reached an understanding on everything outlined in the brief. It’s a good idea to have a kickoff meeting to go over the brief and discuss any questions or issues.

Now let’s dive into a few key pieces of information your creative brief should include and questions it should answer.

1. Describe your company

Provide context and background information on your company to help the designer or creative team get a better understanding of your business. Who are you and what services and/or products do you offer? Include links to your website and any other background material that might be helpful.

2. Summarize the project

What is the project? And why do you need it? Do you need a corporate identity kit for your new company? Are you refreshing your company’s Facebook and Twitter pages for a new season? Describe what the project is, what it entails, and why you’re doing it.

3. Explain your objectives

This is probably the most important part of the brief, and it’s essential that you think through your strategy and objectives completely before you get the project underway. Why do you need this project? What are you hoping to achieve with it? What are your goals? Is there a problem you’re trying to solve? How will you measure success? For example, if you’re developing an eBook, you might measure success by the number of downloads. These details will help the designer understand your goals and come up with solutions that address them.

4. Define your target audience

Who’s your customer? Who are you trying to reach with this project or campaign? Share demographic information about who they are and any behavioral insights you may have on them.

5. Outline the deliverables you need

Do you need a one-page brochure? A batch of 10 banner ads? A logo for print, just for the web, or for both? Be sure to include the file formats you need (i.e., JPG, PNG, PSD), size information (i.e., 300Г—250 pixels), and any other important details needed to deliver the right assets. В

6. Identify your competition

Who are your competitors? You may want to include an overview of the competitive landscape and any trends or market conditions impacting your industry. For this project, what are your competitors doing as a point of comparison and as a point of differentiation? For example, if you’re refreshing your logo, what types of logos and colors do your competitors use? These details can greatly help inform the direction the designer will go in (they’ll do additional research as well). You can also include a few examples of designs you like or don’t like.

7. Include details on the tone, message, and style

The style and tone should be consistent with your brand and will also hinge on what the project is, what you’re trying to achieve, and what action you want your customers to take. To help inform the messaging and ensure it aligns with your objectives, be sure to include your strategic positioning and the key messages that need to be addressed. For example, if you’re creating a landing page for a contest, you’d probably want the messaging and design to be lively and fun to inspire people to enter. If you’re developing an annual report, you’d most likely want something that looks and sounds more formal and professional to instill trust and confidence. If you have a brand style guide or examples of past campaigns or related projects, be sure to share them with your designer. And also provide any other factors or requirements that might affect the creative direction.

8. Provide the timing

If you have a timeline in mind for your project, include it in the brief. During your kickoff meeting or initial conversations with your designer, make sure to discuss the timeline and agree upon a completion date. It’s also a good idea to talk about the overall creative process and discuss if edits and how many rounds of them are possible and whether or not they’re included if it’s a fixed-price contract. В

9. Specify your budget

If you have a set budget for the project (which is often the case), include it in the brief and discuss it with your designer. If the designer’s estimate exceeds your budget, talk it over and agree upon realistic expectations, deliverables, and project costs before getting started.

10. List the key stakeholders

If other people on your team or within your organization need to be included in the review process, provide their contact information. You can also include how you’d like to receive deliverables and provide feedback. On Upwork, the Messages tool makes it easy to communicate and share files.

By thinking through and elaborating on these 10 key aspects of your business and project, you’ll be able to produce a creative brief that’s not only thorough but also effective. With a solid creative brief in hand, you’ll help the designer deliver great results and ensure your project delivers the results your business needs.

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

Franchise Your Business

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

Have you ever felt blocked and uncreative or feel like you can’t solve even a simple problem?

You have amazing creative talent and skills, you just have to learn how to unlock your abilities. There are six major obstacles to creative thinking that could be preventing you from learning how to improve your problem solving skills for business success.

If you fail to recognize any of them, they could be holding you back.

1. Lack Of Direction From Yourself or Others

The first obstacle to creative thinking is the lack of clear goals and objectives, written down, accompanied by detailed, written plans of action.

When you become crystal clear about what you want, and how you are going to achieve it, your creative mind springs to life. You immediately begin to sparkle with ideas and insights that help you to move forward and improve your creative skills.

2. Being Afraid of Failure

The second major obstacle to creative thinking is the fear of failure or loss.

It is the fear of being wrong, of making a mistake, or of losing money or time. As it happens, it is not the experience of failure that holds you back. You have failed countless times in life and it hasn’t done you any permanent damage.

It is the possibility of failure, the anticipation of failure that paralyses action and becomes the primary reason for failure and ineffective problem solving.

3. Being Afraid of Rejection

The third major obstacle to creative thinking is the fear of criticism, or the fear of ridicule, scorn or rejection.

It is the fear of sounding dumb or looking foolish. This is triggered by the desire to be liked and approved of by others, even people you don’t know or care about. As a result, you decide that, “If you want to get along, you have to go along.”

It is amazing how many people live lives of underachievement and mediocrity because they are afraid to attempt to sell themselves or their ideas for success.

They are afraid to ask someone to buy or try their product or service. As a result of these fears of rejection and criticism, they play it safe and settle for far less than they are truly capable of earning.

4. Never Changing or Adapting to the Situation

A major obstacle to creative thinking is called “homeostasis.” This is a deep subconscious desire to remain consistent with what you have done or said in the past.

It is the fear of doing or saying something new or different from what you did before. This homeostatic impulse holds people back from becoming all they are capable of becoming and from achieving success.

In homeostasis, there seems to be an irresistible unconscious pressure that brings you back to doing what you have always done.

Unfortunately, this tendency leads you into your own “comfort zone.” Your comfort zone, over time, becomes a groove, and then a rut. You become stuck. All progress stops. In no time, you begin to use your marvelous powers of rationalization to justify not changing.

As Jim Rohn says, “The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.”

Homeostasis is a major killer of human potential, which will hinder you from achieving success.

5. Not Thinking Proactively

The fifth obstacle to creative thinking for success is passivity. If you do not continually stimulate your mind with new ideas and information, it loses its vitality and energy, very much like a muscle that is not exercised.

Instead of thinking proactively and creatively, your thinking becomes passive and automatic.

A major cause of passive thinking is routine. Most people get up at the same time each morning, follow the same routine at their jobs, socialize with the same people in the evenings, and watch the same television programs.

As a result of not continually challenging their minds, they become dull and complacent. If someone suggests or proposes a new idea or way of doing things, they usually react with negativity and discouragement. They very soon begin to feel threatened by any suggestion of change from the way things have been done in the past.

6. You Rationalize and Never Improve

The sixth obstacle to creative thinking is rationalizing. We know that human beings are rational creatures, but what does that mean?

Being rational means that we continually use our minds to explain the world to ourselves, so we can understand it better and feel more secure. In other words, whatever you decide to do, or not do, you very quickly come up with a good reason for your decision.

By constantly rationalizing your decisions, you cannot learn to improve performance.

There are two main reasons why creativity is important in achieving success. First, problem-solving and making decisions are the key functions of the entrepreneur.

As much as 50% to 60% of your time in business and in life is spent solving problems. The better you become at thinking up creative ways to solve the inevitable and unavoidable problems of daily life and work, and making effective decisions, the more successful you will be.

Second, each of us wants to make more money. We all want to be more successful and enjoy greater status, esteem, and recognition. Your problem-solving ability is a key determinant of how much of these you accomplish.

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

Brian Tracy is Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations. He is the top selling author of over 70 books, including Eat That Frog, a New York Times Best Selling book. In addition, he has written and produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs, including the worldwide, best-selling Psychology of Achievement, which has been translated into more than 28 languages.

If you’ve never felt stuck because of a mental block, you’re in a lucky minority. Whether feeling stuck in a career, unfulfilled by relationships or discontent with the day-to-day, most people at some point have hit a plateau.

Feeling trapped in a mental block is extremely frustrating and can impact your professional life and even your personal relationships. Many factors can cause you to feel blocked in your thinking, from overanalyzing everything to overloading your plate with too many responsibilities. When you’re stalled by your own mindset, understanding how to get over a mental block can help you finally make progress. What is a mental block, and how can you overcome one? By learning to take control of your mind and emotions, you empower yourself to create forward momentum in your life.

Ready to overcome your mental block?

What is a mental block?

It depends on who you ask. “Mental block” is a layman’s term encompassing a range of experiences related to feeling obstructed in one’s thinking. Depending on who you ask, you might hear terms like “mental fatigue” used instead – especially by medical professionals, who use it to describe a condition caused by prolonged cognitive activity. Merriam Webster’s dictionary delineates related terms like “brain fog,” “writer’s block” and “stumbling block” to describe varying states of diminished mental capacity.

Whatever the terminology used, mental blocks feature the same conundrum: an inability to concentrate, think or reason clearly, resulting in a lack of drive. Forbes reports that unchecked mental fatigue can even impact your physical health . If you don’t learn how to get over a mental block, it can truly derail your productivity and sense of contentment with life.

How to get over a mental block

The most effective strategies for how to get rid of mental blocks focus on the root of what keeps people stuck.

1. Take control of your state

Understanding how to get over a mental block is much like overcoming a plateau – those places in life where the mind, body and emotions grind to a standstill. To regain your momentum, harmonize your mind and body to reach your peak state . Oftentimes a little activity is all that’s needed to break through a mental block. Your state is ultimately the framework you operate out of in life, so use it to your advantage to unblock your thinking.

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

2. Focus on the present

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

Understanding how to overcome mental blocks is about mind over matter. If you’re experiencing a mental block, chances are there is something bothering you from the past. Other times it may be a concern about the future that’s causing you to become preoccupied and blocked in your thinking. To gain some traction, take a few minutes to sit and think about the present moment. Focus on your breathing until your mind becomes calm. From this peaceful state, you’re able to think more clearly and find proactive problem-solving strategies.

3. Recognize the signs of a breakthrough

As you work to master how to get over a mental block, it helps to recognize the signs of a breakthrough. As unlikely as it sounds, the more frustrated you feel, the closer your breakthrough is. You may feel a vague sensation of discontentment with life, like you’re reaching your limit and something needs to give. You may have already reached the point of feeling fed up, like you’ve had enough. Realize that these feelings are normal as people grow and evolve to overcome obstacles in their lives. These feelings signal your breakthrough around the corner.

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

4. Reprogram your mind

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

To take the first step in understanding how to get over a mental block, all you have to do is decide to try to reprogram your mind . With that decision in place, you have the focus you need to develop a sense of mindfulness. Write down exactly what you’re thinking and feeling. When self-limiting beliefs come up, practice replacing them with empowering beliefs . Visualize where you want to go, and surround yourself with people and an environment conducive to clarity.

5. Calm your environment

When your environment is cluttered or uninspiring, learning how to get over a mental block becomes all the more difficult. Your environment is more than just your physical surroundings – it also encompasses the sounds, people and activities that surround you in your day-to-day life. If you’re overworked with too many responsibilities on your plate, you’ll have a hard time working up the extra energy necessary to overcome a mental block. The same is true if you’re not getting enough sleep or if you hold yourself to impossible standards. To beat mental exhaustion, stay organized and set realistic expectations of yourself and others. Rethink how you spend your energy and create a schedule you thrive on. If you’re taking on too much work, learn to delegate and adjust your workplace operations for optimal efficiency. By taking control of your environment, you’ll be able to make massive progress on how to get rid of mental blocks.

Most writers will have trouble with writer’s block at some point in their lives. The possible reasons for writer’s block are myriad: fear, anxiety, a life change, the end of a project, the beginning of a project. almost anything, it seems, can cause that debilitating feeling of fear and frustration. Fortunately, there are as many ways to deal with writer’s block as there are causes. The items below are only suggestions, but trying something new is the first step toward writing again.

Implement a Writing Schedule

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Carve out a time to write and then ignore the writer’s block. Show up to write, even if nothing comes right away. When your body shows up to the page at the same time and place every day, eventually your mind — and your muse — will do the same. Graham Greene famously wrote 500 words, and only 500 words, every morning. Five hundred words is only about a page, but with those mere 500 words per day, Greene wrote and published over 30 books.

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

In fact, don’t be hard on yourself at all while writing. Anna Quindlin wrote, “People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.” Turn the critical brain off. There is a time and place for criticism: it’s called editing.

Think of Writing as a Regular Job, and Less as an Art

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Stephen King, a famously prolific author, uses the metaphor of a toolbox to talk about writing in On Writing, intentionally linking it to physical work. If we think of ourselves as laborers, as craftsmen, it’s easier to sit down and write. We’re just putting words on the page, after all, one beside another, as a bricklayer puts down bricks. At the end of the day, we’re just creating things — stories, poems, or plays — only we use vocabulary and grammar instead of bricks and mortar.

Take Time off If You’ve Just Finished a Project

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Writer’s block could be a sign that your ideas need time to gestate. Idleness can be a key part of the creative process. Give yourself time to gather new experiences and new ideas, from life, reading, or other forms of art, before you start again.

Set Deadlines and Keep Them

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Many writers, understandably, have trouble doing this on their own. You might find a writing partner and agree to hold each other to deadlines in an encouraging, uncritical way. Knowing that someone else is expecting results helps many writers produce material. Writing groups or classes are another good way to jump-start a writing routine.

Examine Deep-Seated Issues Behind Your Writer’s Block

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Write about your anxieties regarding writing or creativity. Talk to a friend, preferably one who writes. A number of books, such as The Artist’s Way, are designed to help creative people explore the root causes of their blocks. (Studying the lives of other writers can also provide insight into why you’re blocked.) If your writer’s block continues, you might seek counseling. Many therapists specialize in helping artists and writers reconnect with their creativity.

Work on More Than One Project at a Time

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Some writers find it helpful to switch back and forth from one project to another. Whether this minimizes fear or boredom, or both, it seems to prevent writer’s block for many people.

Try Writing Exercises

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As much as it may remind you of your high school writing class, freewriting exercises can loosen up the mind and get you to write things you would never write otherwise. If nothing else, they get words on the page, and if you do enough of that, some of it is bound to be good. If you need fresh ideas for your writing prompts, try to pick a random word from the dictionary and write some sentences or paragraphs. Keep it short and sweet. The key to this exercise is to get your brain juices flowing, so there’s no need to aim for perfection.

Reconsider Your Writing Space

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Are your desk and chair comfortable? Is your space well-lit? Would it help to try writing in a coffee shop for a change? Without being too precious about it — or turning it into another form of procrastination — think about how you can create or find a space you’ll look forward to being in.

Remember Why You Started to Write in the First Place

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Look at what you’re writing and why. Are you writing what you love, or what you think you should be writing? The writing that feels most like play will end up delighting you the most, and this is the writing your readers will instinctively connect with. At the end of the day, writing is too hard to do it for anything other than love. If you continue to touch base with the joy you first felt in writing, it will sustain you, not only through your current block but through whatever the future holds.

If you’re struggling with writer’s block, don’t get discouraged. This happens to every great writer at some point, and it’s easy to overcome it. I get stuck many times in the middle of a novel. I lose my muse and don’t feel like writing. I stare at the computer screen and no words come to mind. My head feels stuck, stuck, stuck. It can be frustrating. After twenty years of writing historical thrillers and supernatural horror novels, I’ve learned how to get past writer’s block.

Here are 7 powerful ways you can get back into the flow of writing

1.) Step away from whatever you’re writing and do anything that’s creative

Paint pictures, write poetry, design images in Photoshop, make a scrapbook or collage, or if you’re masculine, build something in the garage. Work on another creative project for a few hours or days and then go back to writing. When I’m stuck, I paint paintings or work on my website or blog. Jumping to other projects really activates my creativity. The key is to keep exercising the creative part of your brain and eventually, you’ll tap back into the flow of writing.

2). Do freewriting

Spend 15 minutes or more a day writing whatever comes off the top of your head. Ignore punctuation. Just write freely. Allow it to be totally random. You might change subjects many times. You might mix fiction with journaling or vent frustrations. The process trains your brain to tap into the words inside your head and gives them a place to live on your computer screen or journal. Do this for a week and then return to your writing project. An alternative is to free-write 15-20 minutes to get your thoughts out and then immediately return to writing your book or article. Some of my freewriting entries inspired new ideas for my books.

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

Dead of Winter by Brian Moreland

3.) Move your body

Dance, practice yoga, or Tai Chi. This may sound funny, but when you get your body into flow, your mind follows. Meditate and take long, deep breaths. A relaxed mind is more open. An open mind is more imaginative. You can focus longer when you are in a peaceful state. Sometimes I step away from writing, do some yoga poses and breathing, then return to writing in a more creative state.

4.) Eliminate distractions

Turn off the phone and unplug from the internet. Clean up your workspace. A cluttered desk puts the mind in a state of confusion. Carve out some time in your schedule just for writing—at least three to four hours. Ask loved ones to honor your space so you can write without interruptions, or write when everyone in the house is sleeping. Giving yourself time and space to be in solitude is important to staying focused.

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

5.) Write early in the morning

When you first wake up, your brain is still in Theta mode, the brainwave pattern that your mind is in when you dream. My best writing happens when I get up at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. I’m amazed at what my mind comes up with while I’m still half asleep.

6.) Write while you sleep

Your subconscious mind is always problem-solving, even when you’re sleeping. Sometimes when I’m stuck on a chapter I’ll write for 15-30 minutes prior to bedtime. I’ll think about the problem chapter as I fall asleep. The next morning I usually wake up with a solution to the problem and get back into the flow of writing. I’ll see the scene from a fresh perspective or my characters will say or do things that take my story in an exciting new direction.

7.) If nothing else works, I resort to my number one, lethal weapon to cure writer’s block: the Glass-of-Water Technique

Before bed, fill up a glass of water. Hold it up and speak an intention into the water. (Example: My intent is to tap into my creative source and write brilliantly tomorrow. I choose to be in the flow of my best writing. I am resolving my story’s issues as I sleep and dream). Drink half the water and then set the half-full glass on your nightstand. Go to sleep. When you wake up the next morning, drink the rest of the water immediately. Then go straight to your computer and write for at least an hour without distraction. This may seem a bit out there, but give it a try. It works! Do this technique for three nights straight. It gets me out of my writer’s block every time, often the next morning and definitely within 72 hours.

When you apply one or all of these methods, you’ll find that writer’s block is simply a minor speed bump that you can overcome easily and stay in the creative flow. Happy writing!

How to be creative when you've hit a creative block

If you love to write and have a story you want to tell, the only thing that can stand between you and the success you’re seeking isn’t craft, or a good agent, or enough Facebook friends and Twitter followers, but fear. Fear that you aren’t good enough, or fear the market is too crowded, or fear no one wants to hear from you. Fortunately, you can’t write while being in the flow and be afraid simultaneously. The question is whether you will write fearlessly.

Chuck Sambuchino is a former editor with the Writer’s Digest writing community and author of several books, including How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack and Create Your Writer Platform.