Shop Talk

How to Break Out of a Creative Rut

Whether you’€™ve been drawing on walls since you were a kid or recently cracked open your first sketchbook, there comes a time in every artist’€™s life when you feel stuck in a creative rut.

In fact, we’€™ve been feeling a bit stuck ourselves lately. And after a slew of unproductive activities including but not limited to rewatching all four seasons of Breaking Bad (twice) and one too many unsuccessful attempts at one-man foosball, we decided to do something about it. We finally got off our behinds and started looking for ways to unstick our creativity. It would be mean of us to keep these tips to ourselves. So the next time you’€™re itching for a burst of creativity to inspire a new design or illustration, look no further than this handy list.

Post cover image (above) – Frustration by matthewdunnart


Add doodling to your daily routine

Brilliant ideas are rarely born from a-ha! moments. Instead, they often start as a scribble on a bar napkin or envelope. As you explore a mediocre idea more, it leads to a less mediocre one, which could lead to a really good idea that’€™s worth pursuing for your next design.

But that won’t happen if you aren’€™t exploring your silly not-sure-if-this-is-something ideas. So make it a habit to unleash whatever stream-of-consciousness ideas pop into your head by drawing for a few minutes each day with no agenda. Some days you might feel like you’ve got something pretty good going. Some days you might draw your coffee mug. Keep at it. This routine exercise will help your brain fire those creative neurons, and soon you’€™ll stumble upon something truly great.

Image Credit: The Artist by Laurxy

Break your daily routine

No, not the doodling routine. Keep that one. But change something else as you go about work, school, or whatever else it is that you do. Take a different route on your commute. Pick up a magazine you ordinarily wouldn’€™t read. Instead of heading straight home to cuddle with your cat and watch reality TV, head to an art museum. And if you’€™re already an art museum regular, go somewhere else like a flea market, sports game, or the mall.

Take a look at what you usually do day-to-day, and do the opposite. It could be as simple as listening to a different genre of music while you work (or listening to nothing at all). Once you open your world even just a little and let in new experiences, you’€™ll open up your mind, too!

Jot down inspiration before it’€™s too late

Ever had a fragment of an idea while you were showering, riding the subway, or zoning out in class? ‘€œI have to remember this for later!’€ you tell yourself. Then you start thinking about what might be good for lunch and the idea evaporates. Five minutes later, you don’€™t even remember you had an idea, much less what it was.

Be prepared when inspiration strikes. Invest in a pack of notebooks and pens, and stash them anywhere and everywhere: your glove compartment, your medicine cabinet, your nightstand, your junk drawer, your best friend’€™s junk drawer. Wherever you are, so will a notebook and pen be. The second you have an idea, you can jot it down and come back to it later (maybe during your daily doodling routine.)



Image Credit: Colour Drought by ayarti

Try a new tool even if you don’t know how to use it

Your art is kinda like your daily routine. If you’€™re repeatedly using the same medium over and over, you’€™ll keep having the same ideas. So one way to spark something new is to pick up a new tool.

If you work primarily in Photoshop, turn off the screen and go make something with your hands. Paint. Draw with charcoal. Steal your kid brother’€™s crayons. Make an origami swan. It doesn’€™t matter if your painting is no good or your swan is lopsided. Working outside your comfort zone forces you to think differently. And creative blocks end when you’re thinking differently.

Image Credit: Brain Storm by Raae

Stop using distractions as a crutch

There’€™s something to be said for taking breaks to refresh your mind and increase your productivity. But too much iPhone, Facebook, or twiddling your thumbs time can hinder your creativity. Because creativity can be fickle, especially if you’€™re not feeling particularly inspired.

If you’€™re serious about being productively creative, stop setting yourself up for distraction. Get your head in the right place and dedicate 100% of your attention to your process, as painful as it may seem. Turn off the Internet. Put your phone in a different room. We know you love browsing Redbubble all day long, but you’€™re going to have to briefly shut us out for a bit, too.

As the world goes about its business without you for a couple hours, hone your focus to your creative process and artwork. The more you train yourself to focus, the easier it gets. You might even forget about the rest of us for awhile. That’€™s okay. Just please come back when you’re finished. And let us know if any of these tactics worked for you, and if you have any others!

Do you have any sure-fire ways of beating a creative rut? Have you tried any of these techniques? If you have any advice that might help a frustrated fellow artist unstick themselves, we’d love to hear your nuggets of wisdom in the comments below.


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