How to Bust Your Creative Blocks

Break on through by Sebastiano Pitruzzello (CC BY-NC-ND)

Break on through | Sebastiano Pitruzzello (CC BY-NC-ND)

Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. ―Madeleine L’Engle
Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but [you] must develop an approach for the rest of the time. ―Leonard Bernstein
The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable. ―Robert Henri
Break on through to the other side. —The Doors


Painters, sculptors, writers, and other artists don’t have a monopoly on creativity. Imagination and originality enrich all our lives in one way or another. Some people’s kitchens are like studios for handmade edible marvels. Others’ homes are works of art—inventive expressions of their rich inner lives. Many adorn their bodies like canvases, using fabrics, inks, and metals. Innovation and play can infuse spaces, thinking, relationships, work—almost anything.

Until it doesn’t. Everyone hits a creative roadblock now and then. Especially when we’re tired, overworked, and deadlines loom. But don’t despair—getting stuck is frustrating, but surmountable. Try these steps to bust those creative blocks.


1. Turn off your inner critic

Editor, censor, inner slavedriver—whatever you call that impossible-to-please voice in your head—turn it off. Anxiety suffocates your imagination. And you can’t polish something that doesn’t exist yet. So just for now, suspend your judgement and forget about perfection. Brainstorm. Aim for very rough draft. You can sweat the details once you’ve got something to work with. First things first.


2. Walk away

You can’t force a brainstorm. If turning off your inner critic leaves you with nothing but crickets, just walk away. Go do something else for awhile: take a walk, talk to a friend, play with your dog/cat/bird/kid, commune with nature. If you’re hungry, eat something. If you’re tired, take a nap. Don’t look at the clock, just try to relax and shift your focus. Breathe. Once you’ve loosened up and your mind is clear, try again.


3. Stoke your imagination

For maximum creativity you can’t just make room for your imagination, you have to feed it. And not just with the usual junk food—well-worn paths and comfortable habits. Nutritious food is fresh and varied. Take a different route to work or school. See a live show, meet new people, explore someplace you’ve never been. Stop and smell the roses. Say yes. Wander. Novelty and variety help you make fresh connections—the stuff creativity is made of.


Creative roadblocks happen to the best of us. Unfortunately, you can’t will your imagination to work—fighting your frustration will only prolong it. But with these simple steps and a little patience, you can kickstart your inspiration. Be gentle with yourself, have fun, and before you know it you’ll be bursting with creativity.



  1. The internet is full of sayings that creativity is a process involving some variation on preparation, incubation, illumination, and implementation. As an architect and woodworker I find the first of these to be the most demanding of intentional action.

    Preparation involves specific gathering of information, facts, histories, examples, concepts, tools, materials, space, time, resources directed at the goal or problem being considered. When I mentor new designers they are generally not prepared to undertake this “Grunt Work”. They want to plunge into Creating. The result is predictable in its chaos. Sometimes the result is cute or visually impressive, but fails in most of its important impacts in the real world.

    Your suggestion to feed your imagination is indeed part of this process. After preparation, giving the mind and heart time to perform its magic is also an essential part of the process.


    • Thanks for sharing, Arbolita. Creativity is a process, and inspiration is just the beginning. Once you’ve busted your mental blocks, there’s still a lot of hard work to do—it takes patience and perseverance.

  2. I have come to creativity late in my evolution (at least self awareness of creativity). I’ve been told I have creative talents for a long time, but was in denial for too long. I have recently learned how to embrace that wonderful inner creative side, which seems to come in spurts. Sometimes it lays fallow for a time, and sometimes it bursts forth. I never thought of it as a natural process before, but perhaps that’s just what I have been doing …. taking a break until the next inspiration hits!!

    • I’m glad you’ve embraced your creativity! It ebbs and flows for all of us. It sounds like you’ve figured out steps one and two on your own; if you ever want to hasten your inspiration, try step three. Thanks for sharing!

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