Death to Artist Block: My Top 3 Effective Ways to Get the Creative Juices Flowing

Something that I've learned is to always keep a sketchbook around. Jot down everything that inspires you. I still use ideas from sketches and notes I've jotted down years ago. 

You’ve been staring at the blank page or screen for a good 30 minutes, and you’re ready to just say, “to hell with it” and scroll down your news feed on Facebook. Sound familiar? The Artist Block wins again. Hey, I get it. It’s not easy coming up with dope work at a moment’s notice. For the longest, I believed that’s just how the creative process worked.  My biggest mistake was only working when I felt inspired—when it struck me like a bolt of lighting. Then I got a job as a graphic designer—and my director made it clear that she wasn't waiting on no creative thunderstorms to help me complete my tasks. 


So, I had to come up with a new strategy. After a few years of trial and error, I came up with some tried and true techniques to get the ball rolling. 


1. Creative Briefs: Making your objective clear

It’s amazing how the ideas start pouring out of your brain the minute you realize EXACTLY what you’re trying to do. That’s what a creative brief does. Cambridge Dictionary defines it as: 

a document that gives details of what should be considered when something is being designed or advertised

Essentially, it’s a guide. It clarifies the objective through a set of questions. Who are you? What is your niche/business? Who is your target audience? What do you want them to know? What will make this project different from others? What’s the tone? What are the dimensions? These are just a few of the questions that a creative brief addresses. These dandy sheets of paper are even more critical if you’re creating a project for a client. It’s about the best communication you can have that saves you from misunderstandings, and more importantly time

Check out this creative brief from HeliosDesign that covers their plan of action for a mock website. It’s not just for websites though, It comes in handy for all kinds of posters, ads, flyers, illustrations, commercial photos—the list goes on and on, really. 

2. Inspiration Vault - Tap into your influences

A quote that has stuck with me out of Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like an Artist is,

If all your favorite makers got together and collaborated, what would they make with you leading the crew? Go make that stuff.
— Austin Kleon

When you see something that inspires you—that stuff that gives you chills, makes you stare, makes you press replay..Save it, and store it. It’ll come in handy down the road. Between you and me? This strategy sometimes stimulates that little lightning bolt I mentioned earlier. When I witness or experience something amazing, I can’t help but want to make amazing stuff too. 

And search every nook and cranny for the good stuff. Look both inside and outside of your field..Check on and off the web. View portfolios that cause you to ponder, “Yo…How’d they do that?!” Or leave your computer behind completely.  Buy a book, check a magazine, watch a movie, go to a concert. My all time favorite source is attending spoken word events. I leave  feeling brand new, and my head is always left filled to the brim with ideas and inspiration. 

Finally, keep them in a safe place—for those times when the Artist’s Block creeps in. Make an inspiration board, or better yet, a mood board if you’re aiming for a specific look. Keep inspirational books, photos, etc. on a shelf, or in a shoebox. For online inspiration, Pinterest is awesome. 

Oh yea—I’m late to the game, but if you haven’t yet, check out the site Behance too. It’s like an inspiration network. I’ll just leave it at that and let you check it out for yourself *wink*.

3. Music - Music is life…duh! 

Last but certainly not least, music. I’m not sure if this technique applies to everyone, but I definitely felt it was worth throwing out there. After all, music is what inspired me to get into visual stuff in the first place. When I listen to some damn good music, it truly causes me to have visions. N.E.R.D. said it best when they named an entire album “Seeing Sounds” (Which is a damn good album!). 

I see shapes, colors, stories,—literally mini short films in my head. When you hear a song, what do you think about? The lyrics? Scenes? Nothing?? I’m curious to know! Play different genres, different tempos, and different artists (support your local artists too!). It sets an awesome mood, and takes you to another place. A future experiment (Because we’re in the Lab….See what I did there?) I’d really like to do is pick a particular song and have several artists create a piece based off of what they envision while hearing it. Will they have some kind of uniformity? Or be completely different?

Anyway, embrace those headphones boys and girls, they will take you hella far in this creative world. 

Whelp, that about sums up my top 3 ways of ditching the Artists Block, and hopefully the key to opening up those floodgates of creativity. Of course there are many other approaches to beating this ugly little beast. Consulting with friends, brainstorming, free styling, etc. What are your best techniques? Comment below and let me know because we’re in this war together to stop artist block all over the world! Rawr!!


~Mad Panda out