How do you find creativity in moments when it seems impossible to create something? How do you find inspiration to do something? This is a question that a designer asks over and over again. Especially in difficult periods of working or personal life. The first thing to do, when ideas are not coming, when creativity is not found, is to try to understand the reasons for the problem. Its causes. There can be multiple. But often the cause of lack of creativity is due to two or three key elements: stress, performance/result anxiety, lack of motivation.
So let’s try to understand why sometimes, ideas just don’t come up.
Why is creativity lost? Why don’t we get ideas anymore?
The human brain is a bit like a computer. As long as all the elements work, the whole system works. But, much like a computer, or any other complex machine, once one tiny thing is out of place, the whole system starts to fall apart. For those of us who use our creative abilities for a living, this most often manifests in the lack of ideas. It is not that the brain goes out. It’s simply that good ideas just don’t seem to surface.
Why does this happen? I’m neither a psychologist nor a guru of personal growth, motivation or anything like that. In this article, I write substantially what I and many others have experienced throughout our careers. Having said that, why do we lose creativity? Mainly due to “brakes” inside or outside our brains. By internal brakes I mean mental situations that we create ourselves, by external brakes I mean situations that involve us (unforeseen events, results not achieved, etc.). We, therefore, see the three causes that usually cause a decline in creativity. In total, there are 3 major reasons for all of our creative struggles. Let’s start off with the first reason:
First cause: stress
Too many things to do, too many emails to reply to, too many projects to prepare for. Spending, family, social life, work, the client, the meeting.
From the dictionary: “every cause (physical, chemical, psychic, etc.) capable of exerting a harmful stimulus on the organism, with its prolonged action, causing its reaction”. And in your case, the reaction is the lack of ideas or creativity.
Second cause: performance or result anxiety
We’ve all been there. Hours and hours of studying put into one project that you have to present in front of your entire high school class. This is a concept applicable to any social and mental dynamic. This is, for example, a problem that I myself continually face in my working life and that has destroyed my creativity and motivation numerous times. I fight with it all the time.
I always want to create a phenomenal article, a logo design project that the customer is super satisfied with, or a web page design that gets people drooling over my creation. I always try to do my best and sometimes the anxiety of achieving the best possible result pulls me down. When this aspect is added to the other two, it becomes tragic for creativity.
Third cause: lack of motivation
Sometimes at this stage, people start to consider whether or not they’re in the right business. It starts to make them question whether they’re actually cut out for what they do, or if they just got lucky a few times. I’m here to tell you that a lack of motivation is not a result of any of those things. Many famous designers are incredibly talented. So talented, that they basically have projects spewing out of their ears.
Despite this, they sometimes lose their daily motivation. Do you know what helps me in these moments? Thinking back to my first ever big project, and considering how far I’ve come since. I can assure you will start to remember why you started designing in the first place. And sometimes, that’s all the motivation I need.
So now, these are the 3 main causes that hinder creativity and make ideas disappear. But how can creativity be reborn? Here are 3 practical actions that can be implemented today.
FIRST ACTION: Stop.
When we are so focused with our daily routine we often don’t realize what is holding us back. You don’t really collect your thoughts enough to stop and take a breather. That’s why, when you feel creativity and motivation drop, you have to stop. The duration depends on you and your situation. An hour, a day, two days (the so-called 72-hour break). Stop and let your brain breathe for a moment. In those moments, usually, I go for a run or I sometimes even watch a movie or read a good book. This time, which doesn’t have to be too much, will help you free your brain from anxiety and stress. This phase will also serve to recharge your creativity, which until then was harnessed by anxiety and stress.
SECOND ACTION: Get organized.
Once you have freed your brain from the burdens of daily routine, take some time to organize your next moves. Take a sheet and write down the things you have to do in the coming weeks. Write them all. Try to create a plan, a sort of roadmap to tackle all the most important things you have to do. The useful aspect of this phase is that this makes it possible to actually understand the order of priority in your tasks and projects. But that’s not all. It also creates a plan to deal with them and destroy the anxiety and stress that comes when you feel like you have to do a billion things at one time. It can be head-splitting.
If you are a person who hates making lists, organizing things, just trust me on this one. It is one of the most effective ways to clear your mind and free yourself from the burdens of everyday responsibilities.
The lack of creativity is often a simple lack of organization of one’s time. Poor organization of time becomes anxiety, stress, and demotivation. And these start to slowly limit your creativity.
Lack of creativity is often a lack of organization. Plan your work! Managing your time better is one of the most important aspects for a designer.
THIRD ACTION: Start doing it.
You have freed your mind, you have organized your tasks, now is the time to start doing. But… how? Simply start doing! If you don’t want to tackle that university project and don’t get any immediate ideas, just take a sheet and start brainstorming. If you can’t find the creativity for that logo design project, simply start working on it! If you don’t find the desire and creativity to write that article, simply open the text editor and start writing! Everything has a beginning, so you might as well and get that out of the way.
Despite your lack of creativity, you are more than likely a great designer. Just because you can’t think of the next big idea now, doesn’t mean it won’t come later. Great ideas take time, and great design takes even longer.
So, next time you find yourself in a rut, sad and on the verge of crying, maybe even questioning your life choices, just remember one thing: it happens to literally everyone. You are a designer not by chance, but by the reality of your skills. Use them, even if it takes a while to rediscover creativity.