What the Funk?
Designers are under constant pressure to summon creative forces and put them into action on a moment’s notice. Creativity lies in the heart of every design process, and it can be an elusive muse at times. When your professional confidence relies on arousing an idea out of the ether, the dreaded creative “funk” can happen, and it can be paralyzing. Rest assured though, it happens to all of us. I’ve come to believe that it is actually part of the design process, and that it strengthens the designer within. Knowing this, however, doesn’t make it any less troubling when it happens. Here’s some ways I’ve found to help get out of the creative funk:
Go Into Input Mode
Do you know why you feel so inspired when you’ve gone to see a movie or live music or a museum? It is because you’ve taken yourself out of Output Mode, and into Input Mode. If you’re not constantly studying your craft and taking in inspiration, where do you think all that brilliance you wish to summon is going to come from? It’s like going to the gym––you can’t lift weights for ten hours without eating, you have to fuel yourself!
Catch Some Zzz’s
Sleepless nights can lead to some pretty awesome “ah-ha” moments, but most of the time sleep is your best friend. Give your brain a chance to rest and process. When you sleep, your brain actually keeps working by processing all the information that it absorbed when you were in Input Mode, and it decides what it’s going to remember. You have to allow the engine to cool down, so it can work better.
Walk It Out
Staring at the screen for too long and still can’t find a solution? I find that leaving the room, or better yet going for a walk and getting fresh air, helps engage parts of my creative brain that I can’t otherwise access. This helps me process connections that weren’t previously apparent before I tore myself from my desk.
“I’ve found over the years that any momentary change stimulates a fresh burst of mental energy. So if I’m in this room and then I go into the other room, it helps me. If I go outside to the street, it’s a huge help… It breaks up everything and relaxes me.”
— Woody Allen
Surround Yourself With Creative People
You are the product of your environment. You’re influenced and inspired by the people around you. Other creatives will push how you think about things and challenge your own patterns of thought.
Master Your Emotions
Some of the greatest works of art and design have been produced from heartbreak and tragedy. When it comes down to it, if you’re being driven by your emotions you’re not achieving your greatest creativity. There’s a book by Eckhart Tolle called “The Power of Now” where he talks about how we need to learn to witness and stand outside of our emotions to observe ourselves from a distance––that way we can control how we feel and have the emotions but not be limited or driven by them.
Have A Journal
As a creative person, your ideation process is likely continual, producing some ideas that are great and some that are not so great. Keeping that in your brain can cause a fuse to blow, so flesh it out in an idea journal where ideas can incubate and meet each other! To learn more about the benefits of having a journal, check out Christopher Ariñez’s (a fellow rabbit!) post below.
The Power of the Sketch
Sharpen Your Saw
My final bit of advice is also the last habit featured in Steven Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” For Covey, “sharpening the saw” is about taking the time to renew and refresh our physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional being, or as 21st-century lifestyle bloggers would call it, “self-care”. It’s about regularly investing in ourselves, and our skillset so that we’re more effective. It means working smarter, not harder. By taking just thirty minutes out of your routine to sharpen your metaphorical saw, you’ll be able to get more done during the rest of your work day. Whether that’s taking a deep breath and practicing one of the suggestions mentioned above, researching new tools and techniques, or putting on a face mask with a tall glass of lemonade––it will help you saw through your creative block.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” — Abraham Lincoln
Thanks for coming to my TED talk
I hope some of these tricks can help you fight the funk that will inevitably come your way. Look at it as a designers growing pain, because overcoming it only makes you better in the end.