Many people will experience some sort of creative block from time to time throughout their careers. A creative block can be devastating to your productivity—some even find themselves unable to create new work at all. Frankly, communication professionals don’t have time for that. We have tight news release deadlines to meet, demanding content calendars to keep up with, communications crises to manage and marketing collateral to develop. Waiting for inspiration to return is a luxury that communication professionals simply can’t afford, so when a creative rut strikes, we need to get out of it—fast.
Here’s how our team members stay productive when stuck in a creative rut:
Jim Roop, President
When I get stuck, I usually move to some sort of mindless task, such as balancing my checkbook, cleaning out email or responding to a non-profit request. I find this clears my head fairly quickly.
Brad Kostka, Senior Vice President
Instead of sweating it by staring at the blinking cursor on my screen, I get out of my office. I’ll take a walk outside to clear my head, leaving my earbuds behind to focus on the task at hand. Sometimes, I’ll stop at the park next to the downtown branch of the Cleveland Public Library—there are plenty of chairs, and the green space makes it an ideal setting for serious thinking. As ideas come to mind, I’ll dictate notes on my phone or a pad of paper. If I’m on a tight deadline or the weather is inclement, I’ll get up from my desk and settle myself into a different space in the office. Usually, it’s our conference room or one of the ledges near a window.
Another tactic I use is researching the topic I’m struggling to address by reading, listening to a podcast or watching a webinar. Getting a fresh perspective from outside sources is always good for inspiration. I often learn a different approach to a challenge or get some new ideas that I can adapt to my particular situation.
Lynn DeChant, Director of Graphic Design
Going old school allows me to think more freely and creatively. I let go of the mouse and pick up a pencil. Then, I get away from my screen and jot down or draw out ideas the old-fashioned way. Pencil and paper help me rough out my ideas and organize my thoughts faster—I can sketch and revise until I arrive at an idea that works well. On a computer, you’re trying to be more refined, which can distract from the overall picture. Once I have that big picture set, then I move to the computer to finetune it.
Amanda O’Neill, Account Supervisor
When I feel like I’m in a creative rut, getting some fresh air by taking a quick walk puts me back on track. Working in the center of downtown Cleveland provides a great space to grab a quick cup of coffee, people watch and forget about the project that got you stuck in the first place. Sometimes it’s best to walk away for a few minutes, instead of staying glued to your computer screen. You never know what ideas may pop into your head when you pop out of the office for a bit.
Katie Casciato, Senior Account Executive
When I’m feeling overwhelmed, distracted or just not in a creative headspace, I enjoy getting lost in a good book or listening to one of my favorite podcasts over my lunch break. I find this really helps to clear my mind, and I come back to the office feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the work day. If I’m pressed for time or under a tight deadline, I’ll take a quick stroll around the office to stretch my legs and make myself a cup of coffee. On the days where I’m experiencing writers’ block, I’ll usually jot all of my thoughts down on paper and create a content outline. This helps me map out the main points I’d like to get across and focus my writing process.
Maggie Sullivan, Account Executive
Music is very important to my creative process. Working in silence leaves too much opportunity for excessive rumination and stagnation. Listening to music while I work pushes me to move forward. As a PR professional, I aim to explain the world in a way that’s eloquent and concise—which is exactly what musicians do, so it helps to look to them for inspiration.
There are currently more than 40 million songs on Spotify—surely there’s always one to help lift whatever kind of creative crisis you may be striving to conquer. As Nick Hornby wrote in High Fidelity, “There’s a whole world in [my record collection], a nicer, dirtier, more violent, more peaceful, more colorful, sleazier, more dangerous, more loving world than the world I live in; there is history, and geography, and poetry, and countless other things I should have studied at school, including music.”
Monica Farag, Graphic Designer
When I find myself in a creative rut, I always resort to going on Instagram to get inspired by what other people are sharing. Instagram is an artform in itself that showcases people’s personal arsenals of work, with each user’s feed serving as their own ‘”portfolio”” of work, if you will. So even just scrolling for a bit on the platform helps me find inspiration from other creatives around me. This inspires me to keep going on my own work, or to look at something in a different way that I had never thought of before.