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Beating Creative Block

Posted by Steve on March 26 at 10:08 am

Anyone who’s reading this right now has probably experienced “creative block.” If you haven’t, you’re either lying or I really want to meet you! :) No matter what you’re designing–a necklace, Lima line drawinga bedroom, a dessert platter, or lesson plans for an 8th grade literature class–chances are, you’ll have to get un-stuck some point.

This happens to me all the time while I’m working on the Lima Beads web site. I mean, there are only so many times I can draw the Lima Guy before I start running out of ideas! There are creative minds all around me, but sometimes I just need to bear down and beat the block.

Here are five tips from my experience.

Headphones1. Put on headphones. To really get in “the zone” I need to ignore the world around me. I prefer music that has an ambient, rhythmic quality. Too many lyrics distract me. Remixes are good. Long songs are better than short, choppy ones. And pick a playlist before you start–relying on “shuffle” mode kills the flow!

2. Look at old photos. Photos are a great tool. They elicit memories and they’re great exercise for the brain. They’re full of color, light, and character. I believe great design touches the emotions, and photos can bring out those feelings when you’re bored and blocked.

3. Take a walk. My college friend Marc has spent years in graduate school studying the brain, and his research shows that getting out of the city and talking a walk in nature has measurable, positive effects on your memory and your mood. Count me in!

No Pencils!4. Use a pen. I have a lot of pencils, but every time I draw with one, I just end up erasing everything. Pens (or markers) force you to be deliberate and confident. Your strokes mean something. And starting over on a new sheet of paper will just lead to new & different ideas.

Zzzz...5. Sleep on it. Have you ever woken up with the perfect design in your head? Happens to me all the time. But I rarely have that “ah-ha!” moment after five hours of continuous work. When I give my brain a little rest, it always surprises me later.

Your mileage may vary, but I hope these tips can get you thinking about ways to beat creative block. Do you have your own strategies? Share your tips in the comments!

Read the comments (or add your own)

  1. Cuban Queen Crazy Chick
    Cuban Queen Crazy Chick says:

    GREAT tips, Steve!! They are all so true, how can I possibly add to that? Thanks for such a wonderful post to remind us all to “beat the block.” lol :)

  2. Cuban Queen Crazy Chick
    Cuban Queen Crazy Chick says:

    Oh, one thing that I did think of — keep a notepad next to your bed. I don’t know how many times I’ve had an inspiration right before dozing off, or even dreamed of one only to wake up and forget it completely. Write everything down, even if you’re unsure of it!

  3. No Photo
    Luv2bead - Little Chick says:

    lol, I do that all the time Ivy (especially for fresh pick ideas)! And also for jewelry designs. Thanks for the tips Steve!

  4. CAS
    CAS says:

    Music is an absolute “MUST”!! I also keep a blank piece of paper on my desk next to my computer for jotting down stray design thoughts, color ideas, pick titles, etc… when I’m on-line. (at work I would jot stuff down all the time on the desk blotter, or the big blotter-sized desk calender)

  5. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    If I have too much work to be able to walk away or go to sleep, I’ll just switch to a task that doesn’t require creativity. Usually, if I run on autopilot for an hour or so, I can come back and perform a more creative task.

  6. Steve
    Steve says:

    Cuban Queen, I think the notebook is a great tip. I used to keep one in my pocket, but it got uncomfortable so I stopped carrying it. A mistake!

  7. WaterburyJewels
    WaterburyJewels says:

    I think music especially jazz helps me to be creative along with being outside, watching the birds, squirrels or just listening to the sounds


  8. No Photo
    Luv2bead - Little Chick says:

    I always listen to music when I make jewelry!

  9. WireWrangler
    WireWrangler says:

    All great suggestions, my favorite is sleeping on it but that is too often counter productive. Walking on our beach is always grand. But my “all time”, absolute best way to break massive blocks is with “free association”. When you freely associate with creative types one never knows where one will end. I am very fortunate because I have a live in-creative, freely associating partner, my husband, who just happens to be an artist. We have fun!

  10. Leslie W Mtn Chick
    Leslie W Mtn Chick says:

    Beading Daily, a free twice weekly newsletter put out by the Beadwork Magazine folks, had an interesting article on this same topic. It was geared specifically to beaders and might be worth checking out. They also have free beading projects.

  11. J Yee smart chick
    J Yee smart chick says:

    love all these comments about “creative block”!!! Yep to keeping a journal. I’ve been keeping one for school lately and have a nice set of markers in many colors :) … mindless “stuff” like a few rounds of computer mahjongg helps my brain get out of “heavier” stuff like school, work etc…
    talks over coffee/tea with good friends who are also creative is good, never know where our conversations will go :)
    otherwise I sometimes gotta reflect upon what I “hear” the beads saying… what feelings, emotions, etc are coming up??
    any TV show or movie titles?? :)

  12. No Photo
    Jeannes Gems - Gem Chick says:

    When I’m really stuck I’ll throw together one of my “old standby” projects – usually smallish tiger eye rounds with pewter or silver and a tiger eye nugget as a pendant. It’s one of the few designs I duplicate because it always sells! Another favorite is the tourmaline and apatite multistone chips with a pewter pendant. They don’t take much thought, but at least I feel like I’m creating something.

  13. LoriEllen
    LoriEllen says:

    Did you guys know you got some link love over at Art Bead Scene? :D
    I turned into a limabeads cheerleader in the comments, lol.

  14. Steve
    Steve says:

    Thanks for the heads-up Tab! And especially for the compliments. How’d you find out about the post? Do you use a blog search tool?

  15. LoriEllen
    LoriEllen says:

    I subscribe to them in google reader and check them regularly. They just happened to post about you guys. :)

  16. Klista H
    Klista H says:

    I agree with your tips and I would like to add one. I have been dealing with a horrible creativity block. One blog I read suggested entering a contest as a way to get the creativity flowing. The contest rules usually give you just enough to jump start you. I tried it and now I’ve got a great deal of ideas for my next trunk show.

  17. Steve
    Steve says:

    Klista, I agree that a contest can help jump start you. The interesting thing is that when you are confronted with rules or constraints, they might seem restrictive at first but in the end just encourage creative solutions. Funny how that works. Great tip.

  18. Lore Y
    Lore Y says:

    These are great ideas. I keep meaning to put a pad of paper next to my bed but my night stand is too crowded with books! Now about this Easter Egg hunt…

  19. No Photo
    A Bead Apart says:

    Etchings, scribbling, notes, written at night are all over the pad in the morning. On the other hand, maybe a NEW idea will come from what you can’t decipher.

  20. Birthday Girl
    Birthday Girl says:

    what a great idea, an Easter egg hunt, fun while you’re shopping

  21. Karokat
    Karokat says:

    The best thing to have is a graph paper notebook – and I found some cute little ones at Staples. That way when I try to draw something, which I’m very bad at, it’s at least in scale.

  22. Connie B
    Connie B says:

    sitting under a peach tree
    playing with a puppy
    asking a child about a favorite…..
    just looking at beads & only seeing colors
    opening up the “zone” to the universal creative minds….relax,breathe,think of nothing
    i could go on…….

  23. No Photo
    Ginny G says:

    Thanks, Steve…PA has been rainy cold and dreary. Your ideas are timely. Some sunshine will help with energy/creative block. I usually get to Barnes and Noble and cruise their jewelry books… or magazines & buy one… to jumpstart the next project… a cup of Jo helps… or at night…a little white wine…can’t hurt either..
    I also get out supplies and “play” with them… amazing how new ideas gel. Thanks… take care… gg

  24. Lynn Eileen Chicky LE
    Lynn Eileen Chicky LE says:

    I agree with Ginny G — sometimes just “playing” with my bead stash helps me break through that creative wall. Coloring with my precious grandddaughter helps, too! She is 3 1/2 & tells me that purple and blue are her “favorites.” Can’t wait until she is old enough to bead with me! Her sisters are 16 months & 3 weeks, so they’ll have to wait awhile to join us. I love your ideas, Steve — thanks for the help! I do carry a small notebook for jotting down/drawing ideas. I, too, subscribe to Beading Daily’s web site. They have great tips and free patterns. How about a Reader’s Gallery here on Lima Beads? That would help inspire us!

  25. Lynn Eileen Chicky LE
    Lynn Eileen Chicky LE says:

    Just happened to notice that I spelled “granddaughter” with 3 d’s. LOL Must be time for me to go to bed!

  26. No Photo
    Vee aka Dream Chickie says:

    I know I’m late on this one but forgive me, I’m kinda new here! lol

    I love the creative tips Steve! I use the music one and especially the sleep on it one and have woken up with design ideas.

    Cool ideas everyone… Pearl550, I love jazz too, it has always helped me to be creative.

  27. Gabrielle S
    Gabrielle S says:

    I guess 3131 Gabrielle

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