Creative Block

in Tips and Tricks

Everyone has had some experience with this, the boogie man that we all face from time to time when the work we are doing isn’t just mechanical, but requires us to stretch our creativity. Writers, Artists, Game Designers, we all get faced with this from time to time.

Actually, I’ve been faced with this recently myself. It’s sometimes hard to come up with another idea for another post to make that would be useful and informative for you guys. But its very important I keep trying. So, how do you deal with Creative Block? I can’t give you the perfect answer. In all honesty, there is no perfect answer, because we are each individuals who react in different ways. I can though, tell you different ways I deal with Creative Block. Keep in mind that some of these answers will seem contradictory! That is because no one approach ever seems to work for me all the time.

Break your Routine

Too often, its really really easy to fall into a routine. My general routine for instance, because I work from home, is also very isolated. I wake up in the morning, sometime between 10am and 1pm, grab some quick breakfast, sit down and do a bit of work, usually starting with the Facebook page, and then moving on to other things, pick up my son from school at 2:30pm, take care of the kids and maybe watch some TV or play a few games until dinner, make dinner, get my son to take a bath, get them to clean up the play room, send the kids off to sleep, work a bit more, go to bed in the wee hours of the morning. Imgur browsing usually makes it in there a few times a day, but literally, 90% of my days looks like that.

Its OK, little buddy. I understand.

Its OK, little buddy. I understand.

The problem is that that keeps me in the SAME routine looking at the SAME problem in the SAME way. Break that routine. Maybe invite some friends over, or head to a gathering somewhere else. Go get some Waffle House at 3am. Anything. Just break the normal routine of your life. By doing something different, you can get out from under your problem for a bit, and maybe come back with a different perspective.

Consume Creative Media

There is only so much you can do by throwing yourself against that brick wall repeatedly. Sometimes, the best way to work out how to complete your own creative work, is to look at other peoples. Now, you can stick inside the genre you are working in if you want (are you writing? read books, designing a video game? play video games, etc), but I find reaching into lots of different media is even better.

With having problems thinking of new blog posts about video game design, I reached for a number of different things. I watched two TV shows that I had never seen before (Parks and Recreation / Fringe, I would suggest both), played a bunch of board games (Space Hulk: Death Angels is an excellent 1-6 player experience by the way), and even watched a bunch of board game review videos.

Seriously, this game saved me from a nervous breakdown, especially since its playable solo. Its also hard. Still haven't won.

Seriously, this game saved me from a nervous breakdown, especially since its playable solo. Its also hard. Still haven’t won.

While you are consuming these experiences, keep in mind WHY they work. Be looking at what can you take from each one, not rip off obviously, but what parts make them enjoyable to you. The character based storytelling from Fringe is a great example, and can easily translate to most types of media you could be working on. Space Hulk: Death Angel has a neat case for limited action options (each combat team of 2 space marines only has the ability to choose 2 of 3 actions each turn), and how it enhances the game, a GREAT lesson to take back to you making video games.

Just Create

Sit down with your chosen medium, and just make. Don’t even think about what you are making, don’t question, just go. Free doodle, write a rambling story about an anthill, make a dungeon with no purpose, ANYTHING.

Just get stuff down on ‘paper’ and out of your head. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. What you are creating this way may never see the light of day to anyone else, that isn’t the PURPOSE of it. It will probably be awful, but that’s OK, too! But look through what you are creating, and find the parts that interest you. Ask yourself why your subconscious mind picked up specific patterns in your creation. Find what WORKS.

Export what works for your real project to there, eject the rest, rinse and repeat. Sometimes, you just need to get going and do something to free your brain up.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Reach out to your friends, reach out to strangers if they will listen to you. Put up a thread on our forums. Just say “hey, this is where I am, where do you think I should be going”. Even if you don’t like the ideas other people throw out, deciding why you don’t like them will help you identify what you do like!

While facing my own creative block on the blog, I talked to a good bit of the RPG Maker Web team, and I even made a post in our staff boards asking for help. And people responded. Sometimes it wasn’t even direct help, it was just support, and support is good too. Feeling better about your work overall can sometimes break that funk that is preventing you from getting the work done.

Don’t give up

Creative Block is a huge issue. And it can come from nowhere and sit in our brains like a festering cancer. But don’t give up. Remember, to break those routines, experience other creative works, just create, and don’t forget you can always ask for help!

Have your own methods of dealing with Creative Block? Or maybe you are suffering from Creative block yourself and need to ask for help? Join the conversation in our comments section below!

3 comments… add one

  • Davane November 6, 2013, 5:23 am

    Creative block is a big issue in all forms of creative media. I use all the tricks above, but here are two more you can try:

    The first is rather simple – Sleep on it! For many people, sleep is a precious luxury and many people find themselves getting too little sleep as they push on with their work. However, it cannot be understated what a good night’s sleep can do. If you get stuck, or reach a creative block, then think about your problem just before you hit the hay. If you can afford to, give yourself some extra time to sleep (this is similar to breaking your routine, which you mentioned). By doing this, you are preparing your subconscious mind to solve the problem for you, and you will more likely wake up with either a full or partial solution to the problem you have – normally in the form of a spark of inspiration!

    The second trick is to go and do some chores. Everyone has to do them – laundry, washing the dishes, tidying up, shopping, and so forth. These are generally mind-numbing tasks that require little conscious thought on your part. As such, if you are stuck on a problem, it is often useful to engage in some of these chores, so that you can free your mind up to solve the problem you have. It might seem like you are wasting allocated “work time” doing chores, but you would also be wasting that time staring at a blank screen or page, struggling to force yourself to work. It’s essentially breaking your routine by changing when you do things, so you can use those mind-numbing periods to really think about the issue at hand without feeling like it is time wasted.

    I have used all of these tricks, and those you’ve mentioned, in all forms of creative and academic tasks. These are all ways to get the most out of your mind, so that you can use it’s full potential, instead of feeling like you are consumed with a tedious brain fog hitting a brick wall…

    • Nick Palmer November 6, 2013, 8:07 am

      Ha, I forgot about sleeping on it. Sometimes its best just to go “There is nothing else I can do tonight, best to pick it up after I get enough sleep to function”

  • amerk November 11, 2013, 7:40 am

    Yep, I’m a big fan of sleeping on it. I sometimes find it easier to sort through problems while I’m laying in bed. Primarily because when you’re awake and out of bed your mind is pulled in so many directions. But late at night, it’s easier to reel in your thoughts. In fact, I can’t even count the times I’ll be laying in bed, and a solution to a problem will hit me, that I just have to forego sleep to put the solution to the test.

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