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If you are in a creative field, then you have most likely at one time or another encountered that dreaded feeling: Creative block. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it can make you question the merit of every idea you’ve ever had.  However, we can all take comfort in the fact that it strikes even the most talented of creative professionals. Here are ten tips to help you power through the toughest projects and succeed in every creative challenge.

1. Embrace confusion.

Realize that creative haze is normal.  Despite our wish to have a clearly defined path that leads us to the Big Idea, realistically that path can often be obscured by a thick cloud of haze.  Be patient: you will eventually reach that moment of clarity. You may even be the person who leads everyone out of the smog.

2. Understand your audience.

Ask for a clearly defined target demographic for every assignment.  With a more focused goal, you can better tailor your ideas and concepts so that they speak to your intended audience.

3. Ask questions.

Step outside of your office for a walk and talk to people about your product or design problem.  You’ll be surprised at how many people are actually willing to stop and chat.  Go to a nearby bookstore and browse the aisles for inspiration.  Illustrations from a children’s book or even a cooking recipe may ignite the creative flame.

4. Go back to basics.

If you are at a standstill, just start laying elements out in their most elementary form, even if all you’ve got are the title, graphic and a small blurb.  Take a step back and see the design problem for what it is.  Then make it better.  Add to it and eventually you will arrive at the solution.

5. Seek inspiration.

Check out design annuals and awards books for inspiration.  After all, those represent the work that’s deemed to be the best in the  field.  But don’t spend all your time looking at other people’s work.  The great ideas are within you—you need to  grab a hold of them and make them real.

6. Know when to call it a night.

When you hit a wall, it may be time to go home, get some sleep and come back refreshed.  Good ideas that may have seemed great the night before may be revealed as less-than-inspired in the cold light of a new day.  By the same token, it’s amazing how the ideas start to flow when you return to work rejuvenated.

7. Listen and learn.

You may fall in love with a concept.  It may seem like the idea of a lifetime—but then it gets rejected.  Your first instinct might be to fight for it but, before you do, take a step back.  It might be well worth the fight but first solve the problem according to the conditions you’ve been given.  You might want to bring up the original concept again later, or you may find yourself moving on to something even better.

8. Recognize that they’re not just doodles.

You’ve already got the talent but you have to keep the creativity flowing.  The next time you go to a museum or watch a television show, jot down noteworthy pieces or clever scenes.  Keep a notebook with you and write down thoughts and ideas that pop up.  You never know when the clever bug might bite.

9. Revisit the cutting room floor.

You start designing a few concepts and you end up with a collection of drafts, some good, some bad.  Print them out, spread them out on the table and take a closer look at the ideas that you’ve developed.  Seeing them laid out this way helps you to compare the pieces and identify the ones that really shine.  Let the good ones guide you and you’ll end up with a masterpiece.

10. Take the good and take the bad.

We all enjoy a warm pat on the back but that doesn’t mean we should show our work to everyone in search for approval.  Ask a few people whose creative opinions you trust to look at your work.  Accept their advice and criticism along with their praise.  If they tell you that the idea is not good, they might be right and it might be time to move onto your next idea.  Embrace the bad news along with the good.

Photo: © Geir-Olav Lyngfjell/Bigstock

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