Oh, the curse of the creative block—an occurrence that takes place during the worst possible situations: when an important deadline is coming to a close, or when a client is hounding you for more ideas when you can’t even come up with one.
Creative block is something we all struggle with. But even though it seems to happen at the most inopportune times, it can also happen right before your greatest success.
This was an insight shared by Sid Samodio, Executive Creative Director of McCann Worldgroup Philippines, to a group of creators at GetCraft’s most recent Content Marketing Meetup held last November 15 at Work/With BGC.
Samodio, along with author and former Candy Editor-In-Chief Ines Bautista-Yao, shared their personal encounters with creative block and how they’ve learned to produce great work (and meet deadlines!) when “inspiration” is quite elusive.
You’ve probably heard the famous line by Chuck Close that goes like this: “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
While there is no questioning the amount of truth in this sentiment, it would be remiss to say that inspiration didn’t play a part in the success of any creative output whatsoever. In fact, Samodio posits that inspiration is “very, very important” when it comes to getting creative work done. To him, inspiration shouldn’t be too hard to find when you know how to cultivate it.
He explained that inspiration could be one of two things: the reason you’re doing what you’re doing, or the place where most of your ideas come from.
The first one may be something deeply personal to you, like your family, loved one, or the long-term goals you want to achieve in life. Then again, although these things may inspire you to get up and work—they won’t magically give you the breakthrough idea that will get you through the creative funk you’re in.
This is when you whip out that second source of inspiration, which is where all your ideas come together and form connections: your head. And to make sure you do find something there when you most need to, Samodio emphasized the importance of filling your head to the brim with enough good raw material.
This means that if you want to write, read. If you want to create ads, dig up ads that worked in the past. If you want to make art, surround yourself with great art.
That being said, inspiration isn’t something you wait for, since it’s the “waiting around for it” part that gets most people in trouble. Instead, according to Bautista-Yao, inspiration is something you summon by showing up even when you don’t want to.
“You need to make the magic happen by forcing inspiration,” the former Candy editor-in-chief says. Forcing something to happen may not be a pretty picture in your head, but what she actually does to “force” inspiration out are calming techniques that allow her to clear her mind so that ideas are forced into a natural flow. It sounds contradictory, but it works.
When ideas don’t come, it helps to do something that doesn’t require thinking—such as washing dishes. “It keeps the hands busy and the mind free to simmer.” And when that doesn’t work, Bautista-Yao encourages creators to do some research and seek help. She advised writers in particular to read up on related articles, talk to people in the field, and bounce ideas around with people whose opinion you trust.
However, all this prep work shouldn’t go on for too long, lest it becomes an excuse to procrastinate. Bautista-Yao says that sometimes, you really just have to sit at your desk—”butt in chair, and not leave until you crank out at least 500 words.”
“You do not solve creative block by waiting for inspiration to come. The inspiration should already be there. You just have to do the work,” Samodio adds.
Another advice he shared was to get as many ideas out of your system as you can; it doesn’t matter how absurd they sound in your head—the important thing is to write them all down. The momentum will build, and sooner or later you’ll have a surplus of great ideas, and the only problem will be choosing the best one.
Bautista-Yao likened this process to rubbing two sticks together to create a fire. “You will create energy, hopefully a spark that will lead to a flame.”
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