We have all faced it. Some of us more than others. That space that you find yourself in where the very thought of being creative locks the gears of your brain and no matter what you do you can’t seem to get into a groove to solve the creative challenge that you face. I am referring specifically to creativity in the realm of web site and user experience design, but really these tips should apply well to any creative task that lies in your path. These are some of my tricks, but by no means are they the only methods so please share some of your own via comments.
1. Just Start - This is the basic one that everyone is told, so I definitely wanted to list it here, because it is true that the best way to overcome an obstacle is to be in action. Thinking about it will get you nowhere if you are already stuck.
2. Do it Wrong - Lets face it, when you are really stuck, “Just Start” sucks, and hearing it can make you want to put your head through a window, which is why I have come up with “Do it wrong”. One of the biggest sources of creative block for me is being preoccupied with doing it wrong, or thinking I don’t know the right way to proceed. When this happens the wheels lose contact with the ground and you’re stuck. So sit down and do it wrong! No, seriously do it as wrong as you can within the description of the task at hand. It is at the very least incredibly liberating and the results are usually pretty entertaining. As a side effect, more often than not you will actually discover that the wrong gives contrast to the right and you soon will be on your way.
3. Get Someone Else to Do It - No…I don’t mean to pass the buck. Get out of your head and get input from others. It’s your task, and you have to come up with solutions for it, but the simple act of talking it out will get you in action (yes…that again). Collaboration is a key component of creativity and if you are not indulging in this often you have to ask yourself why not:
- Is it pride? You are afraid that asking for help will make you look less creative
- Is it lack of preparation? By the time you are realizing you are stuck, it’s 9pm the night before the project is due and you can’t really call anyone for help.
- Is it lack of information? If you can’t explain the task you have to someone else in a clear concise way to get another opinion, then you probably don’t have enough clarity on the task to guide your own creativity, which leads us to the next tip…
4. Redefine Your Task - Don’t get locked into one definition of the task. There are always multiple perspectives and if the one you are taking on does not resonate with you then you need to find a different way of looking at it. It’s not just semantics. Example: If your task is to redesign the primary calls to action of a web site home page, then your task is pretty straightforward right? But you are stuck (and its 9pm). So you redefine the task. Why am I doing this? What is making the CTA’s need more attention? Who am I doing this for? So now, maybe your task is: to make the calls to action look different from other areas of interaction on the home page so that users in a hurry see them before they scroll down the page. Not doing it for you, redefine it again. It is a game of exploration that eventually will provide you with more clarity on your task.
5. Trust Yourself – If you’ve done the prep, and the research and thought it through thoroughly, then the only thing that is probably holding you back is that fear of getting it wrong, so let go of that and give yourself permission to maybe get some of it wrong. A key aspect of being creative is solving problems, thinking in alternatives and being flexible with reactive thinking and the only way to exercise that is to get feedback from people and respond to it with even more creativity.