Because of the many instances of creative block I’ve encountered in my life—and the intense level of procrastination growing inside me—I’ve learned how to harness those blank moments and still make them count.
How to overcome creative block
1. Acknowledge it.
Two of the worst things you can do during blank moments are deny them and run away from them. All this accomplishes is making you feel as if you’re deeper in a rut of inaction. Instead of fighting your creative block, acknowledge it. Recognize its existence. Don’t be afraid to look at yourself in the mirror and say you’re having a bad day or your mind is not working and you feel like you’re going to lose it. You won’t lose it.
The more you acknowledge these blank moments, the easier it will be to handle them. Remember, even the biggest names in entrepreneurship have blank moments. We all do.
2. Set a time limit.
Once you’ve mastered the art of acknowledging the crazy cocktail of creative block, anxiety and overwhelm, be patient. Address your blank moment. Tell it that it can stay, but only for two days. After that, it’s time to go back to work.
Although you can’t erase blank moments, setting a time limit allows you to gain control over them. Allow yourself to dwell, but know that you can’t do it forever.
3. Find the lesson in your creative block.
Don’t sit on the couch and wait for the “aha” moment to strike. Let your mind wander and go on a scavenger hunt of random thoughts. Give it space to learn simply from thinking rather than experiencing. Let it experiment.
When you’re up for the challenge, think about this blank moment. What was going on before it arrived? What were you working on? Maybe you spent too much time on a soul-sucking project and now your brain needs some deep recharging. Scrutinize the situation, because in moments like this, there are hidden lessons everywhere.
4. Hit the road.
Sometimes the best way to deal with creative block is self-care. Traveling far and traveling alone is one effective way to be kind to your mind, body and spirit. Remember the two-day limit? Spend it alone in a new place.
If your blank moments are occurring more frequently, heed the gentle reminder that you’ve been pushing yourself too hard for too long. You might not be productive in the work sense, but by forcing yourself an inch outside of your comfort zone, you allow yourself to grow out of the blank moment and restart the creative engine in your mind—and when was that not considered productive?
5. Make a changing productivity list.
Forcing yourself to stare at the same project hoping for traction will only frustrate your mind and stress your spirit. You’ve already accepted that it’s “one of those days.” Shift gears and pull out one or two side projects that you’re passionate about. Spend some time on those. Work on them interchangeably with your main project. This will keep your mind busy with a different form of creativity and help you jump out of your rut.
6. Embrace your limitations when you have creative block.
There are ways to trick your mind and body into jumpstarting creativity. But there are also instances when you just have to sit, breathe and accept the fact that you have limitations. Experience taught me that no matter how hard you try making those blank moments count, if your ego is skyrocketing and you think you’re in control all the time, you’ll just end up feeling more frustrated.
Check in with yourself from time to time and remind yourself that you’re not Superman or Wonder Woman. You have limitations, and one of them is not being able to eradicate creative block. Accept it, give it a little time and then slowly work your way out of your blank moment.
7. Remind yourself of the power you possess.
You have the power to bring back your creativity and productivity, but learning how to make the most of blank moments takes time. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work the first two or three tries. Simply knowing that you possess the power will keep you from the gloom-filled thoughts that try to interfere. You can come out of the rabbit hole any time you want.
Making the most of blank moments is not just about knowing how to avoid them, but learning how to harness those moments so they won’t end up wasted. Sometimes that means doing nothing at all. Using the down days to be still and remind yourself of the beautiful things—like the fact that you’re capable of bringing back productivity—is just as productive as “doing” something.
This article was published in August 2017 and has been updated. Photo by fizkes/Shutterstock