Creativity is a picky little thing. At times it flows effortlessly, but sometimes when you need it the most it is trapped beneath the ice of a frozen lake. You can see that it is there and that it exists, but when you reach for it you just end up hurting yourself. The voice of creativity is muffled beneath the ice, but you can hear it leading you on a scavenger hunt to find the tool(s) that will break the ice and set it free. Have you ever walked into a room that smells fantastic - perhaps of freshly baked cookies or something else Christmas-ey (insert aroma here)? After 10 minutes or so you don't smell it anymore - your nose gets used to it. Your brain is no longer interpreting it as anything. You have now become it. Then somebody else walks into the room and comments about how great it smells! Introducing the concept of "a fresh perspective" (nothing new to anyone). If you haven't guessed it already, this all relates to design. In my case it has to do with web design. Anyone in this line of work understands that designing a website is a very tedious and meticulous process. The thought that gets put into each pixel requires energy and focus, and can be extremely draining - both emotionally and physically. There's always that moment where you hit your stride and things fall into place seemingly without any effort. This state of mind is not infinite though, so how are you going to cope with the inevitable creative block that is rolling in like a prairie winter? Here are some things that I do.
A Fresh Perspective
As I mentioned briefly, a fresh perspective is the first step to overcoming a creative block. Whether it be your own fresh perspective or somebody else's, this can get things rolling back on track. How do you gain a fresh perspective if you've been staring at the computer screen for days? It's easy, step away. Do something stimulating, do something that you can draw inspiration from. This can be as simple as going for a walk, or closing your eyes and listening to your favorite music. Turn your brain off completely! Watch reality TV! (joke). Come back to the project with a clean pair of eyes - a renewed sense of direction.
Because creativity is so picky, it's important to get to know yourself so you know how it behaves and what it likes. The brain of creativity is located in your brain (go figure). As such, it is important to keep the brain fueled and nourished. Now, I'm not your mother or a dietitian, but eat your veggies! It's easy to fall into a routine of eating junky and "convenient" food, and while it may satisfy your hunger, your creativity is fuming at you with anger. Get the blood flowing. Do something fun and active - work up a sweat. Doing so increases oxygen flow to the brain. Exercise relieves stress and releases endorphins which give you an overall sense of well being. Creativity likes this a LOT and you'll find that it treats you very nicely when you are in this state.
Another thing to take into consideration is your environment. Are you trying to design a clean and usable website in a room that has pizza boxes and 6 packs all over the floor? Put things in their place, create harmony in your surroundings and it will translate into beautiful pixels. Set the mood - put on some quiet music, light a candle - woo your creativity! Sometimes you don't have a lot of control over your environment. Sometimes bright office lights just don't give you what you need, so try a change of scenery. Head over to a coffee shop for an hour, go to the Library, or as I mentioned earlier - go for a walk.
Look for Inspiration
Inspiration is everywhere - just take a look around. Analyze things, interpret things. This building that I'm in is built from brick - each one of those bricks had to be laid one by one by hand...each one of those bricks had to be made into a brick. Now that's inspiring stuff...and you thought your job was hard! Here are some of the places that I find inspiration:
I like to go here when I'm coming up with color schemes for a website.
This site has all kinds of great resources. I particularly visit the 'showcase' section to get fresh ideas and to keep up with the latest trends
Great place to learn new techniques. It's always exciting when you find something new and exciting - the tendency is to roll with it!
Just like the above only it focuses more on coding and technologies.
Accept constructive feedback
Sometimes the final result will not be something you are overly excited about, but if the client is excited then maybe you can accept that as a win. It's easy to get down on yourself after you make something that you think is awesome, but then not everyone thinks so. This just goes with the occupation and is inevitable. It's natural. There's no reason to be offended or to get flustered, because that certainly won't help your creativity. Accept it and come back with a fresh perspective!