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Six ways to beat creative blocks and brief blindness

Tips for emerging creatives on jump starting the creative process

Illustration by Roseanna Courtney

With creative briefs can come creative block – it happens to even the most seasoned creatives. Hours have gone by, and you’ve got next to nothing to show for it. Nada. And then sometimes you might suffer from something we like to call ‘brief blindness’. Brief blindness is when you get so close to the work, you lose all perspective. You might feel like your entire brain has dried up and you’ll never have another idea again, or you might be spitballing like crazy, only to realise everything you’ve come up with is kind of irrelevant. Whether you’re blocked or blind, we’ve got six tips that’ll get your flow flowing again, whether you’re taking onon the New Blood Awards, or just wanting to develop your skills.

Two briefs, one stone

It might seem counterintuitive, but if you’re stumped by one challenge, turning your attention to another might open things up. While you’re letting your mind loose on the fresh brief, your subconscious will be sparking ideas for the original.

Leave it alone

You’ve saturated your brain thinking about how to solve the problem, now it needs some space to actually solve it. Ever noticed how TV detectives usually crack the case when they’re doing something mundane? Get away from your wall of clues and suspects. Take a walk. Do the weekly shop. Switch your brain off a bit.

As Hugh Gary, Director of strategy and content company Storythings, says, “Great ideas happen through shifts of focus – or, rather, changing channel from conscious to unconscious thinking. As counterproductive as it might sound, switching off is the way to turn on the idea generation process in the brain. History is littered with moments of inspiration coming when people are taking time off from thinking about the problem they were trying to solve."

Go on distraction lockdown

Half the struggle with briefs is simply starting. It’s easy to avoid getting down to work (maybe you found this very article while procrastinating), but for your thinking to flow, you’ll have to be tough on interruptions. Put your phone out of reach so you’re not tempted by a quick scroll, and make Netflix a no no. Another trick is to set an alarm – set yourself something you want to achieve, give yourself a time limit and don’t stop until that buzzer goes off.

A problem shared

It’s a proverb for a reason. When you get stuck, running things by someone with a fresh perspective is a must. Try not to be too precious, just see it as a chance to get some new information. Talk it over with someone whose opinion you trust, get their honest feedback and flesh out a few thoughts together.

Try a new tactic

How about a little game of devil’s advocate? Try switching up your thought pattern by doing the opposite. Or try injecting something completely random into your idea, or applying it to a different discipline – sounds balmy, but it’ll do wonders to budge the block.

Feed your brain

Coming up with a killer idea is about connecting the dots. Broaden your frame of reference and you’ll have more dots, and more of a chance connecting them. Go in search of inspiration, for inspiration’s sake. Books, galleries, documentaries, wikipedia spirals – whatever takes your fancy. Don’t worry about what it means, or how you can use it, just enjoy feeding your mind. If it doesn’t come in handy this time, it will another time.

Want to know more about New Blood Awards? Keep your creativity inspired with bi-weekly tips and tricks to help you craft your New Blood Awards entry, as well as career insights, thought leadership, and the latest news and events. Sign up for New Blood news.

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