*How to get out of a Creative Slump* by Curtis McHale

Being creative is hard work. I know that most of your friends think you just get to ‘draw’ on your computer all day and wish that they too could have this freedom, but you know it’s not as easy as that. Being creative day in and day out requires lots of energy, which sometimes fails us. In fact, if you’ve been as this thing we call design for long enough you have probably encountered a dry spell in your creative juices.

It’s generally hard to explain to those who haven’t had it. For me it’s just a lack of any type of idea. Not just good ideas, I have nothing to put on paper at all. I sit in front of my canvas (Photoshop or Illustrator) and put ‘pen to paper’ and…nothing. Nothing that is worth the money it costs to have my computer on at least.

Sure I’ve hammered out projects for clients through these times and most often the projects turn out alright, but if you’re anything like me alright isn’t what you were going for.

So how do you get out of that creative slump?

  1. Have a non-design related hobby. I love to be outside. It rejuvenates me in so many ways that go past the physical. It inspires me to see all of the beauty that is around. I am actually really lucky in that my wife works for an outdoor shop so we spend lots of time that is ‘work related’ outside for her. It doesn’t have to be outside though just find something that is not in front of your computer and you enjoy. How about reading, basketball, photography. All good options and can bring huge amounts of rejuvenation as you open your eyes to those things around you.
  2. Personal Projects. Often designers get stuck needing some money and therefore have to take on a less than inspiring project. Projects that don’t get your blood boiling, cool it which makes it harder to be creative. I always try to have a project on the go that is mine. Money doesn’t matter it’s for me. My most recent one was simple, I made a wallpaper for Smashing Magazine. It is a simple picture I took and added a calendar to. Not really a lot of work but it paid off big when I got to send my parents, wife, and friends the link that showed how amazing I was. Honestly it has also paid off work wise. In the 3 days since it was featured I have had 3 contracts come as a direct result. My 2 hours working on it are well paid for.Your personal project doesn’t have to make you any money it just needs to be something you like and want to do. A website for your favorite anime film. A wedding anniversary site. How about a cool poster for your office. The possibilities are limitless just go do it.
  3. Put your feet up. So far all of my suggestions will take some energy so how about just resting. I actually have a degree in Psychology and know from years of study how much lack of sleep can affect you.
  4. Work in inspiring surrounds. Finally work in places that inspire you. Hopefully your office is a place that inspires you but for some of us that just isn’t the case. I really have nothing to complain about I have the second bedroom in my house as my office. It also doubles as the storage room for all of my outdoor gear, so it does get a bit crowded. Most often I do find my office great to work in but not always. I learned while I was in school that working at home was not always the best way to get good results. Often I would go out to a coffee shop with my iPod and study/write madly for a few hours and produce papers that earned me A’s. I have also forced myself to stay home and spent hours on a paper that should have taken my minutes. If you have a laptop then get out and try some different work areas. Maybe the park will work. Maybe the coffee shop. Maybe a restaurant. Just get out and try it to see if it inspires you out of your slump.

Ultimately having a time in your career where you lack creativity just marks that you have been designing for a while. We’ll all hit it. What will make us succeed as designer’s and artists is pushing past it and continuing to enjoy what we do. – Curtis McHale

Who is Curtis McHale?

I am an in house designer/wannabe full-time freelancer located in BC. I design because I love to be creative and code because I like the technical stuff involved. Creativity is a breathe of fresh air into life that many people don’t get to experience. You can see more of my work on my site and on my blog.

Guest Blogging!

Mel and Michelle are inviting fellow designers to share their ideas, inspiration and advice on our blog every Friday. If you’re interested, please send us an email: mel@collarfree.com OR michelle@collarfree.com. We would love to hear from you!


5 thoughts on “*How to get out of a Creative Slump* by Curtis McHale

  1. These are great ideas. I write humor articles everyday and sometimes it’s very difficult to come up with a joke or funny side to something.

    I would like to add a suggestion: Research. Sometimes a little research will bring you something related that you can work with or develop or gives you a different viewpoint of what you’re working with.

    I liked the idea of working in inspiring surroundings. My room has been a mess for quite a while. I think I will clean it and arrange all the stuff that’s lying around and make it nice.

  2. This is just the article I’ve been needing to read. Work has been boringly slow and I can’t find an idea for anything or the energy to change the burned out light bulb. Maybe now I will find that spark that gets the fire going again.

  3. Flippyman, great advice. Michelle and I spent just an hour in the library last week and I felt SO inspired. One of my favorite pieces of advice is, don’t look at the obvious for inspiration. Don’t just look at t-shirts for inspiration on designing t-shirts. Look at posters, photography, art, events, music, shoot… the beach, your neighbors cat. I don’t know… ha but get our there and explore! 🙂

  4. Glad you liked the post Rachel, Curtis has some great ideas on how to get the creative ball rolling again. That sounds weird, but yeah, good advice. Hope you can find that sparkle of inspiration again! 🙂

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