Overthinking and Creative Block Both Will Kill Your Happiness
March 12, 2018
Thinking is what makes us uniquely human, but overthinking could be the bane of our existence. Our constant self-evaluation – where we fit, comparing ourselves – is becoming one of the most destructive aspects of life. We must eradicate it, because happiness is extremely important, for reasons I don’t need to explain.
Do you poison the present by tormenting yourself over a future, imaginary hardship, in spite of the fact that you have a history of success? I suffer through this problem with EVERY new creative design project, believe it or not! Most projects, I sit at my desk and stare blankly at an empty document or sketchbook page, while an overwhelming sense of fear and inadequacy washes over me. I think that’s normal for all creatives to some extent.
With some projects, getting started is the largest hurdle. With others, it’s a breeze for a time but then you get caught on some small aspect and everything comes to a screeching halt. Both of these situations are a creative block. It’s a curse for almost everyone in a creative field. But you’re on a deadline and the work needs to get done. What can you do? I will let you in on a few of my coping mechanisms for fighting creative block and enduring. Some of this may sound like common sense, but it really works if you just give it a try. Also, some not-so-good advice can help as well!
Reset your expectations and be aware of the difficulty level. Not all design projects are the same. Are you designing something that is in your comfort zone? I always have grand plans and what I dream up in my head is extraordinary. However, when I try to execute it just doesn’t come to fruition. It’s ok to take a step back and simplify. Simple is sleek if done correctly. Know your goals beforehand, have them clearly drawn out, mood board and organize all inspiration. Don’t completely forget about that extraordinary vision, because you might get there, or get close to it, after changing your perspective.
That said, if you feel you’re falling short because of your technical ability, then I recommend:
Put in the time. Learn and read, go to the library, sign up for a magazine subscription in your creative field, take a class online through Lynda.com or Skillshare.com. Immerse yourself in the field. Don’t just soak in classes and resources, put yourself out there. Write blogs, teach a learning program, and just start a project. Become a master of all of your tools and devices. Use the technology at hand to its full potential.
The best thing is to be proactive. Don’t let the situation consume you. What is common sense but so hard because of motivation factors is to get up and move; exercise is one of the most powerful ways you can get your brain firing again. Make yourself exercise, you will thank me. Exercise your mind, too. Flick through some magazines, visit a gallery, meet a friend, read a book, walk in the park, listen to music and dance – just do something that isn’t social media. I find that once I step away from that empty page, I soon start to imagine ways of filling it. If you’re struggling to work and nothing is coming to you, maybe you just need to stop forcing it and walk away. You may find that a solution comes when you’re least expecting it. With this strategy, always make sure you have a notepad. You never know when inspiration might strike, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve had “it” and could not remember what “it” was five minutes later.
This next piece of advice comes from my coworker. Thomas has helped me a few times with his suggestion to “Start over!” Scrap what isn’t working and try something new, even if it’s starting with something you think is bad.
Embrace deadlines. It has been proven that we actually work better under pressure and that overthinking and having more time can cause you to choke.
Know that almost nothing is original anymore. If you’re focused on always trying to be original, you’re going to overthink things quite frequently, which is a stressful, unhappy place to be. “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Stealing for learning purposes is a great exercise. Then, let your unique perspective and industry expertise be your guide, and trust that your creative nature will somehow manifest itself. Someone else will recognize it, even if you can’t. Yet be practical. If you find a method that works, don’t be afraid to keep using it and refine as you push forward.
A few other things that have worked for me that nobody else wants to tell you:
Get hopped up on your vice once in a while; whether it be cake or a stiff drink, it really can help sometimes. Keep in mind that moderation is key.
Wear comfy clothes. For me, onesie pajamas are super effective.
Force yourself to procrastinate. The job always gets done!
Sob, and sob some more.
Your mind has the ability to go places that it shouldn’t have gone, and it’s your job to keep things in perspective. It’s a problem that happens to the best of us, but it’s curable. Don’t take yourself so seriously – just do your best, enjoy and have fun.