How to banish creative block: clear your space

Last week we began to deal with the practical steps you can take to ward off creative block. In this final part, we’re going to look at how our workspace affects us, and other strategies to follow to expand our creative view,  taking it to places we may not have even considered.

Clear out the clutter
When we consider our workspace, it’s easy to underestimate the effect that our surroundings have on us.

Marcel Duchamp had good advice to give on this score, counselling artists to “clear out your studio at least twice in your life”. There is a lot to be said for taking a step back and examining our workspace to see if it is actually working for us.

Clutter is draining and distracting

Clutter is draining and distracting. If your desk is covered in detritus, your in-tray rivals the Empire State Building, and you can’t for the life of you find that sticky note you scribbled last week to remind you of something important, you need to have a clear out.

Here I’m not suggesting we all go minimalist, but a clear workspace equals a clear mind.

I once worked with a woman – let’s call her ‘Brontë’ – whose desk was the scariest workspace I have ever seen in a professional context, and I don’t say that lightly. It was the workplace equivalent of a black hole: anything that was placed on it promptly disappeared into the void.

When Brontë was out of the office, none of us could help with any queries in her absence because we literally could not find anything. Clients were phoning in, concerned that they’d sent important materials such as artwork, designs and images, and why didn’t we have them? Groaning under a teetering pile of folders, paper and goodness knows what else on Brontë’s desk, who knows where they might be.

One day, our line manager came into the office, took one look at this nightmare, and finally cracked: “Ok, enough is enough. Let’s sort this out.”

It took several hours and a good few refuse bags for Brontë and our boss to clear her work area. In among all the mess were the items that those clients had sent – now useless, as they’d had to send replacements to meet copy deadlines (and presumably at their own expense).

Reorganising space gets energy moving again

It goes without saying that this is not a productive way to manage your work environment.

But even if you aren’t submerged by clutter, reorganising your space can be a useful way to get your energy moving again. Shaking things up and shifting things around encourages you to see things differently, and to feel like you are active in a revived space.

Spread your wings
Another way of refreshing yourself when you’re experiencing block is to think outside the box. By this I mean considering other creative areas that you are not necessarily familiar with, and making yourself open to them.

I’ve already talked about putting together a box of ideas – cuttings, images, articles, anything that catches your eye (you can do this online by using apps such as Evernote or Pocket, or physically by making a scrapbook or mood board) – which you can go back to for inspiration when you’re finding it hard to come up with ideas, or perhaps feeling that your creativity is becoming set in aspic.

Try exploring a different aspect of your medium

In the spirit of shaking things up, why not try exploring a different aspect of your medium?

For example, if you’re a painter, how about checking out some up-to-the-minute design? If you write longform, try attending a poetry slam. If you’re a landscape colour photographer, go to a black and white portraiture show… you get the picture.

This is about expanding your horizons and experiencing how other creatives work: exposure to varied art forms and people might just spark you in an exciting and unexpected direction. At minimum it can give you a more rounded perspective on what is possible in your medium, prompting you to mix things up a little, maybe even try some new techniques.

Now you have plenty of ideas and motivation to break that block. It doesn’t have to paralyse you, so don’t agonise – just make a start, and all will be well!


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