Most people have experienced a creative block at one time or another, but for designers, photographers, copywriters, and others who rely on their creativity to earn a living, it can be particularly frustrating.

Edutainment marketers rely on their creative partners to come up with words and images that make an appropriate emotional connection with their audiences, but when creativity is stifled and a deadline looms, things can get a little tense.

The more one tries to “be creative” in the midst of a block, the worse things seem to get. When faced with this situation, what can help to get the creative juices flowing again? 

The answer to that will, of course, be different for everyone and it’s an ongoing process to figure out what triggers the creative block.

There are some well-known contributing factors—such as not getting enough rest, not eating well, and not enough exercise—but the creative blocks I’ve seen are mostly triggered by situational causes.

Some time ago, I worked with a creative director whose job it was to give the designers creative direction at the start of a project. Most of the time all went well, but periodically one of the designers would experience a creative block that would last 1-2 days.

We tried to determine what caused this to happen, and eventually we figured out the problem.

When the creative director gave this designer verbal creative direction, her creative juices flowed freely. But when he gave her creative direction by gathering all kinds of examples, such as things he’d seen that he liked, stock photos that inspired him, competitors’ designs, etc., her creativity completely stopped.

We were able to work around it by giving her freedom to innovate rather than follow examples of what someone else had done.

It was very illuminating—and liberating to the designer—when we finally figured out what the trigger was and how to avoid it.

Another technique I’ve found to be helpful when one of our design team members is at an impasse during the design phase is to ask someone in the office who is not involved with the project to review it.

Show them the creative in-progress and ask, “What do you think about this?” Seeing through the eyes of someone who has no knowledge of the details of the project can not only be very enlightening, but it also can be helpful in getting past the creative block.

For some, pressure to perform “on-demand” can also trigger a block.

When projects need to be done lickety-split, in a matter of hours from start to finish, when every minute literally counts and the designer feels forced to “create,” the pressure can inhibit their creative thoughts. I find that switching gears for a while—otherwise known as “stepping away”—and then coming back to the project with fresh perspective can also do the trick.