5 ways to break through creative roadblocks

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I’ve been behind a creative roadblock since yesterday.

image via NBC33

I ran into it on Monday.  But because of the looming deadline of when the project has to be complete, I powered on through the block.

Except that I didn’t really power through it.

I thought that if I spent enough time, and put forth enough effort, the ideas would eventually come.  They’d eventually surface after hours and hours of failed attempts.

The roadblock persisted.

But now the roadblock’s gone.  And in the process, I learned how I got passed it.

5 action steps to get  the creative juices flowing again

1. Talk with another teammate.

A fresh set of eyes can do wonders to point out holes you’re missing.  I talked with another staff member, and immediately he helped me decipher a step forward I could take.  He saw things I didn’t.  He wasn’t bogged down with it like I was.

2. Stop working on it.

This is counterintuitive, I know, especially with a looming deadline.  But I had to take my eyes off of the project…get away from it, and think about something else.  And you know what happened?  When I returned the next day, I knocked out in an hour what would’ve taken me an entire afternoon to complete had I kept pressing through.

3. Step back and zoom out.

When I returned to the project, I tried to look at the project as a whole.  I had focused in on minute details for so long, that when I zoomed out to see the whole project, the holes I was trying to patch were seen quickly and easily.  Seeing the entire project is key to moving forward creatively.

4. Produce a hard copy.

I had been doing all of my work on a computer, digitally.  There was something that happened, though, when I could look at a physical page and evaluate it.  It felt different.  I could spread each of the pages out in front of me, and look at the whole project at a single glance.  And being able to physically “touch” the project changed things up enough to shake me out of my funk.

5. Do something physical.

Go for a run.  Work in the garage.  Walk around the mall.  For me, I worked in my backyard.  I wasn’t actively thinking about the project I still had to complete, but the act of physical labor helped clear my head, exhaust my body, and, somehow, prepare me to get through the roadblock.

Question: What do you do when you’re blocked?


Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Danblackonleadership

    Great keys to getting past a creative roadblock. When I face a roadblock while writing I take a break and relax/clear my mind. I also listen or read somthing that might help me push through it.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Thanks for sharing, Dan.  Listening to some music helps me, too.

  • http://bit.ly/hWr7Cw Rob T

    Good ones!  sounds like we have a similar process.  #1 is really important.  it’s also funny how when this happens, you often look at the clock and it’s between 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.  Or is that just me?

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      I’m totally with you…3-4:00 is a strong time for me, too!  Getting ready to rock it in about an hour!

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.vogler1 Daniel Vogler

    Great ideas! I’ve experienced some of them to be very helpful myself!
    Never tried the printing out pages so far, though… maybe next time 😉

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      I wouldn’t have thought it would be that big of a deal, but for some reason, it is.  Maybe because a printed copy feels more completed.