Understanding and breaking through creative slumps

Creativity ebbs and flows for everyone. We all know that the times when you are struggling to find ideas and feel like you are in a slump are the most frustrating but what can you do to break out of it? In this episode we will look at the different types of creative slumps, the reasons why they happen and techniques you can use to break out of them.

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Show Notes


In my experience there are two types of slumps you are going to encounter in your career.

Creative slumps
These are the slumps that effect your inspiration, ideation and execution of your creativity

Leadership slumps
These are the slumps where you aren’t leading and driving the team with new ideas, processes and tools.


There have been times when I haven’t been self aware enough to realize that I am in a slump. I just knew I wasn’t happy and the work wasn’t coming as easily as it usually does. We have talked about before about how there is a link between your emotional state and your level of creativity. It took me a while to see this and its why I do shows on emotions so other people can become more self aware and understand how this stuff effects their creativity. I think that a lot of slumps come out of one of three different problems. All of these also link back to what we talked about in the episode on the role of happiness in creativity where you need to understand what you need to be happy and how important each of these things are to you and your process.


– Getting stale by doing the same thing over and over again
– Creativity is a double edged sword. On the one hand when you break through and find something that work you want to hold on to it and keep having success. But if you hold on to it too long then you will slowly go into a slump because as creative we thrive on the new.


– Getting too isolated in your work and process
– Your creative process is personal so its understandable why it might be something that actually might start working against you if you get too caught up in it.
– I have been a lot of creatives who get too introverted and too wrapped up in themselves
– Creativity as its best is a team sport


– Not understanding how to inspire yourself
– As you become more experienced you will find that you become less inspired by other people because you have developed your own voice
– This means that you will have to be responsible for your own inspiration
– This can be a real challenge for creatives if you don’t understand your creative process and thus what you need to get inspired


Here are the 8 things that I do on a regular basis to try and keep myself and my work out of a slump

Evolve or purge your process
Purge your space and/or your process to get rid of the old and bring in something new.
I constantly look a how I can change things up, simplify or evolve what it is I am doing to so I can keep my work moving forward and not get stuck in a slump.

Talk to people who change your perspective
I find huge amount of inspiration in talking to friends who do not work in my industry. They are photographers, chefs, photographers, toy makers and more. We have a bond in that we all use a creative process but we all approach it differently and I find inspiration and insight in that.

Talk to people who are in a similar job
Creativity can be isolating so risk something and share your problems with people who do something similar to you. I find it to be one of the best things I can do is call up a pier and go grab lunch, dinner or a drink to know that I am not alone in what I am struggling through.

Try out new tools
If you like your process the way it is then look at trying out some new tools to help you see your ideas differently. I have done this show in Evernote, then Evernote and Keynote and recently changed all of it over to Milanote. The evolution in tools has helped me think more quickly and clearly.

Set a deadline
Creativity cam come out of pressure so set a deadline on yourself to get your idea done

Empower your space
I have organized my office to mirror my brain and process. Half of my office is for visual inspiration. The other half is a white board so I can write out the problem and the thinking behind my ideas.
This is because great design is a visual expression of great thinking. But for my process each side feed off the other. I start with the foundational thinking by writing out the problem but then when that flow of ideas slows down I switch to work on the visual side going back and forth working each side up.

Mental health and inspiration days
Some times the best ideas come when you step away, focus on something else and let your brain stew on what it has soaked up. When I am stressed or in a slump I will take a day to just take a break or go out and get inspired.

Know what you need to be happy
You aren’t going to get everything you need to be happy or inspired just from your job. I get 60-70% of what I need from my job – and that is when I love my job. So I do other things to stay inspired and keep me from being one dimensional


How to get through your slumps is going to unique to you. This is because your creative process and leadership style are unique to you. You need to figure out what works for you, what will keep you inspired and keep you happy.

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