How to stay inspired when what you really want is to take a nap

Blocked.

We’ve all been there. The point where we’re staring at a blank page and nothing comes to mind. Whether it’s burnout, lost mojo or someone put a hex on your skills; deadlines often don’t allow us the luxury of time to wait for inspiration to strike.

Fortunately, like most blocks, with a bit of work they’re possible to break through. I don’t have all the answers, but here a few tips I use to reignite my inspiration.

1. Work Through It

One of my favorite quotes is by the brilliant artist Pablo Picasso, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” Admittedly, most times I find myself in a creative block, I procrastinate. I push whatever I’m working on, personal or professional, out of mind until I can spread the lie that ~I work best under pressure~. Then it transforms itself into general laziness.

The first thing that lands on the page may not be right, nor may the second. But getting something down is only the first step.

kate-pullen-design-quote-picasso

2. Take a Break

Conversely, sometimes we’re to close to a project that we can’t see the big picture being too focused on the minute details. Take a walk, blasts some music, have some lunch. Take an hour and just unfocus for a bit. Your project will still be present in the back of your mind and ready for any creative spark.

Fun fact, 80% of great ideas are birthed in the bathroom. Funner fact, I completely made that statistic up.

3. What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

I, like many other creatives, am a perfectionist (I also attribute my perfectionism to my ‘Yoncé-like Virgoness.) That can create a lot of internal pressure that can halt beginning or finishing a project. One thing I like to do is face that pressure head on and visualize the worst possible scenarios. Usually they aren’t that bad, and never life-threatening or altering. So forget perfection for a moment and go back to number 1.

4. Prioritize

Feeling overwhelmed can create a busy mind and cause a lack of focus. Being creative is hard and requires a good amount of attention. If you have to attend meetings, organize your emails or made too many commitments – find a way to block off times to work. Sometimes that means talking to your boss or project manager and sometimes that means no multitasking (catching up on Netflix while working is not focus.)

Hopefully, these help you next time you head dive into your desk. They have definitely saved me from a few creative meltdowns. What are some ways you help breakthrough creative blocks?

Why I Stopped Putting Work First

Back in my intern days, I did everything I could to prove I deserved my seat in the creative department.

Need me to come in early or stay late? There. Work on holidays? Done. Cancel my birthday? Pssh, I have one every year. Donate my liver? They grow back, right? Dad dies in the middle of a pitch? I’ll be there in the morning.

It’s true, the day after my father passed away I went to work. I wanted to prove how dedicated I was. Every book, every blog, every panel reiterates how competitive the industry is and how there are hundreds of other equally talented people waiting to take your spot. So my philosophy was you could be smarter, faster, creativer but I would not be outworked.

In the midst of my grieving I was attending briefings. A week later my grandmother passed away. Still I wouldn’t be outworked.

Then my cousin passed.

Then my cousin was murdered.

Then I set boundaries.

It’s been said that the M-F, 9-5 life doesn’t exist in advertising. That, especially early in your career, you have to make many social sacrifices to climb the ranks. Miss family dinners. Cut vacations short. Sell concert tickets. Send apology texts for cancelling again on significant others, friends, family, doctors, etc.

That’s bullshit.

I know last week I said that you’ll push yourself and make sacrifices, it’s true. I’ve simply traded open availability to flexibility. There are things work can’t touch and you shouldn’t feel shamed, pressured or inadequate for setting those boundaries for when you are out of office.

I unplug. I put my phone on Do Not Disturb. I make things that aren’t for sell. I see shows. I create for fun. I talk to people who love me. I explore. I read. I write. I sleep. I breath. I live. Fully.

A creative who’s able to wholly experience life and its pleasures will produce far more interesting work than those who do not. And you get to decide which pieces of your human experience gives you that freedom to enjoy our brief time here.

These days, I don’t cast my net as wide. My work is still immensely important to me, but it doesn’t come first. I see how rewarding advertising can be, but I’ve also seen how quickly life and it can disappear.

I’m almost certain many Boomers and Gen Xers will disagree and I’m up for discussion. But you have to hit me up before 11pm, that’s when I turn my phone off 🙃.

 

Can Anyone Be A Creative?

Back in college, my pre-law and pre-med roomies would often see me watching TV or reading magazines or heading to movies as part of homework assignments, often followed by “this is your homework?! Anybody can do that.” Honestly I think they were just jealous my homework didn’t seem as much like a chore.

Since my college days, my friends and family think all I do is read magazines and watch TV. More fun than “real work.” Granted, we’re not saving any lives in agencies, but advertising is hard.

Being creative on demand is hard.

Advertising is exciting. It’s alluring. It’s glitzy and glamorous. But some days…

lord-please-help-me-get-through-this-briefing

If you’re from the train of thought that you want to get into advertising because it’s fun, it’s easy, it’s not “real work,” sorry to be the bearer of bad news. You’re probably not cut out to be a creative.

But if you’re ready to hone your skills, work hard and have a smidgen of talent, you might have the chops.

Our job is to create work that not only moves people, but moves product. And sometimes you struggle to do both.

Sometimes you get the brief and you can’t connect the dots.

Sometimes you come up with your best idea and your CD says “push this one further.”

Being creative is hard.

And it’s not the creative work at Cannes. It’s not the stuff you see on TV or on billboards. It’s banners. It’s decks. It’s resizing images and revising headlines. And sometimes it’s boring. Then a project lands in your inbox that makes swimming in decks and cancelling your dinner plans with you BFF for the fourth time this week worth it.

And the baby project that feels all worth it will torment you. You’ll think you’re a hack. You’ll log many hours. You’ll think you’re brilliant and the next think you’re trash. You’ll lose sleep. You’ll push yourself to your wit’s end. This is the adlife we don’t talk about on agency tours and campus visits.

I don’t write this to scare you. This is the industry. And as interns or juniors the glitz and glamour and truckloads of cash comes way down the road. If you’re not an adgeek this might seem like torture. But the first time you see your work live makes it all worth it.

So for the big question — can anybody be a creative? Half the people who read this will be turned off from the industry. The rest of you? Welcome to the club.

Now let’s get back to work.