“Dear Design Martyrs” is PRINTmag’s advice column from Debbie Millman. Debbie will respond to your most burning questions about design, branding, work-life balance, and so much more.
Dear Design Martyrs,
I don’t know if it is because of COVID and the surge of Omicron or my own laziness, but I can’t seem to bring myself to feel inspired when designing ANYTHING anymore. I think I have EPIC creative block. Any ideas on how to reignite my creative juices?
Desperate in Denver
I hear you. Boy, do I hear you!
These days I find it hard just to put on real clothes. Last week my wife looked at me, squinted, tilted her head, and asked me how many days I had been wearing my sweatpants (and they are still on). This pandemic has been raging for nearly two years, and I AM OVER IT.
That said, in thinking about how to answer you, I was reminded of a piece I wrote and illustrated many years ago for the writer Alex Cornell in his book, Breakthrough! 90 Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination.
I re-read it and decided that rather than try to top what I had written, I’d update it. So here it is, both in text and a completely re-drawn illustration. It’s everything I do now to overcome my own creative block and start making things again. If that doesn’t help, definitely check out Alex’s book. But please be patient with yourself—this has been a difficult time for so many, and beating yourself up won’t inspire you to do anything productive. Maybe taking the pressure off a bit will do you some good.
Overcoming Creative Block in 10 Easy Steps:
- Get enough sleep! Sleep is the best (and easiest) aphrodisiac.
- Read as much as you can, particularly classics. If a master of words can’t inspire you, see #3.
- Color code your library. This is fun, and you will realize how many great books you haven’t read yet.
- More sleep! You can never get enough.
- Force yourself to procrastinate or channel Jessica Hische and procrasta-work!
- Look at the work of Paula Scher, Emily Oberman, Marian Bantjes, Jonathan Key, Wael Morcos, Zipeng Zhu and Chip Kidd. You will be inspired for sure.
- Weep! And then weep some more! It always helps to have a good cry.
- Surf the web! Watch some funny TikToks! Check out your HS friends on Facebook! Feel smug.
- Watch Law & Order SVU marathons and revel in the ferocious bad-ass beauty of Olivia Benson.
- Remember how L-U-C-K-Y you are to be a creative person and quit your belly-aching! Get to work now!
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