‘Just go home and sleep!’ – or how to break a creative block

By Per-Henrik Persson

‘Just go home and sleep!’ – or how to break a creative block

You know the feeling. The deadline is approaching extremely fast. You can’t even relax for a second to get into a state of creative Zen. When you are under time pressure, to come up with even a half decent idea often feels like being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

‘Take another look at it tomorrow, with a good night of sleep in between.’

That was usually the thing my mentor said to me when I was new in the business and kept losing track of the idea that should have been magic but only reached level 0.5 out of 10 in awesomeness.

But what to do when you feel you’ve been staring at your screen for an eternity and nothing happens?

Unfortunately, it is easy to get stuck in a creative block and in that moment believe that ‘an idea will soon come to me’. To get out of it, you need to stimulate the brain and fuel the creative system. A mental and physical break could help you get distance and be able to refocus, using the  ‘Combinatory play’ method to recalibrate the brain for a moment.

Albert Einstein used music to change focus, picking up his violin and refining his technique. Maybe it was during a break like this, that he came up with the formula E = mc2.

There are tons of articles online about the topic, and probably even more hidden behind hardcovers, stacked on shelves in old libraries around the world. But let us not get too technical about the topic (i.e. too philosophical, psychological, historical or biological).


Here is a list of tips that has helped me to overcome creative blocks over the years.

  1. Take a walk around the block. ‘Block’ meaning as long as you need to let go of the stress.
  2. Chat at the water-cooler.  When you put your brain on hold and move to another space in the office, you might also be able to move your mind into the area—where the idea is hiding.
  3. Outside office. Sitting on a bench in a park and just let the brain wander could do wonders to a stuck brain. This change of scenery helped me to come up with some of my best ideas.
  4. Cafés and coffee bars. Changing workplace for a couple of hours could also release the energy needed to boost your creative work. The sheer joy of ‘people-watching’ combined with your favourite cup of java can do wonders with your ideation progress.
  5. Inspirational trips. If you have got the time, travelling is usually a huge boost. There is time to think on planes, interact with new people, try new food and see new places. All the great things life has to offer. As an extension of this—probably better and more creative ideas, as well as an improved hit-rate for shooting down problems and finding answers.
  6. Sports & gym. Get rid of frustration and bad excess energy. Put on your running gear and go for a quick run in your closest city park or track.
  7. Watch a movie. You ingest a lot of information but, you’ll also get new, ‘forced’ distance to your creative problems. Sometimes all your creative problems can be solved when ‘resting’ the brain in the movie theatre.
  8. Call a friend. Just ask, and you shall get an answer. And the answer could be far from the right solution, but it could help you start to see the problem from another angle or come up with counter questions that reveal the right direction.
  9. Eat your favourite meal. Oh, the joy of good food. Could also help you digest the creative block for a little while. Getting back physically refuelled and ready to dig into your creative work again, will certainly be better than trying to do it on a screamingly empty stomach.
  10. Go home and sleep. Go home and sleep. As my mentor said, taking another look at the situation on another day, usually bring a lot of new clues how to proceed and succeed.

Now, get a new cup of coffee and talk a little with your colleagues about what happened during the weekend. You will get a nice, well-deserved pause and maybe even the best idea of the year.

I wish you good luck with your creative work—and if you get stuck, just contact us at Zooma. We’d love to help you get out your creative block!

Talk to an expert

Per-Henrik Persson
Creative Lead at Zooma, 2015-2017.
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