Ways you might be blocking your creativity and how to stop

Nicole Steinberg
Feb 5, 2024

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit stuck. Starting this business was the first time since college that I’ve really had creative license when it comes to the work I’m producing and taking on. While it’s been incredibly fulfilling to freely explore and experiment with design again, that freedom has also been really daunting and overwhelming at times. Sometimes leaving me paralyzed at the thought of making anything.

Having recently found myself creatively blocked more often than not, I’ve been reflecting on why this might be the case. What I’ve discovered is that I have a bad habit of getting in my own way (like, a lot). And I’ve realized that I’m probably not the only creative struggling with this. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few of the ways I’ve been inadvertently sabotaging myself and what I’ll be doing to combat these habits going forward.

Looking in the same places for inspiration

All designers and creative types have their go-to places where they look for inspiration when starting or working on a project. While sites like Pinterst and Behance (my personal go-to’s) can provide what feels like endless reference images, you have to remember that the pool of posts to sift through does have a limit. I’ve often found myself scrolling through these sites for hours, trying to find that perfect, creative spark of an idea, only to come up empty-handed and frustrated. By relying on only a handful of resources, I’ve forced my imagination to not grow beyond the content that I’m taking in over and over again.

The easiest way to fight your way out of this vicious cycle is to simply look elsewhere. Venture onto other sites, design-related or not, and take in what you’re seeing. Step away from your computer and look through all the books collecting dust on your shelves (totally not talking about myself here). Get outside and go for a walk—look at signs, menus, brochures, business cards, everything. Whatever you do, just stop looking where you already have.

Not putting pen to paper

Somewhere along the way, I convinced myself that I was better off jumping straight into Illustrator or Photoshop than sketching my ideas out on paper first. The truth is that the digital space is just where I’m most comfortable, and while I might think it allows for more flexibility, it actually makes getting ideas out a slower and more painful process. By running straight to the computer, you’ll end up wasting time on concepts that aren’t fully fleshed out and then feel defeated when they aren’t looking how you imagined. By drawing, you allow yourself to get your thoughts out quickly without worrying about them being just right.

If you’re a perfectionist like me, the idea of sketching might be a scary one, but I promise it’s worth it. Don’t be afraid to scribble things out messily and make mistakes. Start by making quick thumbnail sketches, mind maps, word lists—anything that lets you brain dump without putting too much pressure on yourself.

Holding work too close

When you spend so much time working on a project, it can be hard not to hold it close to your heart and take any criticism personally. While I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to getting feedback on my designs, I can be a bit stubborn and unwilling to change elements that I feel strongly about. This might be an okay trait when it comes to personal projects, but being unreceptive to outside opinions on professional work will hinder you in the long run. Though you might think that the opinion or idea you’ve been given is wrong or restrictive, sometimes incorporating new ideas or following more rigid parameters will force you to be more creative.

I’ve found that it’s best to remember that most of what I’m making isn’t for me. While I can give recommendations and provide what I think will work best for a client, the outcome is ultimately their decision. And I’ve found freedom in recognizing that. Solving a problem is the highest test of your creativity, and there is satisfaction to be found in finding the best solution for everyone. Loosening your grip on the reins will open you up to new possibilities and, more often than not, help you land on an end result better than what you could have come up with alone.


To sum it all up, the best solution I’ve found to getting out of your own way creatively is to try doing things a bit differently. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Instead of always looking in the same places for ideas, explore new resources and take in other sights (and sites). If you find yourself diving straight onto the computer, don’t be scared of taking a step back to the basics of pen and paper to get your ideas out first. And finally, find freedom in letting go and opening yourself up to the ideas and opinions of others. I can’t promise that implementing these practices will magically revive your creativity overnight, but taking these first steps to get out of your own way will be worth it in the end.

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