Brief Answers to Big Questions: How Do I Get Out of a Creative Rut?

Published: September 30, 2022

Creativity is in our name. It follows that we know a thing or two about being creative. Maybe we have a magic source of inspiration that never runs out. Maybe we’re abuzz with so much energy in the office that it just spills out with no effort. Maybe there’s something in the coffee.

I’ll tell you a secret: we don’t have a secret. That’s it. End of blog.
No, no. Just kidding. Please stay. We may not have a secret about keeping the creativity flowing, but we can tell you some of the practices we use every day, whether in or out of the office, when it feels like the wells have gone dry.

boy taking a break

1. Take a Break

Sometimes you feel like throwing up your hands and walking away from a project. Go ahead! Storm out on it. Tell it you’re just not that into it. Call it a choice name from your mental rolodex. It’s okay to give it a rest. In fact, it’s downright healthy.

Getting away from something you’re working on gives your brain some time to rest. That is a physical need that you can fulfill for yourself by putting some space and time between you and that project that has you in a rut. In fact, you could even look at some other projects on your list. Maybe start something else, dip into a task you haven’t looked at in a while, or do something routine. Just remember to go back to your project, and since there are no rules that say you have to stick to the same thing all the time, you can feel happy shouting, “We were on a break!” when the task at hand challenges your new outside perspective.

cute coffee mugs

2. Do Something Physical

This dovetails nicely into the previous piece of advice. Maybe when you’re taking that break, you can get out, stretch your legs, or do some menial tasks. Letting your hands and feet take charge gives your brain some hammock time. It can rest while muscle memory takes over.

We have a kitchen in the office, but no dishwasher. One of the things that our creatives have found is that taking a break to wash some dishes works wonders for the brain. The tactile feeling of warm and soapy water, the repetitive task of scrubbing and rinsing and stacking, and the break from a screen all work together to refresh brains. We’ve even been known to come up with blog ideas while getting coffee rings out of all our cute mugs.

chalk on street keep going

3. Keep Going

One of the most important things to remember is that you’re not really out of creative juice. That can’t happen. Humans are inherently creative creatures, so as long as you haven’t lost your humanity, guess what, you’re not stuck forever. The best advice is to set a timer, create whatever comes into your head, cliche or ugly or overdone or whatever, and let it be what it is.

With that knowledge in hand, keep going. Keep writing. Keep designing. Keep creating. Sure, what you make may not be your best work, but getting through those dry spells can lead to much more fertile creative ground. And you never know when something you throw away from this project might become just the thing that sparks another idea down the line!

crowd working in park

4. Work Somewhere Else

Whether or not your job supports a remote lifestyle, a change of scenery could be just what you need. For those who can, grabbing a latte and having a little laptop time in a coffee shop or restaurant nearby can jolt you out of the familiarity of the same four walls. The caffeine may help with that jolting, as well. Find a bench outside to work. If you’re in a home office, try working in another room of your home. Something as simple as a new view could show you that your rut is nothing more than boredom in disguise.

If you’re not able to get out during work hours, maybe try a new desk. Are there common areas where you work? Take a laptop or notepad there and make some headway. If you’re stuck in your cubicle, maybe a change of decor or a rearranging of furniture is in order. Whatever you can do to switch it up and change your space could help smooth whatever slows you down and get you back on your creative journey.

scrabble tiles say ask for help

5. Solicit Input

Before you take a break, go to the gym, push against brain drain, or change your scenery, ask for some input from colleagues and friends. When you come back from another solution, your community may have thought of a way forward that you hadn’t considered.

People love to make suggestions, to give you their view of a situation, or to throw ideas around, especially when they’re not the ones that may have to follow through on it. Let them bombard you with their thoughts, insight, and helpful anecdotes. They may have just what you need to restart that creative machine in your head.

steam train on tracks

Chugga-Chugga, Woo You!

Take these tips to heart and give a couple of them a try the next time you feel like your brain train is out of steam. We know you’ll be chugging along back on track in just a few quick steps. Whether you feel like you’ve hit a snag or you just know you’ll never have another idea again, trust OC to rescue you when the going gets muddy. And while you’re asking your friends and coworkers for help, give us a whistle and we’ll see what we can do for you.