Uninspired? Unplug yourself
~ 10 August 2006 ~
Last week I was stuck. In a big rut. One that almost brought me to my knees.
This week I was stuck. Again.
Happened to you too lately? I bet. It’s a common occurrence in our industry: Creativity block. So how’d I get myself out of the rut? I stepped away. While there a plenty of ways to get unstuck, one of the best methods I’ve found to escape a block is to just step away. Do something else completely unrelated. Pick up a guitar. Flip through a photo album. Anything other than what you’re currently doing. I’ll sometimes even shut down my computer when away merely to help me unplug and shut down mentally. Remove yourself physically and mentally from a block, and you’ve solved half the problem.
The other half is often, quite simply, solved elsewhere. Inspiration weaves its way into every facet of life. We’d be sorely remiss if we sought to be illuminated only by the medium or genre with which we work.
For example, last week, amidst one of many travels, I happened upon a copy of Gastronomica, “the journal of food and culture”, in an airport terminal newsstand. Beautifully photographed, markedly well-written, and wonderfully designed, this Spring 2006 issue was my first exposure to the magazine. (Some describe it as “The New Yorker for food.”) Immediately I was welcomed with a deluge of inspiration, some of which served as an escape from this week’s block. A classic tale of print design inspiring web design, I suppose.
Included at the end of this article are additional samples from the magazine.
But the point here isn’t to find yourself a good food magazine to be inspired by. The point here is to awaken the senses — all five of them — to new environments, many of which will become killer unblockers.
Additionally, inspiration often comes on strongest not only where we least expect it, but also when we least expect it.
When I was about 10, my parents owned a piano built, if memory serves me well, in 1896. I remember it vividly — painted white, worn on nearly every edge, the ivory keys damaged and missing, and horribly out of tune. It sat idle in our garage for a few years, in hopes of being proudly displayed in due time indoors rather than out.
I loved that piano, even aged and dissonant as it was. My sister and I would tinker on it time and time again. I knew little about music, much less about how to play a piano. But gradually I found myself discovering basic chords, even constructing simple melodies.
Occasionally my little fingers would miss the key I intended to press while composing these basic chords. Falling like manna from heaven, these “mistakes” would often lead to compelling harmonies that were previously unknown to me. I was floored that, by pressing the wrong key occasionally, I did something right — I exposed myself to new ideas.
Have you taken the time to do likewise with your projects? Have you left your comfort zone enough to allow “mistakes” to present themselves?
Completely restored several years ago, that very same piano is now proudly displayed in my parents’ home. Occasionally, upon visiting them, I’ll sit down and stroke the keys. I’m often reminded of the time it sat idle in our garage, when my little fingers would botch a chord — and make things better.
Stock photography, type, and killer tees. Genuinely recommended by Authentic Boredom.
Authentic Boredom is the platitudinous web home of Cameron Moll, freelance new media designer, author, and speaker. More…
Full-time and freelance job opportunities. Post a job...
A selection of fine reading, available for a limited time only:
- Jobs home page reorg
- Coming soon: Mobile Web Design, the book
- Dyson ad: Text as more than just words
- Setting sail for Europe
- Review: Sumo Omni bean bag chair
- Dashboard widget for Authentic Jobs
- Limited-time offer: $99 listings
- Nine skills that separate good and great designers
- Fire sale
- Introducing AuthenticJobs.com
CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standard Solutions A solid round-up of indispensable CSS design techniques by Andy Budd, Simon Collison, and Cameron Moll.
Mobile Web Design A guide to publishing web content beyond the desktop. Tips, methodology, and resources. Now available.
Letterpress Posters The unassuming beauty of a freshly letterpressed print.
That Wicked Worn Look. Techniques for that worn, aged, distressed look.
Mister Retro Machine Wash Filters Turn the dial to “Instaworn” with these filters.
Blinksale Dive in and enjoy shamelessly easy invoicing from Firewheel Design.
Basecamp My preferred web app for internal and client project collaboration.
HOW Conference Austin, June 24–27. Pentagram, Adobe, P&G, et al.
Web Design World Seattle, July 20–22. Practical sessions on web design.
Stimulate Salt Lake City, September 2009. Entrepreneurship and design conference.