Just before I sat down to write this (already on a tight timeframe) I decided to make a quick flat lay to post on my Instagram, and then BOOM – creative block strikes. Quick as a flash, nothing happens.
You might think that this timing is all too convenient but my half-made flat lay is lying on the floor where I left it because right now it seems easier to talk about it than actually do it. Usually this would make me a very unhappy camper but since I’m writing this blog it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Let’s take it back to the beginning…
I’d heard about writer’s block, but when I first started creating full time I had no idea that creative ideas could get whisked away from you at any moment.
I remember very clearly the first time this happened to me. I had designed an idea to recycle a piece of furniture and after much hard work I was covered in a thick coating of sawdust and when I tried to put all the pieces back together it just didn’t work. I got so frustrated and that set of drawers is lucky it didn’t get turned into firewood!
Since then it has happened a few more times when I’ve been creating photos and I kept trying to push through it. I can have a clear picture in my head of what I want to create and I’m excited about it, but it just doesn’t translate to my image. Then I did some reading about it and I was relieved to know that creative block is a thing and I wasn’t the only person to suffer from it, in fact it seems to be very common.
It actually seems fair enough that your brain might want to take a wee break from having to think up new and creative ideas. I am constantly trying to come up with new layouts, colour combinations and creative concepts and when I am working on one thing I am always thinking about how I am going to tackle the next. I go to bed at night with props dancing around in my head trying to arrange themselves into a flat lay... enough already!
Of course, creative block inevitably happens to me when I am working on a tight timeframe with my whole day scheduled with jobs. I end up wasting an entire day because I can’t create anything that I am happy with. Anyone else who has experienced this will know all too well how frustrating this is and how hard it is to turn things around.
I wanted to share some tips with you that I have found helpful in these situations. There is no quick fix but I have found there are steps you can take to get yourself back to creating at your best again (phew).
FIRST AND FOREMOST – STOP!
This is the most important thing to remember. If you find your ideas have run dry, stop what you are doing and take a break. Start with a short break, make a cup of tea, hang out the washing, check the mailbox. Do anything that gets you away from the problem at hand.
If you go back to tackle the image and it’s still not working then you just need to walk away. Leave it for another day or scrap the idea altogether. This can be thoroughly annoying, especially if you have already spent way too long on it. Sometimes I can go back to it the next day and everything falls into place, other times I just end up putting everything away and try to forget about how much time I’ve just wasted on it.
I usually find that if one image is not working for me then it’s like a domino effect and I can’t get anything to work. Get some fresh air, go for a walk, read a book or do anything to take your mind off it. I try to do something that is completely unrelated to what got me in this state.
TAKE A DANCE BREAK
I always listen to music when I am taking photos and I find that little music breaks help. Stop what you’re doing, turn up your favourite tune and sing, dance, rap – whatever it takes to distract your brain for a few minutes. Sometimes it’s nice to just sit there and really listen to the music, the beats, the song lyrics, the instruments – take it all in.
FIND FRESH INSPIRATION
If the items that you have collected for your image are not working then try something new, persisting down a dead-end will only cause frustration. Analyse what it is about that image that you don’t like, if there is one main item that’s not working – get rid of it. If all the items are not working together then replace them with a brand-new selection of props. Hopefully you’ll see immediate results, if not refer to step 1 and STOP!
I find that if things have been slow for more than a day or so then buying a couple of new props can help. It only takes that one inspirational thing to kick your creativity back into action, so off you go and get your shop on. A new magazine can be a nice treat and they are full of inspiring images and articles, it could be just what you need. Some fresh flowers, or even just a stroll around the garden for some foraged goodies.
BRING IN THE BIG GUNS
If whatever you have been working on is not coming together, then a fresh perspective can help. Someone else’s opinion could be all it takes to get rid of that annoying single item that is causing all this flat lay drama. This person does not need to necessarily know anything about styling or photography, they just need to see something different to what you’re seeing (and let’s be honest, at this point, what you’re seeing might not be a lot).
My husband is more than happy to admit he is not a creative, just like I am not a numbers person like he is. We have completely different perspectives and sometimes he comes up with things I had not even considered. It can be very helpful just to be able to think about it in a different way.
If it has been a few days since your creativity has gone into hiding (I almost hit a full week once) then it could be because you are stressed, under pressure or over it and you just need to take a huge leap back from it all with good quality time out.
Dealing with Creative Block
So, for the sake of this blog, and for the good of our creative community, I decided to do a little experiment. Earlier, I mentioned that my flat lay was not working for me today. Well I persisted with it to see what happened, knowing full well I wasn’t feeling it. This is a true story people, here is the sad evidence.
This is where I left it when I started writing. You might say it’s not bad but I had already spent way too much time getting it to this state, my quick little flat lay was fast turning into a time consuming flop. Here are my issues:
- Too wide, won’t fit into the Instagram square nicely
- Love my big key, don’t love it with this particular selection
- I like blue colour palette and the red colour palette seperately but not together
- It bothers me that the reds on the colour chart don’t match the colour in the magazine
- The greenery is not the look I was going for, I wanted something more rustic and textural
- I don’t like the brown carpet sample and it doesn’t work with the rest of the items
Already you can see some time has passed since the last photo as the light is starting to fade and go blue.
My thoughts on this image:
- I removed the items that I did not like – carpet sample, key, red colour chart, scissors, greenery and plate
- Added the notebook as I like the pop of gold, does it work with the image? Maybe…
- Turned the page in the mag for new image – fresh inspiration
- Happy with the layout, much better than the previous effort
- I love the depth and texture the stick adds but it’s too big
- It needs more smaller details to bring it all together but I couldn’t find anything that worked
- Love the combination of the blue colour palette with the blue in the magazine – a good starting
- point but where too from here?
- I don’t really think the grey carpet sample is right either
Even later again and I am getting pretty frustrated but I persist and change things up again and seriously this is all I can come up with!
- Love the colour and texture of the linen tea towel – does it work with the rest though?
- Don’t even know where the walnuts are supposed to go
- No depth or texture, no room to add anything else
Liked it better before, marginally. Throwing in the towel now, literally
I believe I had a good collection of props to get started with and I love that background colour, so what went wrong? It’s so hard to comprehend that objects I love individually just don’t work together. Or maybe they do and today is just not my day, I am going to leave them out tonight and see what strikes me in the morning, maybe I will whip it into shape in no time.
THE NEXT MORNING
I have slept on it and I wish I had better news for you, but it’s still not working. I tried a couple variations and the results were ever so slightly better than yesterday but still far from being Instagram-worthy.
I thought the sticks might bring in the textural element I was after but I don’t think they work with the rest of the items
- The test pot was a good idea but not quite the right colour and it’s just sitting out there on its
- A big NO to the ruler
- Liking the green colour chart with the mag cover
- Still not enough texture or depth
I decided to remove the items that I was trying to create the textural look with as I thought that might have been what was tripping me up – works better but still lacking detail
- Like the combo of the mag cover, colour chart flowers and napkin but didn’t have anything else to
- add to enhance that look any further
- Added notebook for a fresh take – looks ok but it is not the magic item I was after
- Stapler – now I am just throwing anything in
Ok I am done, this has really not worked out for me and I am giving up on this painful flat lay idea. I think my biggest problem was that I had no smaller items to bring in texture and detail. Also, my mind was really on writing this blog as that was what I was trying to achieve and whipping up a quick flat lay was not supposed to be part of that. I have not made this up just for the sake of this blog – it really happened!
Just to end things on a positive note (and prove I can flat lay) here is something I prepared earlier when the lines were really workin’ for me!
I hope this has been helpful to you in some way. I think the most important thing to remember is that it happens to everyone and you’ll soon be back to your best again. When you’re feelin’ it – make the most of it! Happy creating.