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How to Overcome Designer’s Block & Creative Anxiety

Designer’s block affects anyone who works or dabbles in the creative arts. At the time it can feel scary and frustrating, especially if you have a project deadline looming. Getting stressed and anxious only makes it worse! Here’s our quick guide to overcoming creative anxiety and designer’s block.

The Brick Wall

We all know how it feels. Your current project is going well. Ideas are flowing, inspiration is in abundance and then all of a sudden you hit a brick wall. It’s like someone has stolen all of your creativity. Then the doubts start to creep in and imposter syndrome looms. Am I really doing the right thing anyway? Is my work good enough? You start comparing yourself to other people doing what you do and see flaws everywhere in your work. Creative anxiety is a slippery slope and once it’s taken hold it can be difficult to get back up.

Overcoming Creative Anxiety Step 1:

First of all, you need to stop what you’re doing. There’s no point struggling on as the frustration will only get worse. So down tools, no matter how near your deadline, and breathe. Take a walk, have a shower, go to the gym or read a book. Clear your head for as long as you can and just stop thinking about your work. Putting distance between you and the source of your problems will help you put it into perspective when you come back to it.

Talk to Yourself

Usually there is something which starts creative anxiety. Feelings of insecurity, lack of confidence, time or life pressures. Identifying the route cause will help you to combat your designers block quickly. So, it’s time to have a little honest talk with yourself. Go back and work out when the anxious feelings started creeping in. Was it when you saw someone else’s project? Did it start as your deadline approached? Are you worried that you’ve got it all wrong? If you can identify the root cause, you can start to address it.

What’s the worst that could happen?

The creative industries are one of the only careers where you and the inner workings of your mind are completely on display. You are completely naked, for all to see, with all of your ideas on show. Comparing yourself to others and worrying what everyone thinks is a big driver of creative anxiety so it’s time to stop caring and just let go. Not every piece of work you create will be perfect. It’s okay to be messy if your ideas come across. Sometimes the roughest sketches are the best starting point and people don’t even need to see them. So, start sketching. Every day. Just doodle. Let it go. What’s the worst that could happen?

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

The internet is full of people who are more ‘talented’ than you right? Wrong. Even the most talented designer will still have weaknesses. Trying to be an expert in every aspect of something as complex as interior design is impossible. The creative industries are all about ideas and you’ll often find specialists who work together to deliver a full project. For example, an interior design studio may hire someone who solely works on perfect photo-realistic 3D renders. That doesn’t mean that they can create a scheme from the ground up.

If you feel like your lack of skills in a certain area are holding you back, do a short course or set time aside to work through some You Tube tutorials. Upskilling will improve your confidence and even if you never become an expert, you’ll know enough be able to talk on the subject.

Comparing your work to other people’s also limits your creativity. Your style is your style and that’s what people buy into. Employers and clients want to see individuality. Imagine how boring the world would be if everyone had the same style, the same ideas. So, embrace your weaknesses, celebrate your quirks and above all, be proud that you have a unique voice.

A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved

Any kind of anxiety is crushing. It makes you feel insular and alone. Remembering that there are others out there who are suffering from similar issues can help you overcome yours. At the NDA, students support each other in WhatsApp and Facebook groups. This peer support helps students get through some of the toughest times on their course. Talking to your tutor will help too. They will, at some stage in their career, have suffered from creative anxiety, imposter syndrome and designer’s block. Talking through your problems, worries and work can help you to look at them objectively and come up with a solution. The more you keep them to yourself the more they fester.

We're Here to Help You

When you study with the NDA you're never alone. Talk to your tutor or join one of the students groups on social media. We are also developing our SkillsLab resources to help you with a range of wellbeing topics, including confidence, time management and anxiety.

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One Response

  1. This is a great article and really helpful. I have been crippled by designer’s block and anxiety during this course and constantly compare myself to other students (negatively). It’s reassuring to know that I’m not alone. My experience is that social media groups can be a double edged sword. They can provide support, reassurance and some much needed perspective, but equally (as social media is want to do) they can increase the self doubt, for example when other students share their work or discuss modelling programmes that you do not understand or struggle to learn. A few key student allies (ideally working on the same module) who you can reach out to and share your experience really helps. So does keeping your sense of humour.

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