Our Culture

Overcoming Writer’s Block: How We Stay Creative When We’re Stuck

Whether you’re a marketer, journalist, painter, drummer, cobbler, comedian, puppeteer, fortune cookie writer, whatever ­— sometimes, the ideas just don’t flow. We fixate on our lack of inspiration and become even more stuck.

Hey, maybe you’re an eccentric recluse novelist who writes on your own schedule and revels in writer’s block — but for many (us included), the job depends on your ability to come up with the good stuff, and fast.

When the spark just isn’t sparking, here’s how the D Custom team overcomes writer’s block.

Related: Speaking of staying creative, check out our tips for a better brainstorm.

Abby Kinsinger, managing editor

When I’m feeling numbed by the computer glow, I have to get out and use my senses — wander among strangers at a park, admire the skyline from a new angle, enjoy the trees, feel the sun. And you can totally manipulate your mood with the right song. It makes sense, anyway — writing is just as much about finding the rhythm as music is.  

Michaela Brandt, digital media strategist

To overcome writer’s block (or creative blocks of any kind), I find it helpful to take a moment to talk to one of my coworkers about something completely non- work-related. Not only does this improve company culture, it can also become an unintentional mini-brainstorm by giving me new ideas to draw from in my work.

I also read novels on the way to and from the office (I take the train). Not only does this give my brain a break from the information overload of marketing news and blogs, but it improves my vocabulary and expands my resources for references.

Cory Davies, director of client services

I find it helpful if I can connect what I’m trying to write to something I’m already familiar with. I try to liken the crux of what I’m writing about to a scenario in a movie, book, or song I know.

Another strategy for overcoming writer’s block is to write the last line first. Sometimes we get stuck on how to start. Starting from the end can make our goals clearer and help us get into a flow. If I’m really struggling, I will get down what I want to say without getting caught up in how it sounds or even how much sense it makes, and then I’ll rewrite until it’s good.

Kelsey Vanderschoot, managing editor

If I think I’m on the brink of something good, but not quite there, I diagram my ideas out on paper. An outline or even a sketch helps me work out the order of my ideas and get a roadmap of how the story should unfold.

When I have no idea where to start, I go for a run and try to think through it. Usually, I stumble across an idea within a mile or two.

Paul Buckley, president

Total distraction is the key. You have to get your mind into something else entirely. My secret is to sneak over to the DMA and wander the art galleries until I am far enough away from the block or challenge to begin to see it in greater context. Then everything seems to fall into place.

Mitch Gruen, editorial intern

If I have writer’s block, I will switch to administrative tasks to build a sense of productivity. Then I can take that energy and come back to whatever has me stuck. I try to maintain my momentum and just write without too much self-criticism. At this stage, the goal for me is just to write a huge amount. Usually when I do this, I’ll find a few sentences that I really like — those can be enough to get me back in it.

Jonathan Silverberg, art director

I like to visit design inspiration websites and explore what other people are doing. Pinterest is great for design inspiration, as well as other websites like designspiration.net, underconsideration.com, and awwwards.com. It helps spark ideas that relate to what I’m looking for.

I’ll also start word-dumping my thoughts and ideas on paper — anything that comes to mind, in no particular order. I usually either find a gem in the mix or can edit the ideas into something useful.

Want to learn to overcome more than just writer’s block? Check out our website, and keep up with us on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.