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7 Women on How They Get “Unblocked”

April 18, 2018 | Filed in: Your Brain

It’s a terrible feeling: knowing that you have to deliver on a project, wanting desperately to knock it out of the park, and feeling totally, completely, utterly stuck. It feels like the creative spark you need to get moving again will never come. We’ve all experienced “blocks” at work—and the most creative people are sometimes the most susceptible of all. To celebrate the launch of our newest collection, A Certain Ease, featuring a host of new pieces made with the creative-casual woman in mind, we asked seven hyper-creative MM team members to share their tips for getting un-stuck. Read on to see how they overcome their creative blocks.

“When I’m feeling blocked, I have to get moving—literally. It’s well-documented that physical activity can help fuel ideas, and for me, it’s key. I can stare at a screen all day and feel completely stuck, but as soon as I walk outside or hop on the subway or go for a run, the ideas start sparking again. I love writing on trains and planes because there’s something about the physical movement that kicks my brain into high gear. I think of the subway as an extension of my office, and I write a lot of my best copy during my commute to and from my actual desk. Sometimes it’s just a seedling of an idea, but it’s enough to get me started.”

—Tory, Creative Director of Brand

“When I’m feeling blocked, it’s usually because I’m overwhelmed and don’t have the ‘perfect’ solution yet. I struggle with perfectionism, and that fear of failure can get in the way of the creative process. To unblock myself, I find that getting something—anything—on paper really helps. I tell myself that it’s not final and I’m just looking for ideas, turn on some good music, and start scribbling, sketching, writing, or collecting photos. Once I get going, something interesting usually comes out; I’ll latch onto it, and the rest is easy.”

—Callie, Art Director

“The visual equivalent of writer’s block is when I’m designing a space and nothing I like is working. I’m either going in too many directions (Prints! Texture! Color!) or no direction at all (white walls) and no matter what I do, I either can’t fix it or I’m somehow making it worse.

What often helps is to blow it up—hit delete, even though deleting hours of work makes me ill—and start from scratch. I’ll then take a single new idea and build out from there. I tend to get blocked when there are too many ideas for one space, or too many competing opinions. I also love to walk around Soho and the Upper East Side for inspiration—I’ll almost always see something unique that I would never have thought to do in a million years. It gets the creative juices flowing.”

—Caroline, Associate Director, Visual Merchandising

“When I get stuck on a design, I try to find a way to see it with fresh eyes. Sometimes that means working on something else for a while. Or I’ll use tricks to look at what I’m working on from a different perspective—like zooming out really far, or looking at it in reverse (like a mirror image) in Photoshop to figure out what’s not working. If I decide I need to do something totally different, I’ll look at Pinterest or my image archive for inspiration. I try to always save interesting images that I come across that I think might help me get out of a rut later.”

—Corinne, Graphic Designer

“I feel like there’s no one go-to thing I do when I have a creative block. I do a lot of procrastinating: mainly eating, but often a lot of research (especially on a specific era or designer) in the hopes that it will somehow get the inspiration flowing. Most of the time, what helps is collaborating/sketching and talking it through with fellow design team members. My co-worker Arushi is one of the people I always talk to when I’m stuck. She’s great at tactfully zeroing in on what I’m actually trying to achieve. Fleetwood Mac also helps—Fleetwood Mac always helps.”

—Annie, Senior Designer

“There are three things that help me overcome a block in my creative process: First, embrace shitty first drafts—and make as many as you can. Second, be open to the idea of starting over. And third, stepping away from the computer to work on something on paper can be incredibly helpful. When I work on a screen, I tend to get attached to one idea and spend a lot of time trying to make it look ‘perfect,’ only to realize it isn’t going to work. Now, I set aside one hour every day and find a cozy corner to draw or write down any thoughts or ideas that come to mind.”

—Yan, Designer


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