As a creator, there nothing worse than sitting down at your station, ready to work, and having nothing to contribute to your project. Now, most people will say that you have “Writer’s Block“, but I like the term “Creator’s Block,” because sometimes it isn’t writing that throws the wall up. Creator’s block is a real thing and can put a huge wedge into production without warning. Fortunately, there are tons of things that can be done to help, but these are the best 5 that work for me when I am in trouble.
1. Stop making things difficult for yourself; keep an idea journal!
One of my favorite things to do is keep an idea journal. I carry one around with me and jot down any idea that comes to me; it could be as ambitious as a game concept, or as simple as a character trope that I can bank. I couldn’t tell you how many times, before committing to this, that I had solved a problem or come up with a great idea and thought “I’ll remember” but don’t. It’s such a simple thing to do with such a great return. Even if you think the idea is a worthless, write it down – you will most likely be in a different place when you revisit it again and have it inspire something greater.
Here is the important part to this strategy, read through your idea journals every now and again and expand on thoughts that come up while reading through it. Hearing that character trope may inspire you to think of an encounter with that character – write that down. Slowly with time and practice these things will come together and when you feel out of ideas or that dreaded Creator’s Block rears its head, you can pull this bad boy out and get your character and your game concept and have another project in no time.
2. Nothing wrong with taking a trip down memory lane.
Sometimes revisiting the things that inspired us while growing up can reconnect us with our passions. Rereading a favorite book, watching a movie from my childhood or even playing some of the great video games from when I was in high school. I also like to compare how things feel when revisiting these books, movies, and games. Maybe a scene from my favorite RPG game made me feeling sad when I was in high school, but playing through it now, that same scene left me feeling angry. While watching an old movie, I might change my opinion on who is my favorite character. It is always important to reconnect with your original inspirations as they are the reason why we are where we are.
3. Sometimes it pays to listen to the crowds.
Keeping an ear to the ground and watching the scene grow is also another way to keep spirits high and passions strong. Being aware of what games are coming out will do two things for you – it keeps your list of inspirations growing as well as, once you can identify it, shows you particular niche markets you could be creating content for. Learning to see the niche markets can give you an endless supply of possible content. If you’re ever struggling with creating your own project, you can track down this niche or jump on a trending genre and create a temporary project to occupy your mind until you can break through the wall that is creator’s block. Even as a test project to test your skill level, pick an up and coming trend or an underdog niche and see if you can create a prototype, use a new coding language, write it from a new narrative.
4. What are your friends up to?
Taking a break from your current project can be exactly what you need to be able to progress with it. You can only stare down the rabbit hole for so long before you need to recover or do something else with your time so that you can be at your best when you return. Game jams and other events are great ways to do this. I recently wrote an article (Game Jams: What you may not have realized) discussing the importance of game jams for game developers. They are a great way to sharpen old skills, learn new skills and network with like-minded people. Other gaming events could be just as rewarding – go to a gaming convention when it comes around and connect with fans; how about a local convention that fits another of your interests or passions. These are great ways to keep your motivation up and is also a great way to seek more inspiration. Simply making new friends is sometimes all one needs to conquer the creator’s block they are facing.
5. Computers aren’t the only thing that can be reset; how’s your health?
A common thing that runs through the game development scene, from my perspective and experience, is that if people aren’t producing they feel this huge weight of inadequacy or that they are moving backwards. To combat this, there are very simple things that we can do, and I know that these are difficult (I suffer to maintain these things myself). Having a regular healthy diet is important for proper brain function which could sometimes solve the creator’s block on its own. Another thing to potentially solve the issue of creator’s block on its own is sleep. We all love it, but we all seem to ignore its call. Personally, this is something I struggle with the most, but I turn off my current project by a certain time and allow for some relaxing time.
Also under this be healthy banner would be exercise. Sometimes the problem causing creator’s block is the lack of bodily energy being exerted – go for a walk, a run, do a workout, or do yoga. The important thing is doing something physical every now and again so that your body isn’t cramping while you’re sitting at your desk plugging away on the next great game.