I’m entering the last 3 weeks of my graphic design course at Shillington. Despite one of the more challenging 7 days, I came to the end of last week realising my experience was nearly over. It’s hard to comprehend how much I’ve learnt over the last few months, from my move to the skills and processes the course offers. In the absence of the stress I experienced in London, I seem to be more open to learning things about myself and ways of working creatively.

The first pearl of wisdom I recently rediscovered was one I first learned a long time ago in school. Tips for revision which extended past the use of a rainbow selection of highlighters also included changing your environment when you hit a block.

Last weekend I was struggling to focus on a brief and decided to pack up and head to a local coffee shop with just a notebook and pen. Usually a fan of hiding myself away with my Mac and generating ideas by lamplight, I found myself caught in the hustle and bustle of a late-morning coffee rush. Set up with a latte, slide of banana bread (because ‘Straya) and an unexpectedly calming level of background noise, I suddenly felt like I could think more clearly. Brainstorming came easily and within an hour I had an angle I wanted to pursue and headed back to my trusty technology. The following day I had two library books due for return and decided to test the theory again. Productivity was less pronounced this time (likely due to a napping, snoring student opposite me) but the journey resulted in inspiration in another form. Browsing design books, I stumbled across Stefan Sagmeister’s book “Everything I’ve learned” and the cogs began turning for a format for my portfolio.

It’s easy to feel chained to a desk, especially if you need various computer programs or the internet. However, if you’re experiencing a mental block it could take as little as an hour or so of being somewhere different to get the neurones firing again.

The second is less a pearl of wisdom and more an example of previous advice in action. In the Ted video from my last blog post, Grant talked about the set of steps most creatives experience when attacking a problem and that the recognition of step 4 is often what can set some people apart:

  1. This is awesome
  2. This is tricky
  3. This is crap
  4. I am crap
  5. This might be OK
  6. This is awesome

Unsurprisingly like most creative people, I heavily identified with the list above and find it hard to remove self-doubt from the process. This week I managed to fall off my bike, face first and subsequently lost several evenings of work during a key time in a particular brief. I swiftly spiralled into an abysmal mood – unsatisfied with the work I was producing and surrounded by other students who seemed to have it all figured out. However, along with that self-doubt, are equally dominant streaks of obstinance and determination. I worked through any break I could find and spent a late night working on the problem. I made a decision to leave a particular route behind and approach the brief from a new angle. Patience and perseverance resulted in a more malleable campaign idea. Self-doubt can be motivating as it pushes you to be better, as long as you have belief that that ‘better’ will be an eventuality.

Finally I will allow my inner bookworm to take the floor. I’m currently reading ‘Manage your day-to-day: Build your routine, find your focus & sharpen your creative mind’ by the wonderful people at 99U. With frequent discussions in class about the intense routine and lack of sleep that ‘Folio Week’ will force upon us, a certain section stuck with me.

Although creatives are known for being adverse to routine and patterns, in the chapters ‘Laying the groundwork for an effective routine’ and ‘Building renewal into your daily routine’ Mark McGuiness and Tony Scwartz  discuss the importance of certain triggers which can help set you up for creativity. Whether they are making sure you get down time in the form of decent sleep or are up early for your daily gym routine; despite seeming like time drains, these simple changes may be the difference between a day of creative productivity and a day of frustration. If you have read any of my other posts, you’ll know that I’m a firm believer in routines which have a direct impact on the day. My best idea generation and work ethic occurs when I’m regularly active and generally my most lateral thinking occurs post exercise. However, your routine doesn’t have to be an active one – McGuiness discusses even simple tricks can work. So try having coffee or glass of water at the same time each day before you are going to approach a problem – and see whether you can program your brain to expect to be creative and have the same result.