How to Take Action When Creativity Feels Hard

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve been feeling a little stuck with a creative project lately. Trust me, I know how you feel. Even after twenty years as a graphic designer, I still have my fair share of “creative block” moments. For me, creative block can end up looking like procrastinating, focusing on less urgent or less creative tasks, or just feeling a little stuck.

But the good news is, there are a few simple strategies that can help to get those creative juices flowing again. First and foremost, it’s important to set clear goals and priorities. Know what you want to accomplish, and focus on the most important tasks first. Remember why you’re doing this – for me, it’s because I want to make creative and cool projects every day. That’s why I became a designer in the first place.

To help me stay focused on my goals, I’ll often open up a mood board where I keep designs that inspire me and that could inform my work. I’ll also look at technical articles that remind me of the basics of good layout and design. This helps me to stay grounded and focused on my goals, even when I’m feeling a little stuck.

Another important strategy is to have a regular schedule. Whether it’s a daily or weekly routine, having dedicated times for all of your important tasks can help to keep you on track. And speaking of staying on track, it’s important to minimize distractions as much as possible. Turn off notifications, set aside specific times for checking email, and find ways to stay focused on your work.

But don’t forget to take breaks and practice self-care! It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, but it’s important to take regular breaks to rest and recharge. Whether it’s going for a walk, meditating, or just taking a few deep breaths, taking care of yourself is crucial for maintaining your productivity and creativity.

So, what about when you’re feeling really stuck and none of these strategies seem to be working? Well, that’s when it’s time to get a little bit more creative. Try starting with the most practical parts of the project – for me, that might mean opening a document and getting the size right, or putting something on the page without judgment. Or, if it’s a particularly creatively challenging project, I’ll name the file “Project Name Ideas” and make it a judgment-free space.

Another tip is to look at inspiration and try using very specific parts of what you like in your own idea. Draw from a few inspirations and try getting them to mesh together. And don’t be afraid to try out the bad ideas too – even at your worst, you’ll have some usable thoughts.

And finally, don’t be afraid to get something down on paper, even if it’s not perfect. Whether you’re sketching out ideas, writing down messy thoughts, or experimenting with different materials, it’s important to start creating something. The process of making can often spark new ideas and help you to overcome those creative blocks. You then have something that you can edit and work through.

So there you have it – a few of my tried-and-true strategies for getting unstuck with a creative project. Remember, you’re not alone in feeling a little stuck sometimes. We’ve all been there. But with a little bit of effort and these simple strategies, you’ll be back to creating amazing work in no time.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

How Yesterday’s Type Has Inspired Todays Styles

In todays modern world the term ‘typography’ is used very loosly and you could argue that, since the digital age, typogrophy is no longer a specialized occupation. Furthermore, it is performed by anyone who arranges type such as comic book designers, graffiti artists, art directors, clerical workers and graphic designers. There are many instances where the modern typography we use today was inspired by old styles. In this article we will take a look at how yesterdays type has inspired todays styles.


The large letter that is often seen at the beginning of a chapter or paragraph in printed publications such as novels and newspapers is referred to as the ‘Initial’. The name initial comes from the latin initialis which means ‘standing at the beginning’.

Going back to the very early history of printing the initial would be added to a manuscript or text by a scribe or minature painter annd not by the typesetter; The typesetters just left the necessary space so the Initial could be added later.

There are several different types of Initial, the first type is the one you will normally see on a computer, sat on the baseline and flush with the left margin. The other type of Initial you might see in html is in the left margin with the text to the right and indented.

The last, and probably the most common, type of initial seen in newspapers, magazines and novels is the drop cap, where it runs several lines deep with the text wrapped around so the left and top margins are all flush.

Old Style Typefaces

Often reffered to as Humanist, the ‘old style’ typefaces are inspired by the hand lettering of scribes before the modern typefaces we’re introduced; The very first old style fonts we’re produced in the early 1500’s.

The thick to thin transitions that can be seen in the old style typefaces highlights its relation to calligraphy and they look very much like they have been drawn with pen and ink. If you we’re to draw a line between the thinnest parts of the character you can see that ‘the stress’ is always diagonal and the serifs on old style fonts are very angled.

Old style fonts are generally best suited to pages with lots of body text on as they are very easy on the eye and are often found in magazines, newspapers and books. One of the most common used sans-serif old style fonts used in the web today is ‘Times New Roman’.

Modern Style Typefaces

The modern style typefacesare often referred to as ‘Didone’ and despite the name ‘modern’ it is not a new typeface. Going back to the eighteenth century when new advanced printing methods came to to light and when the paper qualkity drastically improved there we’re changes in how typefaces we’re created.

Compared to the old style typefaces the Didone have thin and very long horrizontal serifs, the stress is vertical rather than diagonal and the thick and thin transitions syle is much more clear cut and a dramatic difference compared with old style typefaces.

These fonts can be very eye catching when used in large sizes and are not suited to pages with lots of body text due to their thick lines becoming too powerful and the thin parts been nion impossible to see. The modern style fonts are best suited to titles, headings and sub-headings and common ones you will see on the web today are Didot, Onyx and Times Bold.

This article was produced on behalf of PrinterInks – suppliers of printer cartridges, toners and stationary services throughout the UK and Europe.


Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Does mood impact creativity?

Each week, I answer questions about creativity and productivity in a series called Q&A Monday. Today’s question asks about the list between mood and creativity:

“Why are we most creative when we feel down?”
Anonymous on Quora

Which moods are scientifically linked with creativity? Various research links negative moods and feelings to a decrease in creativity:

UC-Blog-Feature-Study-MoodA 2010 study published by the Association for Psychological Science linked creativity most with positive moods. Using music and video clips, researchers primed participants for certain moods by researchers of the University of Western Ontario. Those who listened to the happiest music or watched a cheerful video were most able to recognize creative patterns. The happy volunteers were better at learning the rules behind patterns than those in neutral or sad moods.

“Generally, positive mood has been found to enhance creative problem solving and flexible yet careful thinking.”
Ruby Nadler, University of Western Ontario

Creativity has been associated with mood disorders. Preliminary associations compiled by the University of Iowa found higher rates of mood disorders and alcoholism among writers and playwrights. This study did not include a control group to draw comparisons against. (The relationship between creativity and mood disorders) Among those who were studied, almost all involved reported less creative output during depressive or manic states.

Positive moods enhance creativity. Creative performance increased according to an analysis of 62 experimental and 10 non-experimental studies by Mark A. Davis of the University of North Texas. Understanding the relationship between mood and creativity: A meta-analysis

Matthijs Baas of the University Of Amsterdam focuses his research on creative psychology. His work indicates that happiness, fear, and anger are the most creative enhancing moods. Sadness, relaxation, and relief decrease creativity since stimulation encourages flexibility and idea generation. Happiness leads to creative flexibility while fear and avoidance lead to creative persistence.


Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

How to be wrong: Uncanny Creativity 36

What we think will happen is not always what happens. Part of being an artist is accepting that being wrong is okay. It’s part of the fun of our work! The feeling of being wrong is a pleasant surprise. We turn mistakes into art.

“To live a creative life we must first lose the fear of being wrong.”
Joseph Chilton Pearce, author focused on human development

Tip 1: Appreciate Effort

Overconfidence effect. Confidence is great! Overconfidence is a psychological bias. Accept any outcome. Being wrong is part of the creative process.

Try this: Focus on how awesome it is that you tried. Effort means more than outcomes. If you don’t try, your chance at success is zero

Tip 2: Know What Your Control

The illusion of control. We tend to believe we control things that we have no power over. When we have control, we tend to not recognize it.

Try this: Focus on what you can control. There may be opportunities there

Tip 3: Plan for the Unexpected

Planning fallacy. We think we work fast and that tasks are quicker than we are.

Try this: Give yourself way more time than you need.

Tip 4: Be realistic

Wishful thinking. We tend to believe the things we want to happen will happen. So many of us enjoy the fun of thinking the lottery would solve our problems. Know it’s just for fun

Try this: Prepare for disappointment and know that you can handle it. If your drawing doesn’t work out, find some silver linings.

Tip 5: Be okay with a lot of different results

I loved the book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath. I wrote more about it in “How do I make more rational decisions? 4 Steps“. We often make very narrow guesses. We guess it’ll rain any minute. If I said it’ll rain within the next year, I’m almost certainly right.

Try this: Plan for what is likely. So with my drawing, I might feel down that I don’t have time to draw today or tomorrow. I can guess that I’ll draw again sometime this month. Even better, when I am drawing I’ll know to focus and take advantage of every minute

Tip 6: Know when to revisit a decision

Another idea from the book Decisive: set a tripwire. Maybe working on my art is a low priority with everything involved with having friends, exercise, a job, and everything else I have going on. When I haven’t spent any time on my art in a few weeks, however, I might have to make more of a commitment to drawing.

Try this: Decide when to revisit your decisions. If you have a painting that just isn’t working out, are you going to work on it for 15 more minutes, an hour, or a month? When is it time to think about starting over?

Tip 7: Prepare for the worst

A false dilemma is when we think we must choose between two alternatives when both are possible. You need a safety net in all of your decisions. What will you do if nothing works out? Chances are you’ll figure something out no matter what. A very hard decision can be made much easier by having a safety net. If your goal is to be a gallery artist, developing skills that you can fall back on isn’t a cop out. You’ll be a less stressed artist know that everything isn’t riding on it.

Try this: Know when you can “Do both.” When you’re making a hard decision, find ways you can have things both ways. You can both be an artist and put some time developing other skills. Want to work on two types of art? Do it! Your life is both longer and shorter than you think.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.