4 Practical Tips to Deal With Creative Overload


As creatives we have unique struggles. We have a billion ideas that hit us at once leaving us spinning with confusion as to which ones to start, how to start them and where to start with them. Before we can get a grasp on those ideas another barrage of ideas might hit us.

At 11pm at night.

So how do we handle these situations? How do we manage the overload of creativity?

I have very creative children. They love to sing and dance, paint and write. I’m always encouraging them to find creative solutions to problems or find creative ways to play with their toys. They know for a fact that if they are creative it makes mommy happy.

One of my daughter’s in particular lives in a creative space more than her siblings. She loves to draw and design, and has acted with me on several projects.

Everyone once in awhile she will go away to her room by herself and then emerge completely distraught. When I ask her what’s wrong most of the time she will pour out to me all of the things that she wants to do. How she wants to act, and design and, and, and…

And I totally get it. I feel for her. It’s just that awesome, amazing, transcendent thing that happens to us when we get in “that mood”.

Confession: I’m in that mood right now and I’m writing a ton of blog posts to get my ideas out.

As someone who has been in the professional creative field for almost a decade I want to tell you that I UNDERSTAND! But there is a way to handle these situations.

1. Reframe Your Thinking.

Reframing a thought has been used in psychology for a long time. It’s essentially choosing to change the perspective you have on a situation, or event in your life. For example, you can look at an embarrassing moment in the past with horror or you can remember the good laugh you had with your friends and how it brought you closer together in the end.

You can do the same thing for those moments when you have a barrage of creative ideas. No matter what time of the night it is.

Having a moment of creative overload is not a bad thing. It’s a wonderful thing. Don’t try to process everything that is coming into your mind right away. That’s where energy sucking frustration can set in. Just let the ideas roll in on their chariot and wonder at their beauty.

2. Brain Dump.

My husband introduced me to this phrase. Which I think is really perfect since I coined the word “creatively constipated” when my children were little and I had no time to indulge in creative pursuits. Other times I would have “creative diarrhea” causing a uncontrolled out pour of creative activities which would leave me also out of energy. But a healthy brain dump is what you need to do during the creative overload.

Get a notebook (a pretty one if you must) and write down all of your creative ideas. Trust me you’ll forget them later. Keep that notebook and put all of your ideas in there.

Do not.

I repeat.

Do not.

Put them on random pieces of paper, sticky notes, or the back of envelopes. Napkins are included in this list of don’ts. Unless it’s a napkin shaped notebook, of course.

You can even put the ideas in your phone (in one location please) if you are on the go and sans notebook.

The point is to just get everything out of your head and into a place that you can look back at them. It’s interesting what happens. You will be able to discern if they are good ideas, bad ideas, or so so ideas. You can even flesh out ideas and share them for feedback with trusted confidants to see if they should be pursued or put on the back burner.

That is how you do a healthy creative brain dump. Trust me, you’ll feel much better afterwards.

3. There is a time and a place for everything.

Many times when we are hit with inspiration that we know is amazing it can feel tempting to want to do it right away. If we cannot complete or even start the project in the next 5 seconds it can feel frustrating to no end. But remember that Rome was not built in a day, and apple pie doesn’t just bake itself.

Yes I just adapted that quote myself. You can tweet it if you want.

@@Rome was not built in a day and apple pie doesn't just bake itself.@@

So what does that even mean?

Listen, your awesome great, creative idea doesn’t have to be done right now. It can be done later. I have ideas for film scripts ALL THE TIME. Sometimes I’ll hear something someone says and it sparks an idea. It’s like my brain just goes on auto pilot thinking of scenes and dialogue and it leaves me running desperately behind it.

But I know that I can’t film it right now. I’ve got to write it, do pre-production, cast it…you get the picture. The same with your ideas. Sometimes for a better result it’s better to not stress over the fact that it needs some time to time to let the juices simmer, the gluten free dough to rise, and that lovely smell to waft into your nostrils notifying you that the idea is baked and ready to go.

4. Break it down.

When you want to work on an idea that seems overwhelming you need to break it down. Make it submit to your will and recognize who’s boss.

You are in charge —- not the idea.

In all seriousness, I think that creatives struggle with setting goals and breaking them down more than other personality types. But this is an important skill to acquire (and you can acquire it) in order to create progress with your creative ideas. When you start to break down your goals into chewable bites you might start to feel more invigorated and encouraged in the direction you are trying to go.

As creatives we really must learn the art of stepping back from an idea and decided if we really and truly want to pursue it. If you do find a project or idea that you MUST accomplish then realize that it is going to take planning and follow through to achieve it.

Just like anything else i.e. weight loss, fitness, building a business, starting a garden.

We can’t think that the creative process can be cut short just because we are really passionate about an idea. If you are really passionate about an idea then give it the respect it deserves and break it down so you can achieve your goals.

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