Five tips to stop creative block and to help get started on your next project

November 17, 2009 - By 

1. Just freaking start already!

2. Make a design. Sketch it out or make a board frame.

3. Think of your scene as if it were a real studio.

4. Set limits. Try doing this project with no plugins or no 3D.

5. Get out your camera Shoot it for real Take a Photo to get started.

  • Great tips as always, Nick!

    Sketching always helps me getting started regardless of what kind of medium the design is for.

    Btw, thanx for adding the “Tweet this”-button. I am sooo lazy… πŸ˜‰

  • Maybe tip nr. 0 should be: Think of the story you want to tell. If you’ve got that concept, all design and animation will easily fall into place. Even if it’s a simple 5 second logo animation.

    • Hugo, couldn’t agree more. If an idea has legs it can do a lot of walking itself. No doubt step#1 in my book. But I agree with Nick, get dirty man! dive in, you never know where an idea can go if you don’t throw everything at it, including the kitchen sink! Good stuff Nick.

  • I can’t agree more with just starting. Even if you end up trashing your work and starting again with the *real* elements. Your final work will doubtlessly benefit from the initial pass.

    Like demo recordings to musicians.

  • nice tips nick. i always feel like the largest hurdle when taking on any task is staying in your head about it. the more i think about doing something, the less i actually get done.

  • One thing I like to do to move forward (get started already!) when building a spot, especially if the idea is pretty complex, is to FORGET about my design and the look of the end result.

    I consider those elements “noise” in my creative brain that naturally holds me back from moving forward with getting something done.

    So usually what I’ll do first in those complex situations is work on my camera moves and scene composition, blocking cuts using small solids in AE or cubes in Cinema as visual cues and placeholders for the “design noise” that I’ll replace later.

    So, in essence, I’ve already got an “animatic” of sorts that will allow my creative brain to fill-in the blanks.

    Then once I have the content swapped-out, I can worry about the conceptual details now that I’ve saved time for it:)

  • oh.. eh… ha.. i’m realy suprised that this seems to be a problem many ppl face.

    i rather have the problem that i have not enough time to start with all the things i would like to do πŸ˜€

  • Tutorials tutorials tutorials please ?

  • @Praz
    Yeah that happens all the time. 24h is too little time to make all the cool shit I want in a day.

    As for sketching the idea, I don’t think I’ve even done a video no matter how short or simple without drawing it by hand first on paper. It’s a great way to get ideas, and once you have them actually remembering all of em. I’ve got a pile of papers next to my computer that is constatly as tall as a book lying down just filled with ideas.

  • My best advice is the only thing that ever works for me : don’t do it for real. Just play.

  • hey Nick that’s great!
    I will try.
    I am kind of a tech savvy guy but you really pushed me in a right direction kind of new thing for me but i am trying hard to grab.

  • Hi Nick!
    I’m from Barcelona and I want to ask you something.
    I’m doing an object with Cinema4D. The object is similar to a brush. The problem that I have is that the time render it’s very long…
    There are some way to convert the hair to an object? To make it more practic?
    Sorry for my english….


  • Really cool tips although I don’t use much motion.

  • Nice. Thanks. BTW – what microphone are you using to record this?

  • Thanks Nick. Needed this today.

  • What I usually do for creative blocks is look at a ton of other creative and inspiring clips, and then analyze them and take different elements from various resources and figure out a way to create something with those different techniques/styles/etc.

    My favorite place to do this is vimeo. I have a huge library of inspirational videos that are well done and get you thinking after you watch them. A while back I saw this box unfolding animation from RIOT (its gotten some media attention all of a sudden) and wondered if I could pull that kind of effect off in AE alone. This weekend I got around to it and this became my break out of my creative block.

    If anyone’s interested:
    My attempt:


  • Nick, SO GLAD you mentioned tracking a point using camera footage to generate a good wiggle. I’ve had to do it for a project in the past and thought I was being too ‘indie’ about my solution.

    Glad I’m thinking along the same vein as other people.

  • This is very off topic…
    i found myself staring at your mike…
    why is it flickering as you speak?

  • comment number 1
    1. Just freaking start already!

    thats my biggest problem

  • me too! And the more inspiring stuff I watch the worse it gets.
    But I keep trying!

    • hm? for real?
      how come? because you spend to much time or you feel bad when you look at the good stuff?

    • I guess itΒ΄s both. I often started personal projects but then I found them not good enough and never finished them. Or I have so many ideas that I end up realising none of them. I always get stuck somehow…

  • Really great advice!

    What I am getting over at the moment
    is this idea that I need certain things
    to make what I want to make
    i was obsessing over getting a d90
    to shoot photos and live action
    i jus gotta work with what i have
    and make kewl chit!
    i can’t put everything on hold
    till i have the perfect set up
    its gotta be done now!

  • He Nick, How do you want take smoke’s photo or water’s photo in the nature ? I mean, How can we make a good alpha of smoke in the nature ? There is not a green screen outside πŸ™‚
    And other thing about a realistic wiggle of camera, Could you make a tutorial to import a realistic camera’s movement in after effect?

  • Damn straight Nick. Motivation, my brother. Get started!

  • Wow. Something really hard to hear, because it’s easy and makes so much sense!

    The two biggest messages I get from you.
    1. Starting is the first step to making cool shit, being perfect isn’t.
    2. Look to real life as an inspiration. The best plug-in, camera move, or fastest machine won’t make you better. A sketch, photo, or some visualization will help you get to where you want to go.

    I really appreciate your videos.

  • hi Nick,
    I am new to your blog.There are tons of tutorials out there for motion graphics. But you really stand tall from all of them.cooool :).

    I have a request for a tutorial please consider, you told about shooting a real smoke from the nature and then composting it. Can you give us a demo on how to do that? It will be really helpful for all the beginners like me.

    and also can you please post some of your work or the projects that really inspired you.

    Thank you so much for your work.

  • you rock man. Thanks so much for your insight!

  • Howdy,

    I finally broke down and let myself buy a camera. Nikon D3000. The 50mm f1.8 lens is another goal. Already love it compared to my lil’ Sony point and shoot. I’m glad that you “allowed” people to go with the cheaper camera in one of your video posts. I was eyeing posts about the d 3000, 5000, 60, 90 etc for months thinking I HAD to buy the camera I couldn’t afford. I just wanted to start taking pictures…

  • gold but old eheh

  • Well I WAS going to work on my project, but I watched this video instead ;P

    Thanks a lot Nick

  • Nature give us best everything (textures, effects, light, sounds…) Useful tips.

  • My problem is not that I don’t know what to do or how to do it. I have a million ideas of projects but the reaaaaal problem is that after I finish the project, if it’s not 100% perfect I will do it again and again. of course, I end up quitting that project and never do it because I remodel it 1000 times until I get bored.

    please help me if you know what’s wrong with me!

  • I received the five tips, but there was no link to the video you mentioned. As you said,
    “I came across this video I made a few years back. It’s all about how to get rid of creative block and get on with whatever you are stuck with.”

    Would love to see the video.

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