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Why moving away from home got me out of my creative rut.

I fell in love with design before I even knew what it meant to be a “designer.” (designer: a person who plans the form, look, or workings of something before its being made or built, typically by drawing it in detail.) Although my background, in college, started with painting and drawing, I quickly began to appreciate the art of typography and logomarks.

Being in the design industry is hard. No one is going to sugar coat that. Half of my college graduating design class isn’t working in the industry anymore for that reason. Design culture has changed rapidly over the past ten years, and if you aren’t willing to go with the flow, you may sink instead of swim. The question is, if the industry is changing so rapidly how do I stay on top of it? Using creative blogs such as Behance, Dribbble, Pinterest, Creative Bloq, and The Die Line display endless talented designers to get those creative juices flowing. But one of the more important things that got me back on track was to get outside…and let me say it, not design.

Wait...What? I thought staring at a computer screen all day would make me creative!

Two years ago I hit a major creative block. I was living in Portland, Oregon in my hometown, and wasn’t feeling inspired; I felt stagnant. I was dormant in my career and life. I remembered five years ago, I went to this networking event at AIGA, and a creative director told me, “You are less valuable to agencies if you stay in your hometown. Move to LA, get out of your comfort zone. Then if you want to move back, go for it. People appreciate a person who has guts.” At the time I found that sentiment off-putting. Why do I have to move to become more marketable to clients or design firms? Several years later, I got what she meant.

So, June 11, 2016, I packed my bags in my 2003 Ford Focus and left for The Bay Area, California. When I got in the car, I immediately started second guessing what I was doing, but at that moment it felt right. I knew that I needed to step away from my career to get creative. I wasn’t considering failure or success, but all I knew was something needed to change.

So, I put design on hold. For seven months. Seven months I traveled, hung out with friends, documented my travels on Instagram, went to meditation groups, worked out, got caught in a blizzard in Lake Tahoe, hiked to Vernal Falls in Yosemite, watched surfers in Santa Cruz, camped in Mendocino, rock climbed, and enjoyed the sunshine. It sounds like I had a blast right? But as my trip was sudden and unplanned, I fell on my face several times, but I never gave up. I focused on the small things that made my day, and what I was grateful for. That gratitude is what brought me to my connections in the bay area. I met three clients, Mariya Stangl, Adrienne Pao and the owner of Palio Coffee. All because I was open to stepping out of my comfort zone.

Although I didn’t stay in the bay, I don’t see that as a failure, in fact, those frustrations became my success. What I learned to improve, is what opened my eyes and helped me a become a more thoughtful designer. Everything in life is intertwined. Creativity isn’t this black and white thing, where you get a burst of it and bam it’s incredible. If you’re stuck and don’t know why…get up and do something about it! Feel uncomfortable, because any significant life change is hard. Meet new people, create new experiences because we only have this one life to live, and we might as well make the best of it.

So, how I got out of my design rut, was to stop designing. Sounds counterintuitive right? But sometimes, a break in any field is the breathing room you need to get back into the trenches.