The one drawback about being a creative person is you have ideas running through your brain constantly and at warp speed. Actually, let me correct myself, that's not a drawback that's what makes creating fun! But the drawback is in trying to sort through all those ideas.
I am constantly looking for inspiration and because my work is mainly digital I spend an awful lot of time on my iMac. So I surf the web. Constantly. Twitter, especially, makes it easy for me to follow people who inspire me and I see and am introduced to more and more things every day that inspire me. And as most creatives are, I am an avid note taker. I make notes, I bookmark links, I draw sketches, I buy books... anything and everything to try to jot down my thoughts for later reference. This is great but I'm constantly inundated with stimuli. The difficult task is to sift through everything and find something that truly means something to me and is inspirational in a way that allows me to be true to myself.
I admire a lot of designers in the web industry, in illustration, in graphic design, in fashion design, in art... there's so many! And I'm guilty of looking on in awe and failing to refine my style. I'm still trying to find it. I don't even know how to define my illustration style... accurate is the only word that comes to mind and that's such a boring description of something that should be so free and creative. I'm so OCD about my art that I stress over inaccurate details, which can be a good thing but also a hindrance to developing personal style. If art school taught me anything it was to make work that is you, there is no perfect in art, there is only true genuine reflection of you and what you perceive.
I guess more important than developing my personal style in my work is to be true to me. To be instinctual enough to make decisions based on what I like and what works for me - or, of course, my clients and their projects. Basically, what makes sense to the project at hand. There's always going to be designs and illustrations that you look at with envy because you admire them so much, but they may not be appropriate for the work you are producing and more importantly, they're not you.
It's also about being confident in your work to know when to stop. Art school also taught me that. You can constantly rework things, redesign things, redraw things, but the best artists are those who know when to stop. Take the abstract expressionists for example. To us looking on it seems that they haphazardly placed colours on the canvas until they got tired. But they made elaborate decisions on which would be the last brushstroke.
In my current efforts to redesign my website I am currently at the third iteration of my redesign. And yes, of course, experimentation is a part of design, but I can't keep changing my mind every time I think I've finally come to a decision. I need to stop looking at other people's websites and do what is true to me and when that happens I'll know to stop. I need to try to listen to my instincts and not try to emulate something I admire but let my ideas flow. I'm sure my struggle isn't a unique one. It's a constant struggle for creatives. And maybe the equivalent of a writer's block for artists is not just a lack of ideas and inspirations but also too many ideas clouding your own. The only thing I can think to do now is to stop looking at my favourite designs, stop looking at other websites, stop following links on twitter. Return to the sketchbook, clear my mind and try to hear my voice amidst the chaos.
I suspect that the process of sifting through one's ideas and finding one's voice doesn't end. It's there with every thing you create... in fact, it constantly happens through life. So I'll also try not to be so hard on myself and just let things go... Besides as artists and designers we hope to always do better and better work so the process is constant.