Having a creative block? Here are some suggestions that really work.
It’s easy to let life and career frustrations interrupt your creative flow. Sometimes regardless of the reason, a block only gets worse the more frustrated you pound at it. I’ve never met an artist who didn’t experience this in some form – and I’ve wasted my share of time stubbornly hammering away at what seems like a hopeless situation.
My top 5 suggestions are
1. Walk away. Whether you step away and come back, or put it away for a longer period, if you’re not getting anywhere, hit pause. Many issues are overcome be extracting yourself from the situation, and this is no different. Whether you walk around the block, yell into a pillow, or meditate to flush your mind, letting go of the problem for a while can allow the back of your mind to work it’s way through or around the block.
2. Write or record your stream of thought. I like to make lists, pro’s and con’s, but stream of thought in whatever form, even if it’s nonsensical gibberish, can add light to the situation. An effective form of conflict resolution for couples is to record their fights and listen to them later. It’s amazing the things that come out of us when we’re steeped in emotion and hearing them later can be illuminating!
There’s nothing wrong with talking out your frustrations on paper or recording with an app on your phone. You may find that there’s something you need to shift your focus to, or realize that you simply need to change your expectations. For instance, you may be assuming or setting boundaries that are not needed, which is limiting your creative options.
“The more you expect things to be a certain way, the more disappointed you’ll be. Accept life as it is. You’ll be free.”
3. Talk to someone. Hearing a different perspective or seeing how someone else would approach it does not affect the authenticity of your work. You don’t have to share their perspective or take their advice, just open yourself and listen or look at it differently. One of my favorite ways to break past my perfectionism when drawing is to turn the reference photo or subject upside down. This forces the mind to look at lines and shapes as they are instead of ‘autocorrecting.’ When drawing people especially, my mind automatically tries to improve on what I see, add balance and ignore reality. The so-called flaws in a subject sometimes hold all the charm, so to draw what is, instead of a perfected version, is to really see and begin to understand what you are working with.
4. Don’t allow fear to get in the way. To quote Frank Herbert in his Dune series, “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear.” Frustration is a derivative of anger, and it is widely theorized that anger comes from fear. Fear is our protective mechanism, conscious or subconscious, the amygdala portion of our brain triggers and can completely hijack reason. Fear of pain, failure, abandonment, regardless of the intensity, is natural and human. It’s also said that bravery is not the absence of fear – it is to face your fear, only something you can do, no one can do this for you.
5. Start over from the beginning. Sometimes we have to scrap all that work, let go of the method and even the circumstances, to find a different path. This can be easy or excruciating, depending on how much you are invested in what you’ve done already.
You have the power!
The point is to look for a solution, rather than sinking in the mire of the problem. Ultimately, you decide how much something means to you and how much time and effort you put into it. Creativity is one of the greatest gifts of the human mind. Start with a fresh canvas, document, whatever your media, or paint over the one you started. Keeping multiple versions is a good exercise so you can look back at your journey, but it’s okay to give up on something in order to start anew. I believe in you!