Whether you’re a writer, musician or artist, the greatest enemy you face is a creative block. There’s nothing worse than sitting down and trying to do something creative — only to hit a brick wall instead.
Everyone seems to have their own opinion on how to deal with a creative block. Victor Hugo used to strip naked, Friedrich Schiller kept rotten apples in his desk drawer, and Hemingway always stopped writing mid-sentence.
There is no one-size fits all perfect solution, but there are a couple of ways you can get your creative juices flowing again.
1. Find the Source of Your Block
Most of the time, there’s a reason you’re feeling creatively blocked. For me, it’s often “burn out” — after completing a big project, I don’t feel like being creative. I feel like all of my artistic energy has been zapped, and needs to recharge.
Your block might not be the result of burn out. Maybe you’re scared that people won’t like it. Maybe you’re scared that your work will turn out “bad”. Maybe you don’t know how to approach what you want to accomplish.
Finding the source of your block won’t fix it, but it will help you understand why you’re lacking artistic inspiration and place you in a position to begin working past it.
2. Take a Walk or Drive
You’ve been trapped in your workspace for hours, grappling for an idea, and still — nothing.
Sitting frustrated, in the same place, for hours upon hours is enough to zap anybody of their creative energy. Sometimes the only antidote you need is a little fresh air. Allow yourself thirty minutes or an hour to walk through your neighborhood. Smell the flowers, look at the houses, soak up the sun, and let yourself recharge.
If it’s raining, or you just don’t like walking, you could also take a drive. Cruise along the highway, blast your radio and try to let your frustration at feeling uninspired melt away.
3. Try Something a Little Different
If you’re someone who’s used to cycling through the same process, the cure to your block might be a little variety.
If it’s writer’s block, try using a new, wacky font — it might change your perspective more than you think.
When I type like this, my words feel different.
Or, if a new font doesn’t help, you can always try changing programs too. Used to working in Microsoft Word? Try switching over to Google Docs for a change.
For musicians or painters, this “something different” might mean working with a different size canvas or playing another instrument — it’s really up to you.
The point is, regardless of whatever your creative field might be, mixing up your process will help you look at your project with fresh eyes.
4. Deal with your business
Some creative blocks happen because the other parts of our lives have become overwhelming. It’s difficult to sit down and write an article if I know that I’ve got to make a phone call, or do the dishes, or finish another assignment.
If you know that you’ve got another project to deal with (and it won’t stop nagging at you), just go ahead and deal with it. It’s hard enough to get into a creative mindset with the added stress of life’s other complications — so handle what you need to, and then come back to your work.
5. Let Your Work Be Terrible
Some creative blocks originate from fear — fear that you’ll fail, fear that people won’t like your work, fear that it will be bad. Any ideas you come up with seem like they aren’t “good enough”, and you feel stuck in limbo.
Instead of trying to bang out this genius masterpiece, don’t try to strive for greatness. Relax — allow yourself to create whatever comes to mind, even if it’s terrible.
There are times when I sit down to write an article, but can’t muster up the courage to write anything “good”. So, rather than wrestle with my own self-esteem, I give myself the freedom to write whatever I want. Sometimes it’s a letter or a short, nonsensical story.
Whatever you create doesn’t have to be your end-product, but at least you’re working on something — even if it’s something you plan to scrap later on. (Although you might surprise yourself. Sometimes, the things we create this way turn out to be our best work.)
For those who view the creative process superstitiously, this technique might be a way to get rid of all the “bad juju” before you make something truly great.
6. Don’t Panic
We don’t always have the privilege of creating without time-constraints, and working with deadlines can stifle the creative process. Not only does it impede your freedom, but it makes you panic. Every minute you’re not working is a reminder that the clock is running out.
The more you panic, the less creative you feel. So, in this case, don’t panic. Even if you’ve got a short, hard deadline coming up, don’t allow yourself to succumb to the stress of your time limit.
I realize this is a lot easier said than done — but it is possible. The first thing you need to do is accept your limited time frame. Don’t think of it as an obstacle, but as a fact — just another part of the project. You want to keep your time frame in mind, but letting it consume you.
7. Stop Waiting For Inspiration to Strike
Sometimes, even when you do everything right, you still can’t conquer that creative block. You might not feel like working, but you have to.
There are times when you just have to push through. Even when you’re lacking inspiration and creativity, you still need to work. As someone who’s gone months without inspiration, you can’t always wait around for it to strike.
Wallowing in self-pity, panicking, or mindlessly distracting yourself won’t help you feel creative. At the end of the day, creativity is a mindset. You can, with enough willpower and discipline, control that mindset. It’s not easy, but oftentimes, you only feel creative once you begin working.
If that isn’t enough of a pep-talk for you, maybe American painter, Chuck Close, can help you understand:
“Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you.” — Chuck Close
Inspiration plays a major role in the creative process, but so does willpower.
Bottom-line, don’t fall victim to the struggles of the artistic process. In order to conquer a creative block, sometimes you have to get…creative.