How To Smash Through A Creative Block
Creative blocks can be a nightmare, particularly if you rely on your creativity for a crust or are facing the big bad block for the first time. It’s also a difficult thing to understand or explain; you know you have the skills and inspiration in your brain somewhere, they’ve just decided to do a runner. Losing your creativity, even for a short time, can be frustrating and create self-doubt, and it almost always happens when you need it most. So how do you deal with it?
Dealing with creative block can feel similar to journeying through the five stages of grief: denial that your brain isn’t cooperating, anger that it still isn’t cooperating, bargaining with yourself to get back on the right track, and getting a little depressed that your tried and true methods have failed you. To get your creativity back – or to at least make peace with the creative block while it’s in command of your brain – you have to head straight for the fifth stage of grief: acceptance.
#1 Start with acceptance
Rather than going around in circles trying to figure out why your creative inspiration has packed its bags and hopped on the next train, put down your laptop or paintbrush or craft gear and breathe for a second. This creative block is a thing that is happening, and you won’t be able to change that while your brain is in overdrive. It isn’t a failure, and it isn’t permanent.
Whether the inside of your head appears to just be a bunch of tumbleweeds rolling around, you are struggling to end your definitely-award-winning first novel, or can’t figure out how to put together the perfect design for a client, it’s important to reach the acceptance phase before you can start taking action and burst through those creative gates again.
#2 Get out of your bubble
Creative blocks often set in because you are overwhelmed with tasks, haven’t left the house in three days, or personal stuff is getting in the way. These things are all part of the process, and one of the best ways to get out of the funk is to remove yourself from the situation for a little while.
Go for a walk, a long drive, head to the beach, even go to the movies for a few hours. Get your brain thinking about something else, and give yourself some space from whatever it is that you’re trying to work on – it will still be there when you get back. Getting out of the house or office can also be a great way to spark new inspiration; as soon as your body is moving and your brain is a little calmer, the ideas will have room to bounce around again.
#3 Cultivate your ideal environment
Maybe you work or create from home, maybe you’re based in an office, maybe you hop from cafe to cafe. Take a look at your working style and environment, and figure out what works best for you. Your external environment can play a huge part in creative flow; the less comfortable you are, the more shut off from the creative side of your brain you will be.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with spaces and styles – from the time of the day that you try to be most creative, to the type of chair you sit on – everyone will work a little differently. Examine the parts of your environment or process that aren’t working for you, and make some changes.
#4 Tap into your support network
You’ve managed to accept your situation, leave the house, get a new desk chair, and enacted on all the practical things that might help you get back to creative utopia. Now, it’s time to address the emotional side of things. It’s possible that your creative block is just a part of the process, and there’s no deeper reasoning behind it. Or, it might be that there are things going on in your personal or working life that are taking up space and causing you stress.
No matter which box you tick, gather up your support network and tap into their resources. Get out of the house and meet with friends for lunch, get in touch with mentors for advice, reach out to your Twitter mates for sympathy.
If you need to, book an appointment with a therapist, go visit your Mum, go and cry on your best friend’s couch. Although you don’t need to necessarily fix the emotional stuff to get back on the creative road, addressing it and taking steps to look after yourself will start to undo the creative knots.
#5 Broaden your creative horizons
If you work within a creative field, it can be easy to find something that works and then hold onto it for dear life – and forget about all the other opportunities that are out there. Take some time out to research, experiment and study concepts or ideas that you had either put on the back burner or that are completely new to you. Open up those old notebooks full of ideas and see if there are any gems that fell by the wayside. If you’re a visual artist, head to a gallery or exhibition. No matter what your jam is, read, listen, and observe. Be active in broadening your horizons, but try not to do it with the core focus of fixing your creative block; think of it as professional and personal development, that might just lead to better creative flow and new ideas.
Finally, be kind to yourself! Every creative person faces the creative block nightmare a bunch of times throughout their careers, and although it’s rarely easy, it’s also never a failure. It’s a sign that you might need to slow down and smell the roses, to take stock of where you’re at, or to simply take a break.
Chloe Papas is a journalist and writer based in Victoria. You can find her on Twitter @chloepapas.