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4 Steps to Overcoming Creativity Blocks

Updated: Mar 5, 2019

So you're stuck in a creativity block, huh? Maybe buried under what feels like a mountain of them? Looking for some creativity block self-help tips? That's what I'm here for!

Whether this is the first time or the 10,000th time you've experienced a creativity block, it can be a distressing thing...

It can feel like the end of the world...

That's it! You'll never make art again...

Hope you enjoyed making art while it lasted...

Buh-bye to any hopes you ever had of being a creative person...

Nah, it's really not that bad. It can feel like it, though, especially if this is the first time you've experienced it, or if you haven't figured out how to handle it yet. Before we dive into the steps to handle a creativity block, I want you to know that it's normal! Almost all artists go through it! Commit that to memory. When you feel like the only person in the world going through a creativity block, remember that it's totally normal!

There are 4 steps that I take when I'm experiencing a creativity block:

  1. Acknowledge the creativity block.

  2. Take a break.

  3. Evaluate what's causing it and take action to fix it.

  4. Get creating again!

Let's start with #1: You can't fix a creativity block if you don't acknowledge that it's happening. Don't try to ignore it and work through it. In my experience, that just makes it worse. Say out loud, "Ok, I'm experiencing a creativity block." Now you're ready to deal with it!

…#2: Next, it's time to take a break. A real break. Go do something completely unrelated to art. Go watch your favorite movie, take the dog for a walk, do your taxes, get your teeth cleaned, anything! But don't make art, don't look for inspiration, don't think about art, and don't beat yourself up for being blocked! Take a day or two, and then move on to...

...#3: Evaluate what might be causing the block. Really think about it. Be as specific as you can be. Don't say something generic like "nothing is turning out right." Figure out why nothing's turning out right! Ask yourself some honest questions.

  • Are you pressuring yourself to create or to create at a certain level? Be aware of the pressures you're putting on yourself. Pressure is the killer of creativity. Putting a ton of pressure on yourself whenever you sit down at the easel is going to wear you down fast. Think about your creativity like the point of a pencil. If you use it lightly, that point is going to last. Even once the point is rounded off, you can still use that pencil for a long time! However, if you're putting a lot of pressure on the pencil, you might break off the point, round it off, and wear it down quickly. The same thing happens to your creativity when you put pressure on yourself!

  • Do you have a fear of failure? If so, you need to read THIS BLOG POST and then move on to the next bullet point. :)

  • Are you comparing yourself to others or even to yourself? Comparison is toxic. Just be happy. Enjoy what you do. Enjoy where you are in your journey. Make art for you. Don't try to be better than someone else.

  • Are you stressed out at work or at home? Stress can suck all of the joy out of things you normally love to do. It might be best to wait until these stressful situations are resolved before you try making art again. Or you could use the stress as a way to explore other mediums and techniques! Make quicker, smaller art whenever you feel stressed out. Scribble in a sketchbook, or splatter some paint!

  • Are you sick or getting over a sickness or injury? I mean, who really wants to make art when they physically don't feel well? Take care of yourself. Make a little art if you feel up to it, but don't put pressure on yourself.

  • What about depression? Depression can either make people want to create art, or it can prevent them from doing so. As with stress, maybe experimenting with your art will be emotionally helpful for you! If not, though, don't worry about it. Take care of yourself first. ♥

  • Are you bored with creating? If so, consider the subjects you've been choosing, or the techniques and mediums you've been using. If you're not painting what interests you, you're going to get bored. Who wants to spend time making art that's boring to them?

  • Do you need to take a break? Sometimes we get wrapped up in the creative process, making art after art after art, whether for our own enjoyment or due to obligation. While we might feel like we have never-ending ideas and energy, that's just not the case. Somewhere in all of my art books and in the blogs I read, I heard someone liken creativity to an old water well pump. The water only comes out for so long. When it stops, you have to prime the pump to get it to continue flowing. When the creativity stops flowing, you have to figure out a way to prime the pump. Which brings us to...

…#4: Get creating! There really is an endless number of ways to break a creativity block so you can get back to doing what you love. The ideas listed below are just a few. Take some time to experiment and find out what works best for you! Here are some suggestions to point you in the right direction.

  • Meditate. This is going to mean something different for everyone. I really like this meditation video for creativity!

  • Listen to music/podcasts/documentaries. Some people love to crank up the music and get lost in the sounds while they paint. I prefer to listen to podcasts or even listen to documentaries. I find myself focusing on what is being said, not channeling my focus into judgement or negative thoughts. This is one of my favorite ways to break a block.

  • Watch tutorials. Especially if you've been putting a ton of pressure on yourself to create originals, this can be very helpful. Just taking a step back, working on a painting that might be a little more simple, and following instructions might be all you need to prime the pump and get your creativity flowing again. And you might even learn something new to take to your own paintings! Shameless plug!

  • Read art books. This is another of my favorite ways to break an art block. I buy a lot of art books, many of which are geared towards brand new painters, oil painters, mixed media/collage artists, etc. Don't just read books filled with art that you do or art that you want to make. Expand your horizons, or even bring it back down to basics. Here's a list of art books I like. The broader your base of knowledge is, the more expanded your art brain will be. Is that a thing, art brain? Pretty sure it is now!

  • Journaling. This can be an art journal full of images, or a journal where you write down your feelings and thoughts. Maybe even a combination of both!

  • Use a new tool. Maybe an unconventional tool—something not made to be used with your medium, maybe a tool you've been intimidated to try, maybe a totally different medium or surface! Experiment, and don't be afraid to mix it up!

  • Mix up your routine.

  • Take a walk.

  • Visit a new location.

  • Take interesting photos of places and things to use as reference images.

  • Visit a gallery.

  • Make art with a friend.

  • Read blog posts to find out what others do to break their creativity blocks.

And finally, never give up. Creativity blocks will come and go. They aren’t a sign that you're not a good artist or that you're not creative. They're perfectly natural, and all part of the artist's experience. They're really just a bump in the road. Don't jump off the road because of a bump. Go over it or around it, but keep going down that road. If making art is something that fills you with joy, passion, and purpose, there's no creativity block so big that you can't get past it. Just take some time to figure out the best way for you to handle them, and be aware of what can cause them in the first place.

What are some of the ways you deal with creativity blocks? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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