If you’re an artist, I’m pretty sure at some point you’ve experienced a creative block. Either you’ve lost the urge to create entirely, or you want to create but you just don’t feel sparked by anything. Maybe you have that blank page paralysis where you just stare into the void. Where once there were a thousand ideas, now there are none.
You’re not alone. I’ve yet to meet another artist who has never felt this way at least once. It can be frustrating, debilitating, and leave you questioning your self-worth. But the good news is, I’ve also never met an artist who hasn’t come out on the other end.
We can wait it out, sure, but there are also some things we can do to jumpstart our creativity back into action. Here are 6 ideas for you if you feel the need to give your creativity a boost.
1. Redefine success and failure.
A lot of times, when I feel a lack of creativity, sitting in front of a blank page, there’s really something else going on inside. I’m afraid to fail. I want to create something everyone will love, something I can consider a total “success.” If it isn’t a raging hit, then it’s a failure (in my mind).
When we look at life from this black-and-white perspective, we miss out on a lot of the beautiful in-between. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be successful, but failure is not the opposite of success. Rather it is a stepping stone on the way there.
In fact, the journey in itself should be viewed as success. If success is just a single moment at which we arrive (and it happens later at some point down the line), then what is there to truly look forward to? The moment of success arrives. Then it’s gone. When success instead happens in small moments along the way, then every day becomes fulfilling. Every experience — good or bad — is part of the journey. And the journey itself is success. The actual sitting down to create and showing up for the process is success.
When we look forward to failure as an opportunity to learn (or look at failure as an actual COMPONENT of success, a PARTNER to success), then we can not only move towards real success but towards real growth as a human being and an artist. After all, failure isn’t unique to you. Every single person out there has failed — many times! If they haven’t failed, then they haven’t been creating at all.
2. Stop overthinking.
Getting things perfectly planned before you start can be the perfect way to never actually start. What should I create? Is anyone going to like it? Will I be able to sell it? Can I share this on social media? Is this the right style? Sooooo many opportunities to analyze, and yep, I’m guilty of them all.
In truth, the answers to those questions might be different depending on what day it is, what time it is, what you feel like, what you ate for breakfast. Your opinions and ideas and perspective will change. What’s perfect one day won’t be good enough on the next. In this line of thinking, you could end up delaying true action inevitably. And you may be doing it to yourself subconsciously because of that fear of failure!
The solution? Stop overthinking. Tell your brain to get out of the way.
As a recovering overthinker myself, I can tell you that it can be harmful and debilitating. Not to say that making plans is a bad thing, but when the need for perfect plans keeps you from creating, keeps you from just getting started…then you lose. You miss out. And you probably just stay stuck in your rut.
3. Embrace a learning mindset.
I find that many problems can be solved by changing your mindset. But it takes practice and effort. A lifelong learning mindset is rooted in curiosity. It’s a craving for knowledge and a need for growth. When your objective is the expansion of the mind, then every failure is actually a success because it’s a learning moment. And getting started on something is so much easier because we look forward to each step of the process and what we can learn from it.
Without a desire for growth, we stay in the same place forever. We neither succeed nor fail. Or perhaps we do fail — but the result is detrimental to our well being because of the way we respond and react to it. It’s a tough road, the one devoid of progress and development.
If you are always looking for the opportunity in a moment, it’s easier to move forward.
4. Build momentum with a single push.
The ball doesn’t get rolling on its own. And art doesn’t manifest out of thin air. But sometimes our goals feel like giant mountains, and we can’t see the path to the top. This is another reason why we don’t get started. We are viewing the big picture, and it’s intimidating.
When this is the case, we have to deconstruct the big picture into separate chunks — like dividing a book into chapters. Then, instead of gazing up at the mountaintop, not sure if it’s too steep or if there are wild animals along the way, all we have to look at is the ground right in front of us. We simply focus on placing one foot in front of the other. We focus on the single push that is simply getting started.
Since I do a lot of watercolor painting, this looks like simply putting some paint on a brush and making a mark. Or a line. Or if you are blocked so much that that seems like a lot, then the single step might be just sitting down at the place you create. Picking up the tools you use.
And here’s a little bonus tip. All these suggestions I’m sharing work very well together. When you change your perspective on failure, get out of that overthinking mindset, and get excited for opportunities to learn, it’s easier to take the first step to rebuild your momentum to create.
5. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
What would happen if you made yourself a goal to create a certain number of UGLY pieces?! There’s something lighthearted in there, a reminder to laugh at yourself a little. A reminder to find joy in the process, even when it doesn’t yield that “perfect” result.
This is a hard pill to swallow for some people, I know, because we ultimately DO care and DO want to make things we are proud of. But again, we’re not promising to make ugly pieces for the rest of our lives. (Unless ugly pieces is your thing.)
I love to shift my perspective and do a visualization of zooming out farther and farther into the universe. Where I become the size of an ant, a speck in a sea of other specks. Where I continue zooming out to the point that even the Earth is one of those tiny specks. We’re so tiny in the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t make me feel insignificant or any less unique, but rather it reminds me that my problems, my creative blocks, aren’t that big of a deal.
6. Do something new.
If you're hitting a creative wall, stop ramming against it. The “forcing and forging” mindset has its time and place, I’m sure, but the “allowing” mindset is friendlier and quite frankly, more effective (and more enjoyable) in this scenario.
So change things up. Creativity kicks on when we have a new experience and even maybe get out of our comfort zone. Go somewhere new. Maybe it's a beautiful outdoor place, park, or hiking trail. Maybe it’s a new art museum, restaurant, or bookstore. Take a class doing something you don’t usually do or listen to music you don’t normally listen to.
Change up your patterns and normal modes of being. It will be nearly impossible to not be inspired. And the very least, it will help take your mind off the idea that you are “creatively blocked.” (Which, by the way, is likely also in your mind and something you are telling yourself is truth…which is not necessarily truth. And that’s a whole other tip!!)
Ok, so which idea are you going to implement today?