What do you do when you face a creative block? If you are anything like me, you have scoured all over the internet for write-ups, artworks and music to tickle your creativity muscle. You have walked to the extreme ends of the YouTube-verse to make your artsy juices flow. You give it your all but it rarely helps.
Almost every artist in his long-term pursuit for creative ideas has learned that external influences rarely provide creative stimulation, unless coupled with detailed observation and receptivity. Emotional aspects of creative expression such as the desire and motivation to get started, and the priceless sense of fulfillment when you’re done spark from within. All it takes is one tiny moment of mental clarity and deep, uninterrupted thought.
Why did you start and why do you make art? For me, creating stuff meets my needs for creative and intellectual stimulation, usually enhanced by spiritual release among a thousand other things. One thing that could be common between us is that making art fills the metaphorical grumbling void inside us. But most of us sometimes wonder that if our art could make us a little money, just enough to fill the literal grumbling void below our chests, all our problems could practically be over.
While that is not the whole truth, you can’t deny that the pros of such a situation would easily outweigh the cons. I myself couldn’t opt for a more perfect and fulfilling career.
However, creative blocks can be a real pain in the ass especially if your job itself is to create. The pressure to come up with ideas and create something valuable is coupled with the pressure of a deadline. We know that every job kinda sucks and has its drawbacks, but hey, as long as I’m getting paid for doing what I love, I don’t think I’d consider other options.
Creative blocks are merely another occupational hazard in the life of a professional creative, like paint spills and broken keyboards. Or broken hearts and vomiting, in case you decide to go through your work from six months ago.
5 ways to defeat your creative block again. and again.
- Distance yourself from your project briefly.
Sometimes, when you’re too engrossed in the project at hand, you have too many ideas to work with that it becomes difficult to choose one of them at a time. This leads our imperfect brains to go into overdrive and creates horrible cases of brain fog. That is an indication of you overworking to make the final product of your project as good as it can be. Kudos to you for being in love with art and your work, but the wisest thing for you to do at that moment would be to get up and move around the house. Perhaps go outside as well, as you could get a little air and the time to filter the best ideas to find a direction you could steer your project towards. As soon as you recognize that you are stressing yourself out because of your many ideas getting lost in the cruel mental fog, you should run away from the project. Literally, because that brings me to my next point.
- Go for a run or get some physical exercise.
As you begin running/exercising and gradually start going harder and faster, your body starts releasing endorphins. These hormones act as stimulants in the body, producing a natural high. The chemicals released during and after running can help you get rid of brain fog and anxiety. Some other benefits of running and physical exercise are: Increase in the amount of a brain-derived protein in the body, which helps with decision-making, higher thinking and learning. A calf-twisting run can boost creativity for up to several hours afterwards. Cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance. Working out increases chemicals in the brain that prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, part of the brain for memory and learning. There goes your creative block. Crushed by a twenty minute run.
- Broaden your horizons and get out of your comfort zone.
A lot of people recommend us their favourite books, movies, songs, etc. but what we do most times is ignore their recommendations just because they seem like they’re too far away to resonate with genres we are used to. In other words, those works of art are a little out of our comfort zones. What conscious mind doesn’t know is that your subconscious is too wary of the fact that the new content could possibly challenge its preconceived notions of the world and the art form as a whole. The subconscious likes feeling good, hence it prefers comfort over challenge. It avoids change in your thoughts and beliefs with all the power it can gather. But what actually breeds the best creative ideas is venturing into new terrains and exploring all the different genres an art form has to offer. Occupying ourselves with different arts that come from cultures other than ours/other than we’re used to can bring out the best in our art, with a mixed-contextual muse for us to build upon. New ideas spark when your mind is subject to change and growth, not when you are comfortable and stagnant in an unchanging, illusory mental environment.
- Swim against the tide. Look for conventionally contrasting angles to approach the project.
Most of us create art using a top-bottom approach. Yes, when you start at the top and end at the bottom. That’s how everyone does it, right? Wrong. Sometimes, taking a bottom-top approach can prove to be an efficient way to get your creative juices flowing. Just try reciting the alphabet backwards and observe how much effort and concentration it takes you to complete doing it. Taking the bottom-top approach and tricking my mind to concentrate more by moving back to front has proven to be effective for me whenever I face a creative block. I also like taking the Midsection-Extremes approach sometimes, where I put down everything I have on my mind on paper or the screen. Those become the key ideas of my work. Then I start building upon each of the key ideas so that I have paragraphs that simplify and explain. To convey my message effectively, I try to make them understandable by relatable by including personal anecdotes and examples. After I finish constructing the midsection, I move on to the extremes, i.e. the intro and the conclusion. This approach can be adapted into any of the bazillion art forms, by any artist.
- Clean up the mess and add colour to your workplace.
Messy physical surroundings give way to a messy mental environment. If your workplace smells, has stuff lying around or you’re working with your computer over a pile of dirty clothes, then the reason for your temporary inability to create is staring right at your face. However, if you’re a neat person who cannot even stand the smell of good cheese(and by that, I mean your socks), then you should probably consider decorating your workplace. You could shuffle the furniture, hang up a few posters, heck, you could even make a huge, colourful wall painting. The imagination and the effort expended in reshaping your sanctuary will do more than enough to get you through your creative block.
Creative blocks can make the most capable artist stop believing in themselves. The important thing during these periods of bad creative form would be to remember that it will pass. And you can make it go away even faster if you’re willing to do a few challenging tasks. Like the ones described above. Better yet, you could come up with your own creative challenge and share it with the world.
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