9 Ways to Beat Creative Block

Most creative people I know - in fact, all the creatives I know personally- struggle with creative block now and again. It is very common and very normal. It’s a bitch to deal with, and it can make you feel demotivated and pretty bleak, and maybe like you are not that great an artist, since you can’t even think of what to create - see my blog post on 5 Ways to Conquer Creative Self Doubt if this is the case - and it's a frustrating battle. There are a number of factors that could be causing it - overwork and exhaustion; personal problems and stresses in your life that make it impossible to think about anything else; idea overload, where you have so many ideas and so little time that your mind is constantly awhirl and can’t settle on any one thing so it just goes blank when you actually sit down to create; lack of motivation; depression…. the list goes on and on. There is a legion of reasons for creative block, and inspiration is a surprisingly fragile thing. But luckily, if your muse has gone AWOL, and you are battling an inspiration dry spell, there are some ways to remedy that and help you back on your way to creative fecundity!

 

illustration of a music enthusiast
Your mind loves listening to its jams

1. Music

Put on some music you enjoy, close your eyes, and let your mind stray. Music affects your brain in a multitude of ways, and one of those ways is to increase creativity. It promotes higher brain functioning and causes your mind to wander and relax, opening it up to creativity and new ideas. It’s like when you are just about to fall asleep, or are in the shower, and not thinking about a certain problem at all, but suddenly have an epiphany, because your mind is not focusing on the problem, and so had more space to explore and figure out an innovative way around the problem, rather than rigidly becoming too focused on the expected solution. Listening to your favourite music will also help you to ease up and stop focusing on your creative block so much. So close your eyes, and let the music take you where it will. Another great thing I discovered was that changing up what you are listening to helps creativity too. For a while, I was listening to pretty much the same few artists on repeat, until one day I decided to get back into some old glitch-hop I had. It jump-started a new burst of creativity and a new style that I hadn't expected at all.

Check out these interesting links for more information on how music affects your brain and creativity.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/24/music-creative_n_5511501.html

https://blog.bufferapp.com/music-and-the-brain

 

2. A Change of Scenery

Go to a new place you haven’t been to before or don’t visit often, and speak to new, different people. Open your mind to new perspectives and opinions. Get yourself out of your personal box and see what a wide array of personalities, ideas, and possibilities are out there. Creativity and inspiration has a lot to do with your personal experiences and what you know, and since you know all your experiences, because... well... you’re you, it can get pretty old and stagnant, and this will affect your work. Gaining new experiences and getting to learn about and understand the viewpoints of others is a good exercise in empathy, which is vital for creating art that actually means something and speaks to people viscerally, as well as giving you new, previously unconsidered, ideas for your art.

 

3. Ask Yourself "What If..."

Asking yourself this question forces your mind to think in new ways. Rather than focusing on a problem, simply explore all possibilities. What if i can only draw with my weak hand? what if i can only draw badgers? what if i needed to illustrate how the world was overrun by super intelligent platypuses that made us their slaves? What if i needed to explain in song what colour smells like? What if a goat and and spider had a baby? What if I could only paint using pink? The possibilities are endless, and nothing is too wild or far fetched. Keep doing this until you hit on one that resonates with you. This exercise will give you new, previously unconsidered ideas that wouldn’t have occurred to you if you had kept with your usual way of approaching creative problems.

 

4. Experiment

Try something new and experimental that you are not even sure will work, such as playing a song with a new instrument (In Adventure Time, Finn going to a jam session with a balloon as an instrument in the episode Marceline’s Closet comes to mind) or drawing a picture with salt, or creating a mixed media sculpture with things lying around your house… it all refreshes your creative channels and forces you to look at and approach problems differently.

 

5. Examine and Adjust External Factors.

Too much or too little stimulation can have an effect on your inspiration and creativity. I work best when completely alone, while some people prefer to work in a coffee shop or similar public place, because they feed off the energy of the people around them. Also on this note, take yourself out of your usual surroundings, and go out somewhere new. Even if it’s just for a bit of a break from the pressure. Go for a walk in a park or out to a movie. Staying in the same place for too long can reduce your creativity because there is nothing to stimulate new ideas and you start to feel stagnant.

 

Illustration of an overexcited brain
Anything is Possible! Ideas Overload

6.Set yourself a brief.

Often, when we have no rules or guidelines, our brains run around yelling “Anything is possible!!!! Waaaaaaah!” , and get overwhelmed with all the possibilities and end up doing nothing. It’s like those days when you have so many chores and errands and things to get done, that you just lie on the couch the whole day, not knowing what to start with, staring at the ceiling, thinking about all the things you should be doing, but doing none of them. Until suddenly it’s bedtime, and you go to bed, and lie there in the grips of guilt-induced insomnia, agonising over all the things you didn’t do and promising yourself that tomorrow you will get up extra early so you can do everything… and the cycle continues. So, yeah, that’s your brain without self-set limitations or a brief. Sit down, and set a brief. Think about what medium you will use, what mood it will set, what the subject matter will be, what feelings it should invoke, and anything else that might be pertinent.

 

7. A Notebook Should Be Your Constant Companion

Take a notebook everywhere with you and sketch out or write down ideas you have at inspired times, for use when you are trekking through the arid desert of creative block. I have a document that is pages long, with ideas that I’ve had at random times, that I intend to bring to life at some stage.

 

8.Use Your Subconscious.

When you are just waking up, you can usually still remember if you had any dreams, and what happened in them. Use this as a way to fuel inspiration, by writing down your dream and translating that into your artwork. It’s a great way to create something different and fresh, uncluttered by your conscious mind and what you feel you “should” be creating.

 

9.Make Some Marks.

It doesn’t matter what, just start. You could start out drawing or painting one thing, and halfway through, decide it is something else. Do some stream of consciousness art. Just like stream of consciousness writing, you just create what is there already in your mind, not guiding it or thinking about it; just doing it. This will loosen you up at the least, and take away the tension to create without knowing what, and maybe even turn into something really great and unexpected.

 

Illustration of Excited artist bursting with creativity
Yeeeaaah Boooiii!!! Creativity, Bitches!
I hope these tips help you out as much as I have found that they help me. These are all tried and tested methods I put into practice. I always find that if one doesn’t work for me, for whatever reason, another will. If you have any other suggestions, please message me or comment below! And if you’d like to see more from me and keep up to date, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

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