How to get through a creative block (in ten easy steps)

I have approached this subject before.  If you have any creative practice, at some point you are going to get block.  It’s the other side of the inspiration coin.  The good news is it’s just a moment in time which will pass.  Even better news there are some small simple things that can help you send artistic block on its way a little bit quicker.

I have packed this post with videos and podcasts in the hopes that if you come across it when you really need some help pushing through a block, one of these will spark something for you.

Here are just some of the things I have been playing with over the last 4 years.  If you try any of these tools, then please let me know how you get on in the comments.  Also if you have other ideas or tactics you use to bust the block then please let me know.

  1. Do something that makes you happy – It is a new theory I have been working on recently, but I’m pretty sure that the tortured artist trope has had its day.  I know when I am happy and feel like I am looking after myself then it is much easier to motivate myself.  If you are experiencing the frustration of artistic block, it can only be a good thing to switch your emotional gears.
  2. Try working in a different surrounding or cleaning/re-organising your space.  Your environment can have a big impact on your thinking.  I sometimes will move from my desk to sit in the kitchen or garden.  Or set aside some tidying time before I begin a drawing session so that there are fewer distractions.  It also helps that I hate tidying, so I am always really happy to be back to drawing by the time I’m done.  I also listen to music or put a film on in the background which can help to reset your mood.  My favourite go to is the Amadeus soundtrack.
  3. Sleep on it.  Not literally but the sentiment here is to step away from what you are doing.  Fresh eyes can really help you move past your inner inspiration walls.  This is a tactic I learnt from one of my mindfulness teachers Michelle Levey who taught me to cosy up and get curious about the challenges your mind can bring you.  If you have the luxury of time then sometimes this is a good tactic to take.  Take the time away from your project to get curious about what is stopping you.  You might find it helps you to tap into deeper resources.  The important thing if you try this to be kind to yourself, the worst thing you can do is to start making yourself feel bad about feeling bad.
  4. Top up your creative bank account -listen to music or a pod cast.  Inspiration is infectious.  If you have creative friends you will know that spending some time talking to them can spark ideas.  If you are looking for a good podcast about creativity then you can’t go wrong with Creative Loving Spirit by Paul Macauley.  Other good options are Mindfulness with Tamsin Bishton, The Art History Babes and Creative Pep Talk .  On the music front then Gudjor never fails to come at me left of field, it’s surprising and captivating.
  5. Surround yourself with things that you find inspiring.  I have created a wall of images I find inspiring and reassuring.  To get you started I would like to share this video which includes one of my favourite prints which never fails to lift my spirits and give me an idea. 
  6. Finished is better than perfect.  You might find yourself blocked because no matter what you try to finish, nothing ends up living up to your own expectations.  The quest for perfection creates a sense of paralysis faster than anything else I know.  Jake Parker has a great youtube video I turn to when I notice I’m skirting around the unbeatable tyrant that is perfection.
  7. Revisit unfinished work.  At any given moment I have a stack of at least 10 unfinished sketches.  If you find yourself falling out of love with a project half way through, don’t throw it away, put it aside for a rainy day instead.  This way you have somewhere to go when starting something from scratch seems difficult.
  8. Exercise your creative muscles.  Just like your real muscles, you can build your creative muscles so they can take you further on less energy.  One great way to exercise is by speed drawing. Simply go somewhere, set up what you need and then draw whatever is in front of you in 5-15 minutes.  No matter what the outcome finish at the time you have set yourself.  Turn 90 degree and begin again.  Even if you don’t like what you have done at the end, you will have at least four drawings by the time you do a full rotation back to where you started.
  9. Know what motivates you.  This is easy said and hard lived.  Knowing yourself is a life times work.  However there is one small thing I have noticed works for most people, which is break whatever goal you are trying to achieve into small easy steps.  I find it really demotivating to be working towards a far off goal and constantly feeling like I am getting nowhere.  Where as if I have a bunch of small things I can accomplish along the way, the more I do, the energy I gather as I go.
  10. Experiment.  Pick a piece of work that you have completed that you really like, then try and recreate it in a different medium. If you used pencils, try collage.  If you used water colour, try charcoal.  If you used ink try finger paints.  You may surprise yourself, and surprise in my opinion is the fore-bearer of creation.

I made a book!

Oh My gosh I made a thing!  To be more specific I made an art book. 

If you have been with me for the 4 years I have been working on this blog, you will know that one of the subjects my doodles keep coming back to are mountains.  Mountain Faces is dedicated to my love of mountains. For the last 4 years I have posted a drawing a day, everyday on my online blog. ‘Sitting like a mountain’ has become key to this practice. Mountain Faces is a short expression of this. It’s small, it’s short and it’s sweet. Proving that art doesn’t have to be worthy to be worth sharing.