Creative blocks, which can be defined as either the inability to create new work or to make progress on a current one, are something most artists experience at least once in their careers. Depending on the individual, a creative block can last anywhere from a few hours, to several years in the most extreme cases. Being blocked is a scary thing for an artist, whose livelihood depends on their creative ability. For me, a block feels like hitting a wall, a really monstrous wall. So, what’s next after face-planting into a big dark wall of nothingness? First of all, don’t panic! Take it as a sign to slow down. I’ve always likened my own creative potential to water in a well. Artists are by nature “thirsty” people. We will drain that well dry in a day’s time if we feel so inspired. Dry, empty wells, however, are of no use to anyone. It’s time to refill.
Listed below are seven healthy methods I use to overcome my creative blocks. I hope they help refill your “well” as effectively as they help me refill mine.
- 1. Spend time in nature. Go for a walk along a body of water or in a forest. Climb a mountain or a hill. If you are in an urban area, parks, zoos, and botanical gardens are good alternatives. If none of these are an option, visit your local plant nursery, or watch a sunset or sunrise from your window.
- 2. Be a tourist in your own town. It doesn't matter how large or small your city is, I guarantee that pretending to be a tourist will allow you to see it with fresh eyes. Research what your town is known for; there is a reason why it was founded. Make a day out of exploring its relevant sites. In addition, creating art with a local flavor can endear you to the populace.
- 3. Rent a movie or read a book that’s outside of your normal genre. If you normally watch romantic comedies, try a futuristic action movie instead! I read a lot of non-fiction. While practical and informative, it can, in large doses, turn your well-honed creativity into a dull butter knife. I mix it up with the classics, poetry, supernatural fiction, and dreamy travel essays.
- 4. Take a class or workshop in a totally different art form. If you’re a photographer, try a drawing workshop. This will force you to slow down and engage with your subject in a completely different manner. If you’re a painter, try pottery, an art form where you create a 3-D object with your hands, as opposed to strictly representing one on your canvas.
- 5. Browse a dictionary or a thesaurus. An old writer’s trick that can work for artists too. If looking through the whole book seems overwhelming, pick a single letter, for example - F. What images come to mind when you see the words flutter, flash, or fragile?
- 6. Try a new recipe or restaurant. Colorful ingredients and beautifully plated dishes are a feast for the eyes. Plus, eating engages all our senses. I like to try new ethnic restaurants; you get to experience a little dose of the culture along with the food. And, if you like that culture’s cuisine, then check out their art!
- 7. Do some reflective writing. Use prompts to get you started; the Internet is full of them. A couple of my personal favorites – the most beautiful sunrise/sunset I’ve ever seen was in…; my favorite color is…; my least favorite color is…; makes me feel wild and free…; my favorite childhood memory is…; scares me…; if today was my last day on Earth and I could spend it any place and any way I choose, I would…; has always fascinated me…
I’d love to hear about your own ways of overcoming creative blocks!