Thursday, May 10

Overcoming a creative block

There are few things as frustrating as the inability to press forward with a creative project. I recently had a bout of creative block and was unable to move forward with The Subterranean for several weeks. It prompted me to reflect on why we get creative blocks and how we can overcome them. Here are some ideas that might help you snap out of it:

Creativity is disruptive. Don't be afraid of down time. It's part of the process. A fallow period is one way to recharge your batteries.

Creativity can take time to surface. Allow yourself the luxury of leisure. Relaxing and taking a break will allow your subconscious mind to take control of the project. Read a few chapters of a good book or take a few hours and submerge yourself in your art library.

Creativity works best when distractions are at a minimum. Sometimes you've got to be a hermit. Turn off the TV. Stop Facebooking. Turn off the radio. Boredom can be an incentive to entertain yourself and entertaining yourself is one of the roots of creativity.

Forget how old you are. Lighten up a bit. The non-completion of your project is not going to be the end of the world. Engage in some creative play.

Cope with fluctuating energy levels. One reason you have a creative block is probably because you are out of energy. Think of a way to recoup your energy and you probably just solved your creativity problem.

Change your location or your activity. Clean your studio. Go for a walk. Take a trip to the zoo or library. Anything to jolt you into a new and positive way of thinking.

Rearrange and combine things into something new. Allow yourself to borrow ideas from others, even if this starts as a blatant rip-off. Your ideas will evolve out of these borrowed ideas and become something new. Don't worry about the evolutionary roots of your work.

Trust your subconscious mind. It knows a lot more than you do. You are defeating your most trusted ally with all your internal negativity. Relax and let the subconscious mind do your work for you.

Start somewhere, anywhere. Sometimes you just have to start. Make yourself sit down and tell yourself that after a half hour of work if things aren't moving forward you'll just take a nap. Most of the time you'll keep working because you want to keep the creative streak going.

Creativity is an expression of energy. The more energy you have the more creative you will be. Most likely the reason you have a creative block is you've been pressing too hard. You've tackled a difficult project and you're simply running out of energy. Find a way to regain energy and you've solved your problem. Eat better. Sleep more. Exercise. Relax.

And finally, remember that creativity is an act of courage. Sometimes you just have to reach down deep and find the courage that first prompted you to become an artist. Creativity is one of the most noble and beneficial acts you can engage in. Keep that in mind and press forward taking one step at a time. Break your project down into small steps, listing each step on a scrap of paper, and the impossible will begin to seem possible and you are back on your journey once again.

Brad Teare May 2012


  1. I would add "don't be afraid to fail" to your list. Oftentimes the reason we are paralyzed is that we don't want to screw something up. I always look at it in terms of worst case scenario. "What's the worst thing that can happen if I ruin a painting?" Well, the answer is usually, that I'll start another one and try to remember what went wrong on the last one so I don't repeat it. More often, the mere fact that I am not worried about failure, allows me to be more creative and usually results in more exciting work. Don't be afraid!

  2. So true! Fear of failure will stop you dead in your tracks.


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