Are you feeling stagnated in your creative process? Just can’t get past it? You probably have a creative art block.
It happens to just about every creative person at some time or another – no matter what kind of artist you are. You might be staring at a blank computer screen, hovering over a blank canvas, or pacing around a block of wood feeling like the creative juices just won’t flow.
Maybe you already have ways to get past this, but since you’re reading this, its likely that you’re looking for more ideas – either for yourself or someone you know.
I have my own ways to get past this and I’ll talk about those as well as a few tools, techniques, tips, and tricks that I’ve learned from others over the years.
I hope one of these works for you!
What is Creative Art Block, Exactly?
Whether you call it writer’s block, artist’s block, creative block, or any other name for it, a creative art block is a general feeling of being unable to move forward in a creative work.
Want a dictionary definition? Modified from the Webster’s definition for writer’s block, Creative Art Block is: a psychological inhibition preventing a [creative person] from proceeding with a piece.
What Causes a Creative Art Block?
Creative art blocks can be caused by a bunch of different things and it is unique to every person. Having said that, there is one major commonality.
Pressure – whether it is coming from yourself, a client, finances, or some looming deadline, pressure is probably the number one thing that causes creative people’s brains to lock up.
To get yourself out of creative art block, you need to find a way to relieve the pressure, or at least set it aside for a while. Most of the suggestions in this article will be ways of helping to relieve pressure and make yourself think differently.
Let’s Get to it Already. Here are Some Things You Can Try to Help Get Over Your Creative Art Block.
Here are my personal and professional (professional artist – not health professional!) suggestions for getting past a creative art block.
I’m putting this at the top of the list because of all of the things I’ve tried in the past, meditation has been the one thing that always helps me.
Meditation can come in many forms from going for a walk or exercising to sitting quietly. It can be a religious or spirititual practice, or just simply focusing on your breath in a quiet space. Whatever type you choose, taking the time to clear your thoughts, be present, and let go of all your worries for a small bit of time can be incredibly rejuvenating and freeing.
For myself, I practice my own type of meditation that is an amalgamation of many different practices. I like to sit cross-legged outside on a comfortable chair (if it’s nice enough weather of course!) and listent to binaural sounds on my headphones while focusing on my breath and calming myself. I start by breathing calmly and deeply while scanning my body from head to toe and telling myself to relax and heal. After a few minutes in this space, I begin to allow myself to focus on a problem or question I’m working on and ask the universe for helpful ideas and guidance.
I usually give myself 20-30 minutes for this and I always come away feeling more relaxed and focused. Most of the time, I come away with a new idea or different way of looking at my work that helps me move forward. Like anything, becoming comfortable with meditation takes time and practice. That’s why its called a practice!
Need a little meditation help – Why not try an App?
I’m not talking about scrolling the Instagram or TikTok. Meditation can be a challenge, particularly when you’re new at it, so maybe not surprisingly, a lot of clever people have come up with apps to help make it easierHere are a few I’ve tried, or heard/read good things about.
TRIPP – If you happen to have a VR Headset, TRIPP is an amazing immersive meditation app that places you in beautiful worlds and guides you through a meditation experience. I use it all the time and I love it!
Headspace – This mobile app provides mindfulness tools for everyday life, including meditations, sleepcasts, mindful movement and focus exercises. Lots of big companies provide it for their employees and it has an average rating of 4.9 out 5 from over 600k people. I’ve used it myself and I can say it really does help – especially when you just need a little guidance to get you on the right path.
Need some mainstream influence for meditation?
Rick Rubin, the accomplished Music and Record Producer, writes about meditation and mindfulness in his book: The Creative Act.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has been public about his transcendental meditation practice, particularly while working on the Seinfeld set.
Studies show that meditation actually slows and even reverses the aging process of our brain!
It’s good. Give it a try.
Take a Productive Break
Sometimes just taking a break and focusing on something productive, but completely different for a while is the thing you need to move forward.
Maybe you have a stack of dishes that need doing or laundry that’s piling up. Does that lawn need mowing? Put on some music and do something productive – but completely unrelated to your artwork – for a little while. I think this is actually a form of meditation. It lets your brain have a break while you get something that needs doing done. Many times, it will feel freeing and be just the pressure release that you needed. Plus you get to cross some of your other things off the to-do list! That has to feel good.
Get Outside or Get Some Exercise – Or Both!
Sometimes all we need to get our brains in the right state is to first give our body what it needs. Whether it is walking, hiking, biking, jogging, lifting weights, boxing, or pilates, exercise releases endorphins which make us feel good and happy. Happy body = happy mind = easier time creating and thinking up new ideas!
Just being outside can be enough to clear our minds and rejuvenate us. A walk in the woods or at a local park can promote real physical and mental changes in positive ways. Whether you call it forest bathing, nature therapy, or just going outside, it is an important part of being human that we sometimes forget about when we’re bogged down and focused on work.
Go for a Drive or Take a Shower (not too long though!)
For some people, a short drive might be a great way to escape your office or studio space for a while and let your mind wander on other things. We’ve all heard someone say they get their best ideas when driving (or even in the shower) and there is something to that. Mind Wandering is a real thing and it can be beneficial for all sorts of reasons.
When we let our minds wander, we use different parts of the brain than we use when we’re focused on a project or problem. When our minds wander, we access the part of our brain associated with play and pretending. Often this wandering has a way of wandering back to our work and can open up new creative pathways, thoughts, and ideas. In the book, Creativity and the Wandering Mind, the authors talk about this idea stating “if a project is stuck in a rut, deliberately trying to associate irrelevant elements with project requirements can provoke a new direction.” Its science!
Not Every Creative Art Block Is Created Equal
Sometimes the pressures of life that might be causing a creative art block are coming from circumstances or problems we have no control over. All of the techniques I mentioned here can be helpful in daily life for many things, but they shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for getting professional help when you need it.
If you’re having unhealthy thoughts, or feel like you can’t move on no matter what, please seek help from a therapist or contact your doctor for advice. Mental health is nothing to play around with. I’ve seen many students in my classes over the years, not to mention colleagues, family members and myself as well get to a point where they needed some professional help. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We all need a little help now and then.
Keep Pushing and Help Limit Creative Art Block in the Future
If you’re serious about limiting creative art block and improving your general quality of life, you might consider making meditation and mindfulness an everyday part of your life.
I began meditating often about a year and a half ago and it has made an incredible difference in my life. I feel more focused, more energetic, and generally more happy than I ever have. I’m not perfect and I’ve dropped off a few times but picked it back up again. It’s a constant effort, but once it becomes a habit, it will be easier. Transcendental Meditation practitioners suggest meditating for 20 minutes twice a day for best results. I’m more on the few-times-a-week plan right now, but I’m getting there. 🙂
Wrapping Up and My Experience With Creative Art Block
Creative art blocks are going to happen – even when we take the best care of our bodies and minds. Realizing that you’re feeling frustrated or that you need to do something differently to move forward is an important part of the process of being a creative person.
I hope some of these suggestions help you the next time you have a creative art block. They’ve definitely helped me with mine. We’re all different and we all have our own unique outlook on life, art, and the world. Finding healthy ways to release and remove or rethink the pressures we all face can go a long way toward making life and creating work easier and more fun!
Get out in nature. Relax. Breathe. Make great things!