Have you ever experienced it? What exactly is a creative block?
Experiencing creative block is an inevitable part of an artist’s life. During my art college days, I was not equipped to understand the factors responsible for a creative slowdown and how to unblock them. The word “block” was an excuse statement for weird mood swings, feeling of detachment, and idea anxiety. I remember being cold towards my family and friends, because of this restless behavior. It was like a mental-emotional bloating, constipation, or labor contraction (I know this one). Sometimes I was overwhelmed with ideas that I couldn’t contain, many times completely blank and so many episodes of emotional outbursts on paper. In other words, I was in a state of analysis paralysis.
- sketches were done during the good old days
It took me a while (8 years) to accept this phase and turn it into a positive experience by accepting my negative emotions with awareness. On the contrary, today I feel Creative blocks help us do our best work.
So now let’s understand (from my experience) what are the basic reasons behind the creative block?
- Fear of failure/ fear of where to start/ fear of experimenting.
- Self –Doubt
- Trying to be perfect right from the beginning – not ready to Let-go (control freaks).
- Emotional block (personal life and experiences).
- Lack of knowledge (techniques, material, and mediums).
- Too much thinking about the outcome.
- Mind balloon! Too many ideas.
- Lifestyle issues.
If not all of the above reasons, am sure you’ll resonate with at least a few of them. My creative journey was quite bumpy and full of long breaks. It’s not been a very consistent journey due to whatever reasons. So my constipation oh sorry:) I meant my block phase was always more challenging. In short, I learned it the hard way. The haiku (I started writing when I couldn’t paint) below will explain it more.
Today I feel blocks are here for a reason…to push ourselves…to re-think…to experiment. I feel it will be a more relaxed and enriching artistic experience if we dig deep and understand the nature of our block right from the beginning. Also, not to forget at some point you’ll have to act and stop feeding the blocks. In other words, you’ll have to train your mind to ignore them. Especially if they have been your friend for a long time.
So, let me share with you the steps I take to deal with my block.
Firstly, let’s understand the nature of your fear-if it’s just the anxiety of starting work (you don’t know where to begin) or is it about the concept you are working on or both. Sometimes it’s the fear of failing or funding the project? Is it your routine or your emotional pattern or surroundings? It can be anything. Deal with your doubts.
So here is the To-Do List:
- Start writing spontaneously- Take notes when it happens and you may notice a trend. Have a diary where you make notes, quotes, and doodle, express without any fear…just anything. Let it out! This process can continue till the end. I prefer paper and pen…some might prefer a laptop or tablet. It doesn’t matter.
- Read and watch something that you like. I usually like to read books. Suddenly few words will trigger an idea and I’ll quickly make a note for the future sketch. Last year I read a book -Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert ( https://amzn.to/33DhSvo ). It helped me and I also have a small quote diary that I keep with me while reading.
- Sometimes I do random googling (yup! you heard it right) to filter ideas stuck in my head. It kind of enlightens me and accidentally surprises me. But googling, here we have to be cautious. It can be overwhelming… So don’t overdo it and get bothered with what others are doing. It can interfere with your uniqueness.
- Your emotional and physical health. It matters when you are working on a concept or looking for one. As an art student, I would gulp down 8 to 9 cups of tea at absurd timings, munching junk, drinking, and bad food habits. I felt lethargic and irritated most of the time. Eventually, it did affect my work life. I spent most of the time brooding about why I can’t make it, instead of what I can do NOW. Go for a walk, jog, meditate… work on your spiritual emotional self along with your physical body. I do meditation, cooking, walking, dance (with my 2-year-old), and reiki (healing modality).
- If you are too stuck…leave it…forget it… go and do something else entirely that has nothing to do with art. Relax and pause (avoid social media). You’d be amazed at where new ideas are hiding out. They’re often where you would least expect them to be.
- Change your surroundings- if you work from home…step out for a few days or vice versa. Do brainstorming sessions opposite of where you are currently.
- Hunt for new material to explore and try to do something with them just for fun. Following is what I did to distract myself.
- Accept and understand your limitations. Sometimes things don’t happen the way we want them to be. We should try but not stress over it. I always wanted a permanent studio space. But somehow the circumstances and choices didn’t allow it. I felt frustrated for a while and then I came up with a solution. I started creating in pieces. So, make limitations your friend.
- Spontaneous art therapy exercises- blindfold painting/left-hand drawing/ move and draw/etc.
- Time Leakages- Meet family and friends who inspire you or just make you happy. Recently my beautiful mentor artist friend reminded me to start a routine diary for a daily to-do list (we meet once every month to encourage each other). She could see what I couldn’t because sometimes we get stuck in our pattern and we don’t get enough time to filter stuff. I started the very same day and here it is my first blog:) which I have been trying to write for a long time but time leakages and fear made it tough.
- Social media detox – it helps.
ONE Suggestion- Figure out your arty type phase…are you an easy-going one that can wait for a long time to create a body of work, or are the fast track types who like to finish in one go or maybe both (am sure there are more types). Choose the ways to unblock accordingly. Earlier I couldn’t only wait for a week or two to create the final piece, but today I enjoy my slow pace and go with the flow mood. I am not really in a rush anymore… But sometimes I relax too much and that’s when I realize there is a block that I must look into.
I am trying to expand and learn like everyone else. These are my thoughts and experiences that am sharing, thinking they might be useful to you. Therefore, I‘d love to hear from you too!
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