Creative blocks. As creative beings (see The Joy of a Creative Life), we all have them, some of us more than others. In my job as a graphic designer, I find I am quite often in that place of scarcity, like I’m empty or stuck. The well has run dry. I even get that way with this weekly blog sometimes. It feels like I can’t move forward and I don’t feel very motivated. Honestly, at those times, it feels like a chore instead of a joy.
The funny thing is, when I’m out creating nature art, I haven’t experienced that feeling of emptiness. So, I have to ask myself, what’s the difference?
For me, I’ve come to the conclusion that it has to do with deadlines, as well as expectations, imposed by others or by myself. I feel pressure to create in a certain manner by a certain time. It’s a feeling of tightness as opposed to openness.
When I’m out in nature, I’m creating just for the joy of the practice. Not because I have to please anyone else. Not because I have to have it ready by a certain time. Not because I care what anyone else thinks of it. And that gives me a sense of freedom. Freedom to be open so that creativity can flow through me.
Your experience with creative blocks may be quite different than mine, but the fact is, like a big boulder blocking the path in front of you, there is a way around. You just need to find it. We talked quite extensively in a recent Morning Altars class, and explored different ideas. Here are some of my takeaways:
- Rest or take a break – This is my favorite way to break through a block, but it’s not always the easiest. I find that when I take a walk, I come back refreshed and with new ways to look at things. If I’m on a tight deadline, the walk is going to have to be pretty quick.
- Take a sabbatical – The extended version of a rest or break, this can be especially effective after a really big project. Not everyone is in the position to do this, but you might give it some thought. And a sabbatical doesn’t have to be a year long break you think of for university professors. If you can only manage two weeks, make that your sabbatical. And remember, it’s not a vacation. Use the time to do some of that inner work you’ve been putting off.
- Play – Don’t be so serious! Come at creativity from a child’s view where there are endless possibilities. Let go of rules and containment and expectations. Just let go.
- Put in the work – Sort of the opposite of play, sometimes you just have to sit with the block. One of the other students in the Morning Altars class posed the idea that perhaps the blocks are really not blocks at all, they’re simply part of the creative process. Hmmm. So, keep persisting, don’t abandon the process. Picasso said: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
- Renew your faith – Serve something bigger than you. If you connect with a greater purpose, you might find that you move out of your own way.
- Create without expectation – In my graphic design job I create for clients, to come up with their vision of the product, and so when I’m able to create just for the sake of creating, I’m able to let go of any thoughts of what it should look like.
- Experimentation and opportunity – Don’t stay safe re-doing the same old thing. Leave your comfort zone. Take the bumpy, twisty, turny road instead of the same safe path.
- Change your routine or environment – Get out of your rut. Change materials or location, use new colors, get rid of traditional rules, renew your sense of wonder. As Maya Angelou said: “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
- Unlearn – Be open to setting aside the way things are supposed to be and see what comes up. When you are open, you allow creativity in.
- Plagiarize – Yep, I said it. When I feel stuck, I hit Google. I never copy, but sometimes it’s enough to get my creative juices flowing.
The next time you find yourself in a creative block, give some of these ideas a try. And share with me how you move past your blocks.