For quite some time I believed that creative block was just a temporary condition which prevents you from releasing some fresh ideas and unlocking creativity. That it comes and goes easily and you simply need some proper night sleep and a good morning coffee. Turns out those creative blocks can be a serious condition among artists, designers and other creatives. It can affect not only your work but your overall well-being and even mental health.
In this article, I will cover all of the most common questions people ask about this issue: What is a creative block? What are the signs of creative block? What can cause a creative block? And of course - How to overcome creative block?
1. So what is a creative block?
In short, Creative block is a state of mind that prevents you from producing your usual higher level or creative output.
It can occur when you least expect it and can last way longer than you’d like it to. Even when you love what you do (and I hope you love being an artist) there is no guarantee that you will never experience this condition. On the contrary, you are pretty much guaranteed to face it one day. That’s why I believe it’s important to be prepared for it. First of all, you need to be able to realize that you’ve been hit by one. Let’s look at that more closely.
2. Signs of creative block to look for.
We all experience it in different ways and have different reasons that may cause it. But there are similarities that are pretty common to this issue. I distinguish 3 main symptoms. You might recognize some of these signs right away:
- Struggling to start working on something new
- Feeling stuck and doubting your abilities
- Delays in delivering work and procrastination
If you have experienced any of these conditions, then you probably finally met our arch nemesis J But don’t worry, you are not alone. Creative blocks can happen to everyone in their career no matter how long they have been pursuing their artistic journey, how many awards they have or how talented they are.
3. What causes creative blocks?
Now when you know you have hit the creative block, it is useful to understand where they come from.
There are various reasons of this problem. They vary greatly depending on your creative field, living and working conditions, background, psychological profile, habits etc. But from my experience I can pick out these main 5:
- A pretty common case of overwork
We often get caught up in the whirlwind of everyday job routine. And it’s easy not to notice that the sheer amount of work can grow from time to time. Meanwhile the time we spend on rest stays the same or even diminishes. Especially during some important projects or busy periods. So we simply don’t notice that we overwork on a daily basis. Meanwhile it is one of the biggest and most common reasons of creative blocks.
- Self-doubt and anxiety
Getting second thoughts and feeling anxious is also not a rare thing. Sometimes the working idea doesn’t materialize into real outcome fast enough or comes out not the way we envisioned it. Or we come across someone’s execution of our idea that seems better that what we produced. It all can cause self-doubts and a whole package of unpleasant emotions that come with it. This directly influences our creative productivity leading to creative block issue.
- Rejection of your work and criticism
It’s not easy to accept criticism of your own work that you’ve been working hard on. Especially when it’s not fair or comes from someone who doesn’t have a full understanding of the topic or the needed background to be the judge. And if we let this criticism to get to us, it can easily cause feelings of uncertainty and inspirational crisis.
- External reasons like family or money problems
It’s no secret we live in a complicated and fast-paced world. And it only gets crazier with each year. Yes, we do have more opportunities, but they come with additional responsibilities and new challenges. Earning money has always been and still is one of the main problems people of all professions have to deal with. Add to this always complex relationships and it can be more than enough to overload us and break the balance.
- Existential crisis
We all have moments in life that carry high importance for us. It can be anything really, from getting married to changing job or moving to a new city. But quite often these moments act like milestones that trigger a process of introspecting, when we start questioning the meaning of our life in general, when we slow down and start evaluating our present and past deeds. Needless to say that this can be quite psychologically demanding. And as a result we may hit a creative block.
4. How to overcome creative block
You see, almost everybody experiences creative blocks at some point in life. Therefore, the question is not when it happens but what to do when it does occur. What matters is to be able to deal with creative blocks, to know how to overcome them. Understanding the nature of the problem helps a lot, that’s why I covered it first. But now let’s get into the solving-the-problem part of this topic.
I find these 6 solutions to be most useful and effective. Depending on the situation you might wanna combine a couple of them. On the other hand following a single one might be enough. It’s up to you to try it and see what works for you personally.
- Admit you have a creative block
Recognizing that you have a creative block is a big step to coping with it. No, you are neither lazy nor lacking talent to do your work – it’s just one of those bad days. It happened because of certain reasons, so this is a normal process of the cause and effect. Don’t let self-doubt and anxiety take over you – just stay calm and analyze the situation. Admit that you had your reasons for feeling this way and know that it will pass eventually.
- Change your routine and take a break
Don’t allow yourself to focus on your condition, do not waste time simply dwelling on it. Take action. The easiest and the most useful one it to take a break from what you are doing. Just stop and do something else. Go wash your dishes, read a book, go for a bicycle ride (you may have noticed I’m a bicycle enthusiast 🙂 ), sing your favorite songs.
Even simple change of your environment can do the trick – go for a walk some place you haven’t been to yet. Or have a dinner in a new café. A good old traveling vacation usually does miracles.
- Switch to your passion project
Working on passion projects can provide a nice distraction for your mind. You don’t need to present your outcome to anyone or meet any deadlines – you are in full control here.
Let your mind wander, feel free to experiment and have fun. Even if nothing very artistic comes out of it, the change of activity may help to release the tension and make the creative block go away.
- Have some time for yourself
We artists are very sensitive folks and that’s the reason we must be extremely attentive to our mental health. Listen to your body and try to recognize the bad signs.
If you feel like you are taking on too much – allow yourself to slow down. Do not take any more work for some time. Maybe you need a small break from social media or even a couple of days of solitude to clear the mess in your head. Figure out what works for you the best and allow yourself this Me-time. Be egoistic. This is one the rare occasion when it’s a good thing actually.
- Don’t chase perfection
Sometimes the reason behind your creative block is a constant chase for perfection. Nothing seems good enough and you continue making tweaks to your work while staying unhappy with the results. Being focused so much on the perfect result can even discourage you from starting a new project. Because every idea seems mediocre. I’ve read about quite successful writers who stopped writing being afraid that their next book won’t be good enough. I think this relates to the other creatives as well.
My advice here is simple – don’t get fixed on creating a perfect image. It is all relative in the end. What you think is perfect today, tomorrow you might find lacking. So just start the piece and let your creative ideas flow, whatever they are atm. Take small steps, work on your projects consistently even if it will be just for half an hour every day. Let your brain believe you are making progress and at certain point you’ll start to feel inspiration again.
- Share your concerns
Sometimes it’s vital to have some fresh perspective on your work. Ask your community, a close friend or colleagues for their honest opinion. When your concerns are being spoken out they will immediately appear half less scary.
Everyone needs words of comfort and encouragement once in a while and it’s not shameful to ask for those when you feel down and uninspired. Even if you do not receive any specific reactions and opinions, voicing your concerns will help you to look at the core of the subject from a different perspective.
I hope my article helps you understand what creative block is, what it is caused by and more important what to do when you hit one. Just remember – we all face those blocks from time to time, so it’s not a reason to panic or get stressed about. Follow these steps and the block will be gone before you know it.
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This Post Has 6 Comments
Thanks. This is a very important and useful post. It is very important to know what happens to everyone. Sometimes it seems that this is only with me))))
Creative block is a common problem, I hope my advice will help you 🙂
I always temporarily have the issue, but I didn’t know its name. Now I know it is called creative block. Thanks Anniko.
My pleasure 🙂
Hi Anniko! Just wanted to say I’m loving your blog, website and art! I’m so happy I discovered you while looking for Procreate reviews lol! Looking forward to seeing what you do in the future! 🙂
Thanks, Sam! Glad you found it useful 🙂 I do post new illustrations on my Instagram pretty regularly, will be happy to see you there as well