Overcoming creative blocks

Everyone gets stuck. There are times when we can’t paint, can’t write. Nothing seems to grab interest and the ideas just don’t arrive.

Below are the things I do when I get a ‘creative block’. It is my own personal list. Feel free to add or subtract ideas, according to what helps you. Here goes:

  • Value the pause. Don’t worry. Creativity, in my experience, must lie fallow in order to rejuvenate. Sometimes we can’t see the woods for the trees. Sometimes we’re creatively tired. Ideas mull in the background while you do other things. Things which may unexpectedly help you.
    Judging the block will exacerbate frustration, rather than help it shift. Instead, welcome it.
  • Try some creative ‘crop rotation’! When inspiration dries up, try something new. If you draw, try writing, and vice versa. This works for me. How about photography, music or handicraft? At uni I did a joint honours degree in French and Spanish and found it really helpful to switch between languages when my mind needed a change of scene.
  • Try free writing, as Julia Cameron advocates in The Artist’s Way. (Read the Artist’s Way!)
  • Seek out culture – books, exhibitions, films, open-mic nights, performances.
  • Find a new location to write/draw – up a tree (in summer!), the staircase, the great outdoors, a museum or library… (Dodie Smith’s Cassandra chose the draining board, feet in the kitchen sink, in ‘I capture the Castle’!)
  • Try a different schedule, a new time of day. Dawn!?
  • Have a break from creativity. Do something else that’s practical while the inspiration banks refill. Fold some clothes? Sort some stuff?
  • Do exercise. Ideas brew when I walk, swim, cycle. And I always return feeling much more positive than when I left the house!
  • Write favourite lists to get happy inspiration. Ideas admin, as it were.  I write lists of favourite smells, sights, sounds, textures, tastes. It conjures good mood. I keep these, and favourite observations and descriptions, on index cards.
  • Practice basic art techniques, making marks, brush strokes or cross-hatching.
  • Meet people. It can be helpful to get out of one’s own head and have a change of scene.
  • Make a scrap book of postcards, photos or materials that spark interest. Write a mind map around these items. Today a museum postcard gave me an idea for a children’s book!
  • Mix and match ideas. Write a list of locations (desert, beach, street market…) and characters (doctor, astronaut, donkey…) then mix and match which location goes with which character. Pull them out at random. Write or draw their story/portrait.
  • Create a character portrait then draw or write about them. Fill in these details:
    Character’s name?
    Where are they?
    Where does their money come from?
    What clothes do they wear?
    What is their favourite colour?
    What do they need right now?
    What stops them from getting it?
    What is their secret?
    Anything else you want to add…
  • Be patient. The spring arrives when it is ready and is all the more colourful for a barren winter. Some of my most ‘boring’ and ‘unproductive’ months later supplied me with a wealth of material. I went on many an unsatisfactory ‘mindful’ walk, waiting for an epiphany as I stared blankly at trees and leaves. Now I smile as these images of trees fill the pages of my sketchbooks.
    And lastly, but importantly…
  • Ask someone else how their day was. Creative blocks can be self-consuming!

    Hope this helps!
    Miss Scribble.
  • Click here to follow me on Instagram at rebekahcurtisart.
  • (My next blog post this week, ‘Can’t create? Still a creative’, will discuss how you can still identify as a creative even when the writing or art freezes up.)


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