Have you ever experienced it? What exactly is a creative block? I remember in college days it was an obvious thing for me to say…”dude am going through a mental block”. Those days I was not equipped to understand the factors responsible for a creative slowdown. In fact it was an excuse statement for weird mood swings, feeling of detachment and work anxiety. I remember giving hard time to my family and close friends with this restless behavior. It was like mental emotional bloating, constipation or labor contraction (I know this one). Sometimes I was over whelmed with ideas that I couldn’t contain, many times completely blank and so many episodes of emotional outburst on paper. In other words, it was work paralysis!
- sketches done during good old days
It took me a while (8 years) to accept this phase and turn it in to 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- 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.
I am sure if not all of the above reasons, you will definitely resonate with at least a few of them. My creative journey has seen a lot of long breaks in between work. It’s not been a very consistent journey due to whatever reasons. So my constipation oh sorry:) I meant my block phase was more difficult and challenging. In short, I learnt it the hard way. The haiku (I started writing when I couldn’t paint) below will definitely 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 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, understand the nature of your fear- it’s just an anxiety of starting a work (you don’t know where to start) or is it about the concept you are working on or both. Is it the fear of failing or fear of funding your project? Is it your routine or your emotional pattern or surroundings? It can be any 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 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. It really helped me. I even 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 over whelming… 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 times. Eventually it did effect 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…basically work on your spiritual emotional self along with physical body. I do meditation, cooking, walk, 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 a 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 it 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. I felt frustrated for a while and then I came up with a solution. I started creating in pieces. That could be joined anytime I want and could be kept in boxes till the time I want. 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 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 own 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…you’re an easygoing one that can wait for a long time to create a body of work…or the fast track types who like to finish the same day or just few weeks months or a mix of both (am sure there are more types). Choose the ways to unblock accordingly. Earlier I couldn’t even wait for a week to create a work of art so I would do spontaneous stuff only, but today I enjoy my slow pace. I am not really in a rush. I can sleep over an idea for a few days, before am sure. But sometimes I sleep too much and that’s when I realize there is a block that I must look in to. Finally…thank you! I am trying to expand and learn like everyone else. These are my thoughts and experiences that am sharing… thinking it might be useful to you. Therefore, I‘d love to hear from you too! So let’s connect…Fill up the contact form if you enjoyed reading it.