Creativity and How to Deal with Creative Block

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I am a writer and digital artist based in London, UK. My artwork on involves abstract themes and Chinese characters. I am currently writing a travel memoir of a 6 month trip round South East Asia entitled 'Transiting'.

Sometimes creativity flows out of us like its a kind of energy we are channeling. We put pen to paper, paintbrush to canvas or plectrum to guitar and bring to life something new, novel and exciting. This feels like the highest form of creativity. Getting lost in the moment, forgetting everything else and focusing on the task at hand. It’s pleasurable, perhaps intense at times, and above all productive. Occasionally, pent up emotions are expressed with rapidity and urgency.

A performance may go from engaging to enthralling, or a writer might chart out an entire vision for a novel or script in a matter of minutes. It’s a peak, a high, a near wonderful state of being where we are able to influence our surroundings or enrapture an audience. Unfortunately this sensation and acute sense of power to produce is not available to each of us at any time when we require it. It’s hard to create from this seemingly elevated state on demand.

As a result we mostly create through a process of methodical, habitual and entrenched activity. This leaves us susceptible to blocks of various kinds. What could be worse to someone who knows the aforementioned feelings than a full on block? Nothing. It is horrific to be stalled when your living depends on it. Horrendous to find your favorite hobby is not as easy as it once was. It is disheartening to be prevented from doing something that you know can give you and others great joy when only it works.

Let me say that there is no one reason why your creativity might be blocked. Life is complex and complicated. Different people are going through different stages of life at different times. It is common sense that we can’t all be at our peak all the time. This article will explore several common types of creative block and how to resolve them.

Mental block

There are certain people who think they just are not creative. People who imagine that creativity is something done by another group of people, be they artists, musicians, directors or whatever. This is blocked thinking. This kind of thinking is a construct, made by the comparison between creations of great works and seemingly humble efforts. Anyone who can hold a pen can draw an image, but its unlikely they would think of drawing a simple smiley face as an act of creativity.

The mental block is heralded by the voice of our inner critic and when left in place can hinder long term attempts to lead a fulfilling life. The inner critic compares what you are doing to the world around, to the greater body of work you may be contributing to or the stand out stars in the field. The inner critic makes you give up, it saps your energy through its constant and malign presence. If left to run on repeat it is capable of turning your once treasured pursuit into an ash tray of forgotten and faded hopes.

Dealing with Mental block

The voice of the inner critic is fundamentally our own, and that is why it can be so influential. The way to deal with this is to recognize that it is our own and to know that we control it. Through this recognition it is possible to put an end to its negativity. When negative thoughts arise in your mind, recognize them for what they are, recognize that you are not those words, that you exist beyond your thoughts.

Realize that your creative work is exactly what it needs to be, and what is more, that you can change your perspective. For example, if you feel like you are not getting anywhere, time and time again, and the inner voice reminds you of this fact, just recognize that you are persistent, that this is a strength. Every avenue explored that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere is one that you don’t have to go down again.

Emotional Block

This is especially difficult for people who like to create from ‘the heart’. People who internalize difficult or challenging times from their lives often find it a source for inspiration. Others find life events can overwhelm them and prevent them from opening up creatively like they have done in the past. The spectrum of human emotions is broad and this is reflected in the barriers to creative activities we may encounter. There are creators who bring forth beautiful things from dark places who may find they mellow with age and maturity and as they find stability. On the other side of the scale there are people who are bubbling with exuberance and energy and can create until something tragic happens and then it seems like the magic vanishes. This is the nature of the emotional block.

Dealing with Emotional block

Returning to ones childhood happy place or recreating feelings of anxiety and despair for want of creation may be difficult to achieve. It’s hard to fake feelings, especially when trying to convince ourselves to produce content like we used to or provide bright ideas for our next project. However, time is a healer; given time everything is drawn into perspective. Events will morph in the distance of memory and things that seem important now will seem trivial later.

The future is out there, racing towards us minute by endless minute. It is the coming time that you can invest in to deal with emotional block. The past is gone, what you created in the past may have longevity, it may be valuable, but it is not your best. Your best is yet to come. There is something to believe in, that a future you is looking back, smiling and willing you forward, onward to bigger and better things.

Personal Block

Personal circumstances are more of a practical block than the previous two issues dealt with. Everyone has demands on their time. Basic needs such as eating and sleeping take up a size-able chunk but then work life, family life and generally managing relationships all intrude on our mental and temporal space we need to create. It is such a shame when the priority level for our creative hobby gets lowered and lowered until we no longer practice. Without the constant repetition and practice we forget the skills. Once that has happened motivation drops and the other types of block start to kick in. As a relevant aside,there’s nothing like a newborn life to make you realize what sacrificing your time really means, and thats just an observation from friends of mine.

Dealing with Personal Block

The first thing to point out here is that sometimes life, the world, universe, natural order etc will prevent you from getting on with creative acts. But putting the thought of newly born babies and natural disasters aside, there are many ways to enhance your time management. There’s a vast literature of time management stuff out there, books, free pdfs online and videos. Whilst it may seem like common sense that we can all manage our time, I hear so many people complain that there’s not enough time in the day.

In a hectic lifestyle it may be hard to get fifteen minutes to yourself each day. There are various disciplines you could take up to get around this impediment. Keeping a journal or note book and making notes or drawings just quickly at the end of the day will gradually build up to something that you can draw inspiration from and work with. Given enough time, it will make you proud.

Poverty Block

I’m not talking here about the grinding and relentless poverty that effects the homeless and the destitute. Obviously extreme poverty and the mental and social damage that results will impact creativity. What I’m referring to is the practicality of not having the equipment you want to create with, not being able to afford the lessons you need or some other material or social deprivation. It can block creativity because we have an ‘if only’ feeling. This is a dangerous mental construct. We think that ‘if only’ we had the resources we could prosper; ‘if only’ we had the contacts we could break into the scene. As a result of the ‘if only’ ideation we become focused on the fact that we don’t have whatever it is and that effects our motivation. On top of that, it clouds any awareness of what we actually already have.

Dealing with Poverty Block

Not having what you think you need gives you the ability to improvise and overcome the perceived deficit. If you really want to convey a great idea, you will find a way no matter what your situation. It is possible to reach out and overcome any barrier given enough will power. Take the example of a funded learning course, be it in an institution or delivered online, the scale doesn’t matter. If you are unable to afford the course because it is financially too demanding, take another free one, and another;until you build an alternative skill set.

Once you make enough money and can take the initial course. There are no get rich quick schemes without catches. Furthermore, the problem with getting rich quick is that the underlying issues which led to the need to get rich quick will be pervasive. People who get rich quick can also get poor quick.

Concluding Remarks

There is no silver bullet for creativity. It is a profound form of human activity which has been part of our make up from the time immemorial. We can all create and we can all create unique and wonderful things if we find the time and deal with the mental precepts that are holding us back. It is really a question of mind over matter;we must use our minds to direct the matter.

How Do You Deal with Creative Blocks?

What are your tips, hints and tricks when it comes to dealing with a creative block? Please let us know in the comment box below!

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Cameron Robertson

I am a writer and digital artist based in London, UK. My artwork on involves abstract themes and Chinese characters. I am currently writing a travel memoir of a 6 month trip round South East Asia entitled 'Transiting'.

Creativity and How to Dea…

by Cameron Robertson time to read: 7 min