Lloyd Coenen

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How To Deal With Creative Blocks (An Arsenal Of Tips & Tricks From 7 Awesome Artists)

We all have moments in our creative careers where we just can’t get the work done. Whether that be your next paragraph in the novel you're writing or the next piece of art you're to create. It's like a brick wall being lowered between your face and your work, making you continue blind and with no direction. It's annoying, & it’s what causes your creative anxieties.

But how do we overcome it? How do we kick that block so we can create great things every time we sit down to do the work?

I recently experienced a creative block like a spade to the face. I felt lost and useless, like what I was doing was pointless. This kicked up my anxiety of impostor syndrome. Which is where you feel like you're being something you're not or you're labelled as something you think you don't deserve to be labelled, which can kill your passion and creativity in an instant.

Not wanting to let this take over me, I took to Instagram to understand how some of the best artists on my following list deal with these anxieties and creative blocks. 

Doing this I was hoping to create an arsenal of tricks, tips and habits to nip it in the bud as soon as I felt it creeping up. Also, to put it to you guys so you too can help battle your own creative blocks.


I dropped in the DM's of 10 Artists on Instagram and asked them how they deal with creative blocks, 7 replied.

Here are their responses…


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DANIEL

HOOPER

SELF TAUGHT FINE ARTIST

I walk the dog, that’s it!
— Daniel Hooper

Daniel's method is simple, but works for him and will probably work for a lot of others.

Getting out of your head, stepping back for a short period of time so you can return clear minded.

One of the main causes of creative blocks is having too much going on in your mind and not being able to concentrate on the task at hand.

Example...Too many ideas for the next pieces you want to do when the one you're working on isn't even completed.

Step away and spend 15 minutes and be active. Come back ready to take on your work.


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GEORGE

HALL.

PAINTER, PRINT-MAKER AND ILLUSTRATOR

I get through creative blocks by: exercise, drawing & doodling.
Having a massive cleanup of my studio and apartment really helps.
Also allowing myself to take a couple of days off, even if I need to cancel or delay things.
— George Hall

Clutter and mess.. You know it needs to be dealt with but it's not really at the top of the list of things to do, is it?

It should be. That niggle of small things that need doing can contribute to your creative blocks. If it takes 5 mins to sort and you know it'll free up your mind, sort it there and then.

I know some creatives thrive in their organised mess. But if you don't, spend 5 mins each time you're ready to work just clearing your space. You'll clear your mind in the process. Tidy desk, tidy mind and all that.

Take a break. When we have passion for what we do, it's easy to blur the lines between our work and our lives outside of our work. You might think working 12 hours a day is good and you enjoy it, but in reality you're slowly burning yourself out.

Try taking an hour out a day. Pop out for lunch or a coffee.

Even if you love working 12 hour days, be sure to take 1-2 days off per week.

Spend this time with family and friends and switch off from your work. Come back from the break ready to go again with a clear mind.


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LILY WINDSOR WALKER

PRINTED TEXTILES

I like to move away from whatever space I’m in to just be somewhere else for a while.
I like to go through my art books (Matisse especially) to get some inspiration.
I sometimes go for walks to clear my head and to get inspired by nature.
— Lily Walker

Find inspiration from somewhere other than your own head. Finding it from your head can be like going fishing. You could be sat there for hours without a bite or catch.

There's nothing wrong with looking at someone's work, taking inspiration from it and creating something. This isn’t plagiarism in the slightest.

Inspiration could be found from of a book, an article, Pinterest or, dare I say it.... even Instagram.**

Find your preferred source of inspiration, and don't think you're failing yourself just because the work isn't coming fully and directly from your own head, no-ones ever has done. And if they say it has, they’re probably lying.

**Social media get's a bad reputation. It's blamed for causing anxiety, depression and creative blocks. Rightly so. A hammer can be a great tool, it can be a murder weapon too. Used correctly and following the right people, Instagram can spark some incredible inspiration in just minutes.


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BOBBI RAE

ILLUSTRATOR AND DESIGNER

Finding the root of that bad seed (creative block) is always the first
port of call when looking for a solution. Do I need new inspiration?
Is my motive not compelling enough? Or maybe I am feeling crappy about my work because I have been staring at social media for far too long, collecting guilt points for each post I scroll past; seeing just how productive everyone else is being.
— Bobbi Rae

Back to social media.. If you find yourself aimlessly scrolling instead of a planned 'inspiration scroll’, then you're using it badly and it will make your block worse.

As artists and creatives, we need to use these platforms to benefit our work and not let them destroy our creativity.

If you're scrolling because you're procrastinating about the work you need to do, then you shouldn’t be scrolling. You will end up looking at other people and think they're better or more productive, therefore putting negativity on yourself and your own work.

If you schedule some time each day to do some 'Inspiration scrolling', you'll come at it with a completely different mind set and take inspiration from what you see, rather than demotivation.

Social media is a filtered version of reality. We're not dumb, but we are when we don't realise this filter is there when we scroll. We compare ourselves to these filtered people and lives, completely forgetting that we know that they've filtered out the bad stuff in order to make their feed the perfect place. Try become more aware of the feelings you get when you scroll. If you feel negativity, jealousy or depression, stop right there and close the app.

If you want to really use social media to create outstanding inspiration, do these things..

  • Cull anyone who doesn't inspire you, make you happy or have a substantial role in your life. Unfollow or block them.

  • Definitely cull the naysayers. These might be old high school friends, they might even be family members. If they're giving you bad vibes and negativity about your work, hit that unfollow/block button.

  • If point 2 is a little too harsh for you, set up a new Instagram for your art and inspiration scrolling.

  • Spend time browsing the hashtags of your interests and type of creativity. Follow the people that spark even a little bit of inspiration.

  • Be aware of your feelings when you’re on social media, when negativity crops up adjust your thoughts or close the app and go do something else.

If my motive for making isn’t keeping me going, I take another look at what I am doing. Why am I doing it? What do I want to achieve? How do I do that? Making plans and lists might seem like procrastination to some but I find that it really helps to give me focus and direction when I am caught in a block..
— Bobbi Rae

If you really want to start creating great things on a constant basis, you should set goals and ambitions for your work. To navigate these you also need to schedule and plan the work/tasks to get you there.

On Sunday evening, write down what you want to accomplish for the following week. Keep it simple and actionable.

NO - ‘Work on my art’ (this isn’t measurable)

YES - ‘Finish 1 new acrylic painting by the end of the week’ (measurable with a specific outcome)

Write them down, then narrow it down to just the 4 most important items. The 4 that shout "If I was to complete this, I would be 1 step closer to achieving my goal" - Then plan your week around those items.

Any spare time after these things are scheduled and completed, you can then look at dropping in the other things that were on the list. But make it about the 4 important things first, don't pick up anything else until these are done.

If you've scheduled to drop into the studio to work on a specific idea or piece for 2 hours on Wednesday afternoon, the chance of a creative block cropping up is smaller. You've had this planned since Sunday evening and been gearing up to it.

Go forth and allow yourself to make some terrible work.
It leads to better work. Promise.
— Bobbi Rae

Making something you don’t end up liking is better than not making anything at all. Every bad piece you create is a lesson. It might take doing 5 pieces and scrapping them all before you create something you like. But if that's the process, well, that's the process!


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DANNY SKEZ

MIXED MEDIA ARTIST

I overcome my creative blocks by not taking my art too seriously. Forgetting about who is going to see my art and what their opinions are.
Solely focusing on how I feel about the piece I’m drawing.
It all comes down to my enjoyment in the art.
If I haven’t got that enjoyment or happiness there’s no point in doing it.
— Danny Skez

Do it for yourself and your own enjoyment before you do it for anyone else or to make money. The money and buyers should come once you’ve found and shown passion in your work.

If you put others first, you fall into the trap of worrying if your work is any good. You start comparing your work to others in a negative way, which blocks your creativity.

When you have the passion and enjoyment in creating, it shows through in your work. People can sniff out a fake passion from a mile away.

How can you expect people to like your work when you don't find joy in creating it?

Simply put, it needs to be your hobby first. Something you do for yourself.


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CIARA FAWN

ARTIST AND ILLUSTRATOR

I know that I have to be in the right frame of mind to be creative, so I created a folder on my phone specifically for homing ideas, naming it ‘art inspo’. Whenever something sparks an idea, I take a photo/screen shot of it and move it into that folder;
ultimately, I’m leaving myself visual notes for later
— Ciara fawn

The key to overcoming your creative blocks, is for you to be aware of what you personally need to overcome them. Every single person is different. You might create an inspiration folder on your phone like Ciara. Take a screenshot anytime you feel that spark of inspiration and drop it into a syncing folder on your phone. You’ll have access to it anywhere and any time when those blocks crop up. Ciara recommends using Pinterest for this too.

Keep following other creatives, make inspirational boards, rearrange your workload
where possible and push on past creative blocks
— Ciara fawn

If you’re like me, you might find it difficult to transition from comparing your work to other artists, to pulling inspiration from other artists. It’s taken me over a year and I know that it can take others longer. But once you transition over, your work begins to flourish. Make that conscious effort to appreciate everyone else in your field. Understand that they’ve not got to this point without the hardships you’re probably experiencing yourself. Try direct messaging them to ask them about their journey, you’ll be surprised at the response. As creatives, we like to talk about our journeys because it’s not often they’re brought up in conversation.


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SIMON BONNER

ARTIST

I enjoy what I do and if someone else likes it, it’s basically a bonus. I can’t tell you how to get there yourself but I’ve deleted about 2.5k instagram followers in the last month. They weren’t real people anyway so forget about numbers. 10 real fans are far better than 1000 people who just want you to follow back. That was cathartic.
Likes and comments can be great but isn’t doing the actual art better?
— SIMOn bonner

I love what Simon say’s here, it reminds me of the ‘1000 true fans’ article by Kevin Kelly (Click HERE to read it)

The article talks about having an army of 1000 super fans, fans that love you and everything you do. These fans will purchase from you, like your photos and do whatever you want just from the love of your work or message.

Social media numbers are just that, numbers. Like Simon, I too took my following from 13k down to under 10k because of the sheer volume of fake and bot accounts that followed me. Through no fault of my own either, it just happens when your following gets to a certain level. These fake accounts effect your engagement and reach on every post you put up.

Don’t get too caught up in the numbers on social media. The amount of likes, follows and comments have nothing to do with you and are out of your control, especially with the instagram algorithm as it is now. Concentrate on what you can control - your work.

With creative blocks, the fear of messing up can be just as bad as not gaining approval. If you enjoy the craft, just experiment. Remember, a blank page is either on its way to framing or the bin, you won’t know which until you’ve done something. A pristine new sketchbook can be daunting, so open it and fuck up the first page as bad as you can.
Every following page will be better I assure you.

Allow yourself to screw up, & often! Screw up more than you succeed. It’s the only way we get better. The resistance we feel from external validation is the most crippling factor of creative anxiety and creative blocks. Learn to not give a shit what people think and enjoy the work you create, good and bad.


KEY POINTS TO TAKE AWAY

  • TAKE BREAKS

  • FIND YOUR OWN MEDIUM OF INSPIRATION (BOOKS, INSTAGRAM, MUSIC, THE OUTDOORS etc.)

  • DO YOUR WORK FOR YOURSELF FIRST, THE REST WILL FOLLOW AFTER

  • SCREW UP, OFTEN

  • DON’T GET HUNG UP ON SOCIAL MEDIA STATS

  • SET GOALS

  • PRIORITISE YOUR WORK & MAKE LISTS


I just want to say a HUGE thank you to all the contributing artist on this Blog Post, you’ve all helped me and i’m sure you’ll help many more with the awesome advice you’ve given.

To my readers, be sure to go follow every single one of them on Instagram, they all produce amazing work and I think you’ll agree.

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