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Creative Block

Sienna Puleo

Aug 13, 2020
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Creative block can strike when you've run out of inspiration and hit a plateau in your artistic expression. Resist the urge to shame yourself, it's not a reflection of how 'good' you are as an artist or at generating new and inventive ideas. This line of thinking will only disempower you further and prolong your suffering. So, what do you do when you look at your old projects and long for the days of creating work that inspired you?

Back to Basics

The best place to start is by looking at the work of others. You've likely been inspired to join the creative industry by connecting with others' work (Irving Penn, anyone?). Discover what issues, communities, and ideas other artists are exploring and how they translate these esoteric ideas into a single frame or video format. No artist creates in a vacuum, and ideas beget more ideas. Try to envision how you'd accomplish the same idea (don't steal, though; treat this is a thought experiment). Great art reflects the artist's inner workings; the rawer you can translate your ideas, emotions, and experiences, the better.

Provide restrictions

If you need a break from personal work – pick an object and capture it in three to five distinct ways. Restrictions, while they may seem to limit at first, offer a creative problem to solve. If your motivation is lacking, enroll a friend to help keep you accountable. Fear of failing breeds inaction. Even if you must force yourself, trying an idea and being unsuccessful will at least move you along in the creative process.

Researching different industries

If looking at other artists' work continues to leave you uninspired, try looking at how ideas were sparked in different industries or the history behind some of the familiar objects that you love. While it may not be a 1:1 translation in how you creative problem solve, it may open avenues for idea generation and exploration.

Clear your to-do list

If you can't focus on your work because other areas are demanding your attention, try to accomplish as much as possible to free up space in your brain. Be reasonable about it, though; there will always be tasks that can keep you from investing the time and energy into your work.

Change of scenery

If you need a bit of visual novelty, plan a break or an adventure. Ideally, you can focus entirely and not be distracted by "working mentally." We often think we must keep pounding away at a problem, but the brain needs breaks to recharge. This also gives our subconscious a chance to run in the background.

Whatever the case may be, the worst thing you can do for your creative block is to sit and wait for things to change. While inspiration can strike randomly, it doesn't give you a ton of control in the process. Creative professionals are proactive, probably more so than most other industries. Embrace the qualities that make your profession unique and get the kind of success that you're looking for.