We've all been there. We've been there many times.
We start out with a great idea, enthusiasm and what feels like endless amounts of energy. Then slowly we produce less and less. We get distracted or busy with other things.
Our artwork - whether that be a painting, a sculpture or a novel - ends up sitting on a shelf just starring reproachfully at us.
How do we overcome this creative block? Do we attempt to finish our work, even if we aren't happy with it? Or do we move on to the next idea?
How do we prevent it from happening again?
There are many types of creative blocks, and in order to deal with them it's important to understand what is causing them.
What is your creative learning curve?
For me my projects all start with initial excitement and and seemingly endless supply of energy. But I would burn myself out after a while.
When I finally realized what I was doing to myself, I decided to take a break and have a closer look at my rutines and my creative learning curve.
I started to see a pattern.
Though I was an incredible dedicated person in general, my energy seemed to drop a few weeks or months into a new project.
I think this happens for a lot of people.
Everything seems so smooth in the beginning when a project is still new and exciting.
Then after a while we have to ask ourselves - is what I'm doing going to work in the long run?
Am I willing to invest the energy and time it will take to make it work?
In the beginning of a new art project I would work night and day. I was so motivated I just couldn't help it. But I would burn out. And when I was tired or hungry I stopped producing good work.
Others might face other obstacles. You might loose motivation or inspiration.
You might run out of money or time.
You might not believe that what you are creating are worthy for the world to see.
Loose faith in yourself.
Looking back at projects you've done, do you see a pattern?
If you can identify your own blocks, you can figure out how to handle them in the future.
Below is an illustration of my creative curve. This curve will look different for everyone, but hopefully you'll get the idea.
I hit a point during every project where I was tempted to give up.
But I'm stubborn. I never quit something 've started.
So I decided that if quitting wasn't an option, then I might as well take all that energy that I was using 'thinking about quiting' and put it into something productive instead; like figuring out how to overcome my obstacles.
Because if quitting wasn't a choice then I knew I would eventually finish what I'd started.
It was about identifying 'my wall' so I could push through it.
I like to think about it in the same way as people running marathons.
There will be a point where you feel like giving up, but if you manage to push through it then you can basically run forever.
Here are 5 types of blocks and how you can deal with them.
Block #1 Minor block like loosing concentration.
Your mind starts drifting. All of a sudden everything else seems more interesting, even the dirty dishes.
How to handle it:
Go for a walk or take a shower to clear your mind. Allow yourself to take breaks.
Have you remembered to eat and drink? Staying hydrated is key for concentration.
Have you been looking at your computer screen for too long? (this happened to me while writing this blog post, so I went for a 10 min walk.)
Block #2 Practical Block, i.e. not enough time or money.
This one is incredibly frustrating because you're often not in control of it.
Your project might have come to a stand-still because you've run out of money or because you're doing overtime at work and there simply isn't enough hours in the day to do everything that you want to do.
How to handle it:
Make sure you allocate time and money for your project.
It's not ideal but it's a step in the right direction.
Set a side 2 hours or 2 days (whatever your schedule allows) to work on your project. Stick to it.
Make a budget. How much will your project actually cost you in terms of material etc? Set aside some money every week, even if it's just a small amount.
The knowledge that you are working towards your goal will keep you motivated.
Block #3 Burn out Block.
It's easy to overdue it like I did, especially in the beginning of a new project.
You might be under time pressure to finish, or you might just be so excited that you can't stop.
How to handle it:
It's important not to use all your resources at once. Your project might run for a while, and after that project there will be another project and another project, and so on.
Schedule time to relax and to socialize. It might sound easy, but if you are a workaholic like me you'll know it's not!
Rutines are important. Go to sleep the same time every night, and don't skip a meal. Looking after yourself is essential to produce good and regular work.
Block #4 Perfection Block. It's not good enough!
A lot of artists are perfectionist and it can be easy to loose faith in yourself.
How to handle it:
Start by not comparing yourself to others. You can't compare your 'middle' to somebody else's 'end'. Every journey is different.
Remember it's about the journey, not your final destination. If you're not enjoying the journey then what's the point of being an artist?
You can't wait for your work to be perfect to put it out there. As artists and as people, we will continue to grow throughout our career, so just start putting your art out into the world - get feedback - learn from others - experiment.
Make commitments to yourself and to others that you will finish your project! By saying it out loud and telling others your intentions, you are more likely to finish.
Block #5 Loosing your way. Why am I doing this?
Often we rush into a new exciting project without thinking about what we're actually trying to say or achieve.
You might be spending all your free hours on it, and all of a sudden you stop and think 'is it really worth it?
How to handle it:
Figure out your 'WHY'! Ideally you should know this before you start your project, but in reality we rarely do. Often it start as a small thing and grows into something much bigger and meaningful - like my Bodies of Art Book.
But sooner or later, for your project to succeed, you need to ask yourself the big question: 'Why am I doing this'? What is your goal? Are you doing this for yourself or others? Who is your target market?
If you can't answer these questions, then maybe it´s time to move on to something else.
Now it´s your turn!
Grab a pen a paper and draw your own creative learning curve.
Perhaps your frustration is in the beginning of a project - struggling to come up with a solid idea? (read 'Where Does Ideas Come From?')
Or maybe it's when you are close to the finishing line, because you fear the output isn't good enough?
What keeps you from reaching your goal?
Think of 5 things that holds you back and how you plan to deal with them in the future.
Feel free to share your thoughts and result in the comments below.
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