A different perspective on creative blocks and how to overcome them

Article by ImpactHub Bucharest

Being a creative at work is definitely not an easy job, mainly because your profit often depends on your productivity. Whenever your creativity seems to have hit a brick wall, your whole world feels like it’s falling apart as you start questioning your worth as an artist, as well as your place on the market. However, we believe that it’s all a matter of framing: the way you think about the creative process will ultimately reflect in the quality of the product or service you offer and the only way to overcome creative blocks is to spin things around. This is why we want to take a moment to break down the various types of creative blocks and talk about how to make friends with your inner critic.

Mark McGuinness is a writer, poet, and a coach for creative professionals. In his e-Book dedicated to creative blocks and overcoming them, he identifies 4 main categories creative blocks can fall under:

  • Psychological: mental barriers we can’t get past or powerful emotions (often fear) that prevent us from taking on creative challenges;
  • Personal life: the way our family or relationship issues affect our energy levels, or how our lifestyle may be incompatible with getting high-quality creative work done;
  • Communication issues: difficulties in finding the right audience for your message/product, fear of other people’s opinions, or impossibility to set clear boundaries;
  • Work habits: the incompatibility between the work environment and the actual work you are doing, improper planning, not knowing when and how you work best.

However, Mark believes that there’s no such thing as a creative block – it’s only a matter of perspective. When you feel stuck in your creative endeavors, it’s worth taking a break to figure out what are the thoughts and actions that are keeping you in place. Then you will be able to act on them and change the patterns of behavior that make you less productive or inspired.

Strategies to overcome creative blocks

  • Be consistent: though you may not always be overflowing with wit and genius ideas, creativity is a process and should be treated as such; establishing a schedule, committing to a routine, and showing up every day are two essential steps if you want to embrace creativity as a habit, in the long run. Gustave Flaubert summed it up best: “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
  • Seek inspiration from other creatives: taking a closer look at how other people approach the creative process and analyzing their routine may help you fine tune your own flow; here you can find a graphic picturing the daily routines of famous creatives.
  • Find out which hours work best for you and set aside uninterrupted creative time: block off periods for working on your creative project without distraction; no e-mails, no phone calls, no texts, nothing! Just you and your artistic medium of choice.
  • Break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces: although different by its very nature, creativity is still a process and should be treated as such; establish the phases of the process, then break them down into small pieces to create a step-by-step approach that you can sustain.
  • Create an environment that inspires you: keep your office/studio tidy, distraction-free, but never dull; add a splash of color, your favorite décor elements, some bookshelves with your go-to reads, and make sure you have plenty of natural, warm light.
  • Always keep a notebook with you: good ideas come from the most unlikely places or encounters, so make sure you have a place to write them down whenever you stumble upon a word or a phrase carrying deep meanings.
  • Do something else: sometimes the best thing to do when you’re dealing with a lack of inspiration or motivation is to get up from the desk and just do something else; exercise, go for a walk, spend some time in the nature, make the most out of the time you spend outside out of your studio.
  • Work with a coach: there are coaches specialized in working with creative people; they will encourage you to think differently, ask incisive questions, draw on industry tools and exercises to clarify strengths, values, and goals, and help you create a custom plan of action you can use to achieve specific outcomes.
  • Shake the imposter syndrome off: we know it’s easier said than done, but Nir Eyal, the best-selling American author, has a killer strategy you can apply – start calling yourself a writer. Or a photographer. Or a dancer. A choreographer, an actor, a painter. He explains that our actions are tied to our identities, and if you want to achieve something like writing a book, creating a photography portfolio, acting in a musical, or organizing an exhibition with your artwork, then you should call yourself an ARTIST. It will help to keep you accountable and patient, but it will also offer you the self-trust and courage needed to act on achieving your goals and objectives.
  • Take care of your mental health: your work is important, but don’t forget that the most important project you’re working on is… you. Be mindful of the signals of your body, and don’t hesitate to press pause when you feel overwhelmed.

Circling back to the 4 main categories of creative blocks, it may be helpful to take some time and reflect on the origin of the tension in your creative endeavors. While it may not always be clear from the very beginning, such a process can be both enlightening and transformative for you and your craft as well. After this careful examination, ask yourself once again: “Do I really have a creative block? What are the thoughts that are perpetuating this idea? How can I think differently about this whole situation?”. Then pour yourself a warm cup of coffee or cocoa, take the afternoon off, read or watch something nice, and simply decompress!

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