Many of us have been there. One minute, you’re swimming in inspiration, eager to sit down and put your ideas down on paper or start creating something, and the next… nothing. Blank canvas, blank mind. The cursor blinking innocently at you, as if to say, “Yes? You were saying?” The pencil held limply in your hands as a sudden horror seizes you at the idea of touching graphite to paper. You pick up your instrument of choice and as you bring it into proper position to play–well. You get the idea.
I hate it. I’m sure you do too. It comes with this sense of anxiety, this dread that you simply have nothing of meaning to write, craft, or play and so how can you even? Notebooks sit untouched. Sharpened pencils are unused. Instruments unplayed. The equipment you bought to record your new podcast or YouTube series stares at you, glaring in disappointment at the wasted potential.
So what causes it? And what can you do about it?
Creative blocks can be caused by a lot of things. Stress. Exhaustion. Expectations. Sometimes you don’t recognize the issue, and it may seem as if that makes it hard to treat.
But not necessarily.
A writer over at sketchbook.com did a full article about creative blocks and ways to cope with them. Simple - stupidly simple - methods in clear language. Here is the article, but I will save you a few minutes and list some of the offered solutions in Sketchbook’s article below:
- Take a 20 minute nap Maybe you’re just tired?
- Drink a caffeinated beverage for a pick-me-up An alternate method of dealing with exhaustion and slow, muggy brains. Also has a positive effect on one’s mood.
- Drink a caffeinated beverage and then take a 20 minute nap Double down. Seriously. It’s effective.
- Eliminate distractions. Is it too hot? Too loud? Too much YouTube? Get rid of it. Ask your friend/partner/siblings for some alone time, or go somewhere you can think clearly, if you’re able.
- Have a fun playlist handy - music can stimulate creativity
- Force it. Make yourself strum, scribble, doodle, free-write, talk, or what-have-you for 15 minutes even if it is total nonsense equating to mindless noise or squiggles on a page.
- Create a routine for yourself. Set aside time in your day, or during your week, dedicated to creation. Do not let any excuses stop you from honoring that commitment. (This can be hard with a family, but hopefully you have a supportive partner/parent/roommate who will be willing to give you a few minutes a day, even if it means you have to ensure that you are giving them the same)
- Exercise. Take a walk, go to the gym, do a dance aerobics routine or a HIIT workout you found on YouTube while you were mindlessly browsing Stu Reardon videos instead of writing or what-have-you.
- Take a break. Tell yourself that you aren’t allowed to play, write, draw, or create anything for a week, to allow your brain time to decompress and recharge. You will be dying to get back at it within half that time.
All of these methods have worked for me in the past, and I was quite pleased to see some of my favorite go-to coping mechanisms on this page, from the easy ones to the more difficult. With some support (you may have to agree to some extra chores/time with the kids/assistance with a task at a later time, but isn’t it kind of worth it?), you can create an environment and time block for yourself that is distraction-free and sacred to your creative art.
The hardest one here, for me, is the “force it.” Sounds weird, but there’s a crippling anxiety associated with beginning something new, and being afraid that it must be perfect or it isn’t worth doing. The reality, of course, is that if you never just do it, you will never grow. You will never test the boundaries of your discomfort, never have the chance to learn from mistakes or build discipline. It’s hard, but it’s so worth doing.
What are some of your preferred coping mechanisms when you’re dealing with creative blocks? Are there any from the above list that you want to try? Or any that you haven’t heard of before?
Looking forward to powering through this challenge with you all.