I have always found that the gift of being creative, to tap into a world of pure imagination, calls for gratitude in every way. I am a humble videographer, painter and poet with no claim to be a guru or a motivational anything whatsoever, BUT I am an artist! So let’s talk. Artist to artist.
COVID has meant hard times for many but I have also seen the artist community immerse themselves further into their creativity, despite the grandeur of current challenges. These trying times have even summoned the creativity out of people who never approached art but find themselves in a position to use their time for exploring. That being said, creativity is priceless and seeking it can be so very worthwhile, but what happens when the infamous writer’s block rears its ugly head on our intentions for the priceless? Well, I am no stranger to artistic block, so allow me this honour of sharing a personal collection of tips to overcoming it that may just spark something in you.
1. You do not always have to reinvent the wheel
Do not knock source material. There have been artists before you, there artists among you, and there will be artists long after. Your work does not have to be forced into a life of solitude. Pay respect to your artistic community and rather than only producing, try out receiving. Look into the work of the most highly acclaimed works or the most underdog creators, discovery is the motive. And guess what? You are also an artist! So if this is not your first go at art, reviewing your past work counts too. Take a trip down memory lane and learn from a different time period version of yourself.
2. Repetition can be your best friend
Think of a needle playing a record. The DJ does a scratch, once, twice, and onward. The hand motion is that force pulls you back once, twice, and onward, but the rest of the song is still there it just has yet to be played. If your art form allows for repetition, do that! I have sat on a poem repeating a phrase, scratching it until the needle of my record slightly allows another portion of my song to play.
3. No person is an island, find a buddy for prompts
Ready for a cliché? Two heads are better than one! Okay, this is debatable but team work is worth considering. It holds you accountable, it feeds you energy and it can serve as a support system. Rather than following a narrative of creating when in the mood, facilitate a personal help line. You can take a step further if this idea resonates with you. Create your own community, a writing group, a painting collective, a theatre troupe.
4. Meditate on it
You may be in a go, go, go mindset when artistically blocked. Facing a brick wall head on is not only stressful, but it’s inefficient. You know yourself better than anyone. If non-stop work and high stress situations are the environment you thrive in, all the power to you! This bullet point is for those who can benefit from taking that extra minute to breathe. Meditate on it and be creative with your meditation. Some meditations may mean rolling your mat on floor, laying down, closing your eyes, and breathing. On the other hand, I also like include grounding activities as a form of meditation. If it’s something that brings you into the present, it counts. The five senses can be great grounding tools. Try sitting in a dark room with a scented candle burning. Or try tuning into your sense of taste by sitting with a particular food or candy. Access your sense of touch by holding onto specific items, like stones or gems. Unlocking your senses can make you aware of external factors which bring you back to the present and hold your attention. It’s also important to note that as much as “mind over matter” holds true, a meditative state may also require being mindful about external factors impacting your work. Be honest with yourself. Blocks will happen, and if the problem extends further than a block you may need to tackle a few other personal life challenges before getting back into a creative process.
5. Mentors can be a wealth of information
Mentorship is a hidden gem that many people never tap into. Try it out by finding yourself a sensei! As much as people get caught up in thinking challenges are only happening to them, there is a whole wide world out there. If someone has been through something before, jump on the opportunity to bypass mistakes they have lived. Generational knowledge prioritizes building off of one person to the next. Why start from the bottom when so many have started there already?
6. Back to basics, back to ABC’s
Many artist industries include a formal education. We all know schooling is not a prerequisite to being a creative, but let us note that it can be a guide. Sometimes humbling oneself and reviewing the “101’s” of creativity might be just what you need. My art practice is 80% self taught but similar to the point about mentorship, arts educators have broken down a step by step approach to all types of project. They have built up a wealth of knowledge over the years, so why not tap into it? If you prefer a more informal approach, get connected to LinkedIn learning, online workshops, or even YouTube tutorials. (Psst! ArtsUnite has a great collection of online learning resources! Get started here.)
7. The right environment can do wonders
What is your ideal setup for work? Personally I am the type to clean a space until I can feel comfortable. Some people may be more comfortable laying down or listening to music, being in low light, working around people, or even sitting in a tub full of bubbles! Maybe getting outdoors does it for you? Being somewhere that comforts you is great for the creative process, and often people do not even take the time to reflect on the fact that they may be in an environment that stifles them. Take the time to pose the question, what state do I thrive in? Your environment can help inspire all kinds of feelings that help create work. A space with music could inspire you to tap into an emotional space. Maybe a song gets you feeling low but works perfectly for the mind space you are looking for.
8. How about a freestyle?
It could be a complete mess but it could be gold! All you really have to lose is being back at square one, exactly where you were t in the first place. Try a freestyle and leave it in all its imperfect glory. Come back to it later and maybe you nab something to build off of. Freestyling can be daunting. Some people can only approach with a solid plan, while others get a bit of fear for the process. Either way, don’t get too hung up on the work being the greatest work ever. Motivation does not always have to come before action. Just like the chicken or egg argument, action might be the very thing that gets your motivations fired up. With that said, if your art form allows for the freedom, make like Nike and just do it. The second cliché of this article is that practice makes perfect.
9. If you’ve got an audience, make use
Try extending a little trust in your followers and lean on the regulars. It’s not out of place to see artists asking questions or seeking opinions from their followers in a story or post on their feed. You and your followers are likeminded and found connection for a reason. You will likely find other artists among your followers, so get involved in your community! Check out some of their work looks like, and who knows what random art might peek your fancy and help inspire you.
10. A map helps when lost
Some folks need a completely blank slate to start the creative process while others thrive off of structure. The imagination can be vast, so going in with a plan could be just the thing that calms you. If your art practice allows for it, bullet point the bare bones of your project, then add the mass slowly.
Finally, create for yourself and no one else. I know this may seem obvious, but it is an important point to remember. A lot of professional art is a service to the public, and while it is important to consider your audience, the best art is expressed from a genuine connection to its creator.