Tackling Creative Block
‘What the hell and I going to write about???”
If you’ve ever been called upon to write a blog, a newsletter or just some creative content for your business, this thought will undoubtedly have crossed your mind. This is often the stage when creative block leaps in, erecting a solid wall between you and the language centre of your brain. Suddenly you can’t even come up with a simple sentence or a title, and the blank pages glares out at you accusingly. Our first piece of advice here is don’t panic! Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE suffers from creative block and one point or another – even us! So instead of worrying and panicking
Why Does Creative Block Happen?
While no creative block is the same, there are generally 4 reasons we will experience the big bad block. There are some blocks that are more common than others, but each is one you might come across at some point in your life, and being able to identify why you are feeling blocked is an essential part of being able to get around it.
Mental Block: A mental block is the most common, and happens when you become so locked into your particular way of thinking that you stop seeing other options. This means you are approaching the problem from a limited perspective, and are unable to see other ways around it.
Emotional Block: Creativity isn’t always about figuring out which word comes next. It can be an intense and powerful process, and this can leave us feeling very emotionally confused. Maybe your subject is painful, embarrassing or weird, or you have become so deeply invested in your creation that you don’t want to lift the curtain and discover what happens next.
Work Habits That Don’t Work: Perhaps the problem isn’t in your head, but actually in the space around you. I for one know that I can’t work in a messy environment, and spend time every morning ritualistically cleaning and tidying my workspace before I can begin. Maybe for you, you’re working at the wrong times, in the wrong places or with the wrong systems in place to encourage your creative genius out of its shell. Experiment with different working patterns until you find something that works for you.
Personal Problems: These things are often unfortunately beyond our control, and so the best thing you can do is focus on resolving the problem before you can start up the creative fires again. If that means putting back the deadline by a week so you can finish moving house, have that big chat with the friend you fell out with or take some time off to grieve for a loved one, it doesn’t matter. Your personal and mental health should always come first, and often if you try to power through your work will suffer too.
How Do I Beat It?
While all creative blocks are different, there are a few tried and tested ways to break through or climb over the creative block and find your way back to progress.
Talk It Through. Sometimes we get stuck creatively because we have been so involved with a project for so long that thinking of the next thing to talk about is impossible. So rather than going over it again and again in your head, find someone completely unrelated to the project and talk to them about. This can help take that knotted ball of string of thoughts in your head and unwind it, letting you see the next steps, or things you may have forgotten. So collar a co-worker or your best friend for a cup of coffee and explain your project to them.
Walk Away. When you are suffering from creative block, there is nothing less productive than starting at a blank screen. So remove yourself from the room and do something else. It could be moving on to a really boring bit of admin, doing the washing or just going for a walk. Put the project out of your mind and don’t focus on it for a while. The best ideas always strike when you aren’t expecting them, so don’t obsess about the fact that you can’t think of anything to write.
Impose Some Boundaries. As we said earlier, sometime creative block happens because we have too much freedom. So if you’re struggling, put some boundaries in place for yourself. This might sound backwards, but even Wordsworth agreed that “the sonnet’s scantily plod of ground provides fertile creative soil for artists who have felt the weight of too much liberty”. So set yourself a word limit, a time limit, and a deadline. Swear you won’t have one more cup of tea or biscuit until you’ve hit your word count, and stick to it.
Take Yourself To Inspiration. Don’t wait for it to come to you. Instead of feeling miserable that you can’t create something right now, take yourself away and experience some culture and creativity. There is no shortage of galleries, museums and exhibits in the UK, so take advantage of it! Explore new ways of expression, expand your knowledge and find out about something new – you never know what exciting thing’s you’ll find.
But Remember, Creative Block isn’t Always Bad…
I know, shocker right? But creative block has a wonderful duality about it – it can have you pulling your hair out in frustration, but it also reminds you that you are unique. Some people struggle with creativity, and some experience floods of it and become overwhelmed, paralyzed by the options. But creative block often helps us do our best work in the long run. When you feel the shadow of creative block, this can be your mind (or your gut) telling you ‘you could do this better’. And then we do what most people do when faced with that challenge – we rise to it. We stay up all night drinking coffee and pouring over that one sentence, that one brushstroke that just isn’t quite right. It’s this obsession that defines a great creative, and it’s creative block that helps us find it. So don’t get frustrated when you hit the wall, instead just grab your pickaxe and start breaking it down one stone at a time!