Have you ever sat down to do something creative, only to find that your creativity has seemingly flown out the figurative window? Maybe you wanted to work on that painting that’s been staring at you from the corner of your studio, or maybe a poem is half-finished in a notebook and you open it to find you haven’t got another stanza in you? You’re not alone. For authors, this is called writer’s block. It manifests when we’re feeling stuck on a creative project for some reason not related to our actual ability to do the thing, such as lack of time or materials. Read on to find constructive (and sometimes sneaky) ways around it.
Embrace the Avoidance (Wait, What?)
You read that right. When you get that feeling that you just don’t want to work on a creative project, you might just need a short break from it. The duration of the break depends entirely on you, but be sure not to make it a forever break. You want to get your creative juices flowing, not switch projects entirely. You may be able to just try getting up from your chair or other workspace and taking a walk around the building, or the block, or up the road and back. That will give you both a change of scenery and a bit of exercise, both of which are helpful for your creativity. If that doesn’t work, try to figure out if your block is due to frustration with the project. If it is, maybe you need a brain break from it. Consider taking a creative break. What is something you’ve always wanted to do but never have time for? Maybe you have a grown-up coloring book and some pretty colored pencils. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to try your hand at sketching – don’t judge yourself – just have fun. And if you’re lucky enough that you already have two creative outlets – by all means, take a break by switching temporarily to your other pursuit. Knitting, photography, and scrapbooking are all great examples.
Perfectionism: A Block to Creativity
We’re all guilty of it. We’re conditioned to think that everything has to be just right, even on the first try. And perfectionism can kill a creative project just about as quickly as a computer virus, and just as effectively. But you can work to both prevent it and to head it off when it happens. First, you have to recognize that it’s happening. When you’re experiencing a block, ask yourself, “What messages am I sending myself?” If the answer is judgmental thoughts, try to hear those thoughts clearly. They sound ridiculous when you bring them out into the light of day. Next, try to focus on the positive aspect of each judgmental thought. For example, maybe your thought was, “I’m never going to be as good as ___.” You could tell yourself, “I have high aspirations and I’m working towards my goals.” From there, try to set reasonable goals. Maybe you can’t write 10,000 words in a day but I bet you can sit down to write for 10 minutes at least once a day, even spread out over the whole day. Another tip is to let yourself make mistakes. In painting, you can turn that little paint smatter into a bird, or so Bob Ross used to tell us. In writing, you let the little errors go when you’re writing so as not to interrupt the creative flow. Those errors can be fixed in the revision process. Even then, there’s (almost) always another revision process. Be kind to yourself when you recognize that perfectionism creeping in.
So the next time you feel stuck in your creative pursuit, embrace constructive avoidance and be kind to yourself when you’re experiencing perfectionism.