Creative blocks prevent you from being able to work productively to complete a creative project. They may sneak up on you when you're halfway through a novel you're writing, with no idea of where your characters will go next. Or, they may threaten to make you miss your deadline for a college paper, because you have no clue how to string your points together. Regardless of how they appear, we've gathered seven ways to help you overcome them.
Types of creative blocks.
Creative blocks come in various forms such as blanking out, getting distracted or not being able to start a project at all. Below are eight ways you may come across them.
1. Mental blocks.
Similar to reading a page of a book and having no idea what you just read, a mental block erases your thoughts as you think them, preventing you from taking anything in or letting anything out. This creative block limits your ability to see other options.
2. Emotional barriers.
Because creativity requires vulnerability and exploration, some subjects or tasks may be triggering to us. In response, an emotional barrier may present itself, drawing a line in our thought process as a means of protection. This concurrently blocks our creativity and production.
You ever had so much to do, you decided to just take a nap? If your answer is no, then good! But those of us who answer yes, know that being overwhelmed can block us from doing one — or all — tasks we have on our to-list.
4. Poor work habits.
Without a conducive environment, a clear mind or some sort of writing ritual, poor work habits can be especially damaging. This is especially true if we're creating a piece of work we don't connect with. It's easy to default to checking social media and your email a thousand times, but your work will suffer from the split attention.
5. Personal issues.
Leaving our emotional baggage outside of a work space is one thing, but leaving our baggage outside of our minds is nearly impossible. For some of us, personal issues demand attention and resolution, making it extremely difficult to prioritize anything above them.
Some people can procrastinate, since they work well under pressure. But for those of us that don't, working creatively or productively can be an excruciating task. This pressure may come from an expectation, another person or even ourselves.
Now, I know what you're thinking — why is poverty on this list? Lack of money can definitely affect our ability to work, denying us access to resources that'll help us create our most fruitful work. But, poverty in the form of knowledge, exposure and time can be just as debilitating.
Overcoming creative blocks.
Now comes the hard part — breaking through our creative blocks. Lucky for you, we have seven sure-fire ways to help you clear your mind.
1. Take a break.
Step away from your notebook, laptop or whatever it is you're working on and go outside. Take a walk, stretch and get some fresh air. Taking in these new sights, smells and sounds, as well as being present elsewhere can help freshen your mind so you can return to your work with a new set of eyes.
2. Do something else for a while.
Maybe what you're working on isn't exciting you, so try reading a book, cooking a meal or doing something else you enjoy. This'll allow you to return to your project positively re-energized.
Dedicate some time to tapping into your subconscious through meditation. Find a comfortable position, close your eyes and let your thoughts pass freely through your mind like clouds. Try not to react to them; see which thoughts surface and keep resurfacing. Breathe deeply and go wherever your mind takes you. This step back might allow you to step back into your work with a new calm.
4. Work freely.
If you're stuck on a painting or piece of writing, try painting or writing something else. You can even try it in a different form; for example, writing a poem so you can jump back into your analytical essay. By doing something similar to the work that's blocking you, you won't stray too far away from the form that's expected of you. But, by doing it on your own accord, you might be able to relieve some of the inside or outside pressure you're experiencing.
5. Get someone else's perspective.
We don't know it all, and in this case, that's good! Have someone take a look at your work and discuss it with you from an artist's or audience's perspective. Their interpretations will likely be different from what you meant to express (if even just a little), and you can use that difference as a fresh place to return to your work.
6. Take a nap.
Seriously, get some rest. Sometimes, sleeping on our problems can clear the headache and frustration we're experiencing from thinking about them. By taking a break from your conscious, you may re-enter the world, and your project, with an entirely new attitude, changing the way you see or experience it.
7. Break the rules.
If the pressure's only coming from yourself, then change your expectations. Paint outside the lines, write from a different point of view or take pictures of something else for a while. Maybe the pressure to perform is coming from a need to "get it right," so decide to let that go.
Creative blocks are extremely tricky, as they can happen all at once, consecutively or almost always, at the wrong time. But pay attention to the source, because it may communicating to you which environments or behaviors no longer serve you on a larger scale. And remember, that you're in control of your response, and your response creates your reality, so as Wayne Dyer once put it, "if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."