Happy Monday! …or maybe it’s not so happy? If you love creating art, then at some point you’ve probably felt blocked, out of ideas, or just not so creative. There’s nothing worse than dedicating some time to painting, only to stand in front of the blank canvas and have no idea what you want to create. Does this sound familiar? Well read on for my tips on what blocks creativity, and how to get past it.
Creativity Killer #1 – You’re Short on Time
The pressure of having to produce something creative on the spot with little time to spare is a huge creativity killer. This could mean having a deadline for when a certain creative project needs to be finished, or it could simply be the fact that your toddler is down for his nap and you’ve got exactly 2 hours to make something happen, or it’s not going to happen that day (totally NOT speaking from experience on that one, a-hem.)
A time crunch puts pressure on our creativity, which basically makes it shut down and do the opposite of what we need. Our mind goes blank and we can’t think of anything we were intending on doing, even if we had a plan before going into the creative session.
How to fix it: Simply put, removing that time restriction is the easiest way to bring your creativity back. Accept the fact that you might not make as much progress as you’d like to that day, and that’s ok. You can come back to it tomorrow when you have time, or the next day. The canvas isn’t going anywhere. It will sit there, ready for you when you come back.
If you do have a deadline for when you need to have a project done, be sure to set yourself up with enough time to get it done before you start, and leave lots of extra room for unexpected setbacks. Giving yourself space to breath is important for letting our minds rest and our creativity to come alive again.
And if you’re working in a situation where deadlines or restricted pockets of time for creativity (like baby naptimes) are a constant thing you have to deal with, just know that through time you’ll adjust and be able to be more creative when you need to. Turning your creativity on when you need it is a skill that can be developed if you have to. Try making yourself a fresh cup of tea or coffee, turn on some inspiring music, or light a candle. Doing some kind of little ritual like this before beginning your creative work can really help your brain determine when it’s time to let loose and relax and get creative.
Creativity Killer #2 – You Just Don’t Know What to Paint
Feeling that need to create, but you simply have no ideas? A lack of subject matter is another huge creativity killer, and one that requires a bit of preparation in order to avoid. Creativity happens off the canvas as much as it does (even more!) on the canvas, and having ideas of what to create is part of living an all-around creative life.
How to Fix it: Think about what inspires you, and why you want to create in the first place. Keep a running list of ideas in a notebook, and carry a sketchbook with you wherever you go. Inspiration strikes when you least expect it, usually when you’re not thinking about what to create at all. It happens while we’re taking a shower, mindlessly cleaning the house, or listening to music on the bus. And if we don’t write down or quickly sketch our inspirations, they can leave our minds and never come back. So capture them! And next time you’re unsure of what to create, open up your notebook or sketchbook and feel that inspiration all over again.
Another method is to simply begin. Staring at a blank canvas and don’t know what to paint? Just start painting! Anything! Grab colors that are speaking to you, and just get your brush moving. Make marks, make smears, make doodles, anything you want, just get the brush moving over the canvas. After a little while, step back and take a look at what you have. Give yourself something to work with. Maybe that one swish you made kind of looks like a tree branch. Maybe those little blobs over there could turn into a cool pattern, maybe the colors you’re combining remind you of that bowl of fruit sitting on your countertop, or that bouquet of flowers on your dining table. Make something happen, then go from there. The inspiration will come when you get your mind into the creative flow. And if it doesn’t come right away, then just keep painting! Add more layers, more colors, play with texture, keep going until you see glimmers of composition, and then head in that direction.
Creativity Killer #3 – You’re Unmotivated
So you’ve set some time aside for youself to get creative, and you even have a good idea. Sounds great, right? So why are you still staring at your blank paper or canvas and feeling stuck? Having the time and the idea can still not be enough sometimes. Sometimes we’re just not feeling it. Maybe we’re tired from a busy day, thinking about other things we need to get done, or lacking confidence in our abilities to bring our idea into being.
How to Fix it: The first two issues can be solved by a similar process to the solution to the first creativity killer. Make yourself a little ritual to clear your mind and switch into that creative space. Markers like a cup of tea and lighting a candle give your brain the signal that it’s now time to focus on creating, and not thinking about whatever else we have going on.
The confidence issue can be a little harder to resolve. Maybe you don’t want to start because you don’t think you can create your idea to the extent you have in your mind. Or maybe you’re not even sure how to create the idea in your mind. The best advice I can give is once again to simply begin. I’ve encountered countless times when I know what I want to paint but I was unsure exactly of how to get there. I just started feeling around the paper/canvas, laying down my initial drawing or first layers of paint, working with what I knew was going in the right direction, and not worrying about the rest of it.
After a little while something magical happens. You start seeing it coming together, slowly but surely. You get inspired by the process. Then you’re motivated and you think, “hey, I can do this.” Doubting and feeling uncomfortable are part of the creative process, and that point of feeling like it’s going nowhere or looking terrible is where a lot of beginners stop and give up. But pushing past that point is where things start to fall in place. I’ve written about this phase in the creative process here if you haven’t read it yet. It’s a real thing, and everyone experiences it. So don’t let that inevitable feeling stop you from starting. Just start, and work your way through. The inspiration and motivation will come after you start to see your work taking shape.
…and if it doesn’t, and it turns out terrible, so what? Did you learn something? Then take that and use it in your next attempt. You only truly fail if you stop trying.
So those are my top three art creativity killers and how to fix them. Have you run into these artist blocks? I can’t count how many times I’ve run into them, it’s just something we have to deal with on our creative journeys. What’s your most common creativity killer, and how do you deal with it? I’d love to know! Leave me a comment below, and till next time, keep creating!