Welcome to Thrive! A weekly advice column for creatives and the generally confused.
I haven’t created anything in a month. Have I dried up? Is this it? Do I give up now?
I want to be as sensitive to your plight as I can be, because while we have all been there at one time or another, when you’re in the thick of it you can’t see any way out. There’s zero hope. And trying to find camaraderie in it is painful. It tires me out when I’m in a rough patch and someone reminds me that “It always passes.” How do they know this isn’t the end?! So instead of telling you that it will get better and move on, here are some actual tips you can use to get yourself back on track creating.
Yes, you know a creative block is normal for most artists but have you accepted that you, too, are normal? It’s easy to convince yourself that you create above the fray but I am sorry to say, no one is above a creative block. Stop beating yourself up! Spend some time meditating and letting all that self hate for “being another failed artist” go. Letting go of your self-loathing and resentment will open your heart and mind back up to other, more loving endeavors.
I hate to sound like your mother but “Get outside already!” If your brain is closing in on itself and your page or canvas is still blank, move your body in some way. Walk, run, rock climb, stretch, swim. Give your brain a rest by waking up the other parts of yourself that you often neglect. Send the blood elsewhere so it can come back fresh and alive. It’s well known that composers, writers, and painters of all kinds work and worked around some sort of daily exercise regimen to stay sharp and alert. Adopt this same lifestyle, even if it’s just walking like Dickens did.
Create in a Different Genre or Medium
Sometimes our greatest work can come out of a creative block. To loosen up, try working in a different genre or medium than you’re used to. Painter? Try collage. Novelist? Try poetry. Photographer? Try knitting. Without any preconceived notions on what you “should” be creating and how it will be received, you’ll be able to set creativity free and run wild. And perhaps you you will find a new hobby in the process!
Review Old Favorites
Find a piece of work you fell in love with at a young age and write down everything you loved about it then and what you love about it now. Explore new meanings and find new joy in it, whether it’s a book, movie, or painting. When you’re done with your review, start an homage project to release old passions and infuse new outlooks. It will get your pen/fingers/brush/voice working. You can also pick a single aspect you love from the piece (crosshatching, sonnet framework, overexposure) and work on a project specifically tied to it. There’s a great example of how to do this here. It’s geared toward music production, but can be applied to any medium.
I hope these tips help you get started and creating again. Let me what you try and what works for you!