How to Overcome Five Common Causes of Creative Block

By Karen Middleton in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

Creative block isn’t always a lack of creativity. . . many times, there are simply other factors which are negatively affecting our creative output.

So how do we deal with these negative outside influences?

Today I’ve outlined the five main factors that cause my own downturn in activity and enthusiasm, and how I work through them:

1. Tiredness

On a day to day basis, working late into the night means I’ve been uninterrupted with fewer distractions. I also feel like I’ve been “working really hard” if I crawl into bed at 1am after work.

The long term effect of this, though, is a lack of concentration, energy and enthusiasm the next day. And this leads to frustrating mistakes made during my standard hours of work. (Not to mention that if I wake up late, I may even spend the next day never really catching up.)

I therefore force myself to stick to more regular hours, with a little extra now and then if I feel I’m slacking. Working hard is not the same as working smart!

2. Lack of confidence

“You’re only as good as your last piece of work.” Mmm, how true that can feel.

On the odd occasion I’ve created a piece of work that I feel I could never better. I end up stalling and making all kinds of excuses to do anything but start a new piece.

How can I match that one. . . what will happen if it’s not as good??

Well what WOULD happen?? Nothing. The next piece might just be the piece that everyone else likes and I won’t know until I make it.

When I get stuck in this situation, I go visit artists whose works I admire. Spending some time looking at what they do, what they’ve achieved and are producing (whilst I’m not achieving much by sitting in admiration) is really motivating and makes me want to get some new stuff out there too.

3. Finances

Courses, equipment, materials, books. . . there’s always something we want, need or desire, and not being able to have it can get you down.

If I can’t afford it, I look to see what other resources are available. Sometimes you can find materials for cheap, online. Art courses are costly, so I seek out people who generously offer online tutorials. And books are available from the library, or if I need my own, a cheap used copy bought online is as good as a brand new pristine copy.

If it’s just for learning or research, it doesn’t really need to be new, and saving money on those things means that you can put a little more money towards something else you want.

4. People

Lack of people around me can create a sense of loneliness, which allows doubts and sadness to creep in. We all like feedback and opinions, and have a need to share our work, ideas and concerns with others, but if there’s no one there, how do we get around this?

One way is by networking online. . . even though I still avoid Facebook and Twitter, I do seek out blogs, articles, events etc that I can comment on, and thus create new connections with other artists AND buyers.

I’ve found that networking used appropriately can be just as fulfilling and empowering as starting up a conversation in a store queue. (Though try not to make it your only social life!)

5. Thieves

Like many, I have had work copied, mis-used and stolen (in both cases online and physical pieces) as well as work that has been damaged in transit and lost.

When I started sending work digitally, I solved the problem of damage and loss from sending originals overseas, but I opened up the possibility of work being stolen online. I figure in time something else will come along to halt online theft, but possibly with its own downside.

Because, after all, life happens, things change. . . there are no assurances.

Such incidents are hardly an incentive to do anything with the pieces I spend days creating, so I just put in place all possible safeguards, and try to keep an optimistic and realistic perspective.

Ultimately, whenever these (or other things) try to get us down, the best thing we can do is keep our enthusiasm high and focus on what WE are in control of, rather than outside situations. Do that, and creative block may become a thing of the past!


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