The black cloud of the creative block and 10 ways to beat it

It looms up on you without you even noticing. One day you’re typing/scribbling/arting away, the next you can barely lift your head under the weight of creative-sapping purple jellyfish, leaning on your shoulders and sucking ideas from your brain.

And once it’s set in, it can seem impossible to break – a never-ending cycle of creative block that means you’re destined to live forever in front of a blank screen or canvas and never get further than one erased mark.

jellyfishBut creative block is not invincible. It is not even something to be scared of. Sometimes it might just be prodding you to have a break, to rest, to eat a cake. Other times it’s just plain old pure procrastination, dressing up in cotton sheets and disguising itself as the monstrous block.

So if you feel its slimy tentacles reaching around your arms and tickling your cheeks, here’s a few things you might want to try. They don’t include the utilisation of a jellyfish slaying flaming sword. If you do have one, however, do feel free to share pictures.

1. Do something else
Go for a walk, meet up with friends, listen to some music, teach the dog to sing Pavarotti. Anything, just let your brain enjoy the change of scenery, and then return to your work with a fresh head.

2. Get off the internet

Nothing new has happened on Facebook in the last five minutes (other than someone you used to hate at school has now eaten a ham and cheese sandwich). Your inbox can wait. Your twitter feed will not disappear if you don’t grace it with your gaze. That video of a dancing cockroach everybody’s talking about will still be there later. Get off the internet and get back to making stuff. Your internet procrastination will feed your creative block. Don’t let it distract you.

3. Get back on the internet

Go digital exploring. Surf Pinterest or Tumblr or visit a blog you’ve not been to for a while. Feed on all the ideas and images and strange mind-blowing pictures you can find. Seek out the things that you wouldn’t normally seek out. Schedule yourself a bit of internet wandering. Then turn the internet off, sit down, and get on with it.

4. Try new things

Sometimes the way to new ideas is to experience completely new things. Never been surfing on a giant hamster whilst wearing pyjamas? Me neither, but if you try new stuff then it might just spark off a fresh way of looking at things. And it doesn’t have to be something extreme – try working in a new medium, for example. Breaking from your traditional materials can enable you to make without expectation, without criticism, and play with fresh ideas.

5. Remix

Take a book, painting, picture or song – whatever you like – and reimagine it from your own perspective. Don’t copy the original artist, take their work as inspiration and create a brand new piece – make it new and make it uniquely yours.

6. Make time and get on with it

Sometimes it’s that simple. Sometimes you just have to sit down with whatever time you’ve got and make yourself fight through the block. There’s no shortcut, no magic word. Sometimes it’s just down to plain hard graft and switching off the TV.


7. Keep a scrapbook

It doesn’t have to be a physical notepad you carry with you everywhere you go. Most mobile phones are now brilliant ways of taking images and making notes of things you see or hear. Whenever you see something interesting write it down, record it, imprison it in your little book of thoughts. When you hit a dry patch, delve into your notebook and dig out prompts and ideas that you would have long since forgotten about.

8. Beat the blank page

Don’t let the sheer white blankness of a new document scare you. Write something. Doodle something. Make it nonsense, make it silly, don’t even think about what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter what it is, just get something down.

9. Stop

Maybe what you’re working on is actually finished. Maybe your brain is still filled with thoughts about the last piece you made. Everyone needs a break, a step away at some point. Let yourself have this break, enjoy the break, don’t worry that you should be making something, don’t put pressure on yourself. Know when to stop, and then come back to the slate refreshed.

10. Go to sleep

Give your brain a rest. Let it go for a sleep holiday, frolicking in the clouds and cavorting with giant bees and talking asparagus. Sleeping lets your brain recuperate, and let’s face it, is also pretty fun. Take a nap, get a good night’s sleep, and then try again over a cup of hot, steaming coffee.

Feel more creative already? Feel like tearing up the rule book and arting like you’ve never arted before?

Good! Now be gone and make stuff – then come back and share your own creative block banishing tips in the comments.

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