Anyone who creates art, be it a new painting, a drawing, a sketch, a concept, a graphic, even an article like this, has to deal with how to create a new, authentic work. For some creative people, the white canvas is – literally or figuratively – the epitome of freedom, unlimited possibility, and artistic expression.
But that precisely is also the problem for most artists: freedom fuels the fear of doing something wrong and prevents you from approaching your new project lightheartedly. If you know that feeling and don’t know where and how to start, you’ve come to the right place.
Fortunately, some approaches will make it easier for you to deal with this situation and let your creativity run free. Much of this is a matter of attitude, while others are just a matter of preparation. This article is on how to overcome a creative block. And yes, it can be learned.
Here are our best tips on how to overcome a creative block
1. Prepare well
He who has no aim never arrives.Generic motivational quote
What do you hope to achieve with your work? What’s the goal?
Once you have found a goal for your new artwork, you should write down the things you have to do to get there. “Baby steps” is the right word to describe the tiny stages of a journey. The more Baby steps you can identify and formulate, the shorter the whole trip will seem when you concentrate on completing each step.
After all, you don’t (usually) book a holiday trip if you don’t know where it’s going. There is no point in ticking off a checklist or taking baby steps if you have no destination in mind. No matter how much energy you put into your plan, you will never get there. It’s the same with art.
The crucial difference between booking a holiday and creating a work of art is that the result is creative, and the goal can only be hinted at. Whether the result is what you had imagined at the beginning or you notice along the way that you have to adjust your ideas is an entirely different matter.
2. Get everything you need
Mental preparation is one thing; physical preparation is something completely different. When you have given thought to your work, you should acquire everything you need to realize your thoughts.
Once you get started, you will be focused on working on your art and will not bother to search for sources, buy material, or take pictures. The more you can prepare in advance, the better the result will be, as your creative process will not be interrupted.
In a state of flow, i.e., a task that continually challenges you and brings your potential to light, you are many times more productive and creative than if you are somewhere else with your mind. The term “flow state” was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and is definitely worth additional research.
The basic concept of flow is the uninterrupted, highly concentrated dedication to a specific activity that develops momentum over time. If you interrupt this impulse, the re-entry requires much more energy than the continuous movement.
3. A preliminary drawing helps as a basic framework
A sketch of your later complete works can serve as a basic framework. If you dedicate yourself to a rough sketch, this will lower your expectations, because you are aware that this is not the final version: That’s what I’m doing right now while I’m hammering this article into the keyboard. I know that later I will have the opportunity to change and correct the rough draft again. This is the only way I can freely write what I had planned to write, without sticking to the exactness or particularly beautiful wording.
A sketch or an inaccurate draft is an essential step on the way to the final goal. Be aware that you can correct the sketched things later. If you have finished the sketch, you have already overcome the problem of the white canvas. The seemingly most difficult step is done.
Note: The sketch or draft can be as detailed or as inaccurate as you think is appropriate. Even an imprecise sketch can help as mental support. As a preliminary work for the later design, a detailed drawing is better as long as it keeps its loose character and not putting you in a box for the later stages of the work.
4. How to fight a creative block: Don’t fight it, overcome it
With the preparatory work behind us, virtually nothing can go wrong. Every supposed mistake is an experience that will help you next time.
Every mistake is a blessing in disguise if you do not let yourself be pulled down by them, but accept them for exactly what they are: learning experiences. This attitude towards the creative process allows for almost limitless possibilities. Every baby step along the way, every single project, every client is a new chance to improve yourself.
As soon as you put away those anxious thoughts and look confidently into the future, do your best and learn from your experiences, you are unstoppable. On the whole, it does not matter if you mess up a single stroke in your painting or if a handle falls off your clay sculpture.
Besides, it is not you who decides whether something is right or wrong, whether something is beautiful or ugly, whether something is good or bad. It is the total of the viewers and the market that decide whether you have succeeded or not in creating a work.
The view is pervaded by cognitive distortions that you probably don’t even notice. This topic is also worthy of more intensive study.
5. Get Practical: Put the thoughts into practice
Negative thoughts and self-doubt are commonplace for many people. Even the most optimistic person on earth is not safe from them.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t work on it. With these three exercises in the artistic creation process, you can better express your creativity.
Create every day
If you do a small creative task every day, it’s easier than doing a big one once a month. Through small tasks, you build up momentum without overtaxing yourself. The momentum keeps you on your feet wet so that you won’t be put at the barrier of a new beginning again. If you make your creative tasks a routine, your ability will grow faster, your inner expectations of yourself will decrease, and ultimately, the results will be better.
If you do something every day, you should be careful to challenge yourself anew. Otherwise, months will quickly pass, and you will still be at the same point you were a while ago.
An excellent book on this topic was written by Carol Marine and is called Daily Painting.
Keep a sketchbook
Make it easy for yourself to create something new every day by keeping a sketchbook. As the name suggests, you don’t need to be afraid of daily creativity, as it is only a sketch. Another advantage of the sketchbook is that you can take it with you wherever you go so that you can paint on the go.
If you’re creating every day, maybe even making money from it, most people’s creative batteries will be empty at some point. If you feel that way, you should be honest with yourself as it is the best way on how to overcome a creative block in your specific situation.
You’ve probably often heard that many people get their best ideas when they’re not focused on them. When they are in a neutral state, and you have time to relax. This change comes in many forms. For example, it may already help you to deal with a new medium and to experiment. Other people travel for a while to power up their batteries.
Whatever you feel like doing, do it if you can. You cannot force creativity, and you cannot fight a creative block, you can only try to let it occur. Sometimes the best way is not the shortest path in a traffic jam, but the long way with zero traffic.
Stop the empty canvas syndrome today
I hope you can overcome the empty canvas syndrome, and you learned a bit better how to overcome a creative block with these tips.