Art blocks are the worst things for us, creative souls. Unfortunately, we have to deal with them from time to time, and the only good thing about them is that we know they don’t (have to) last forever.
Can we prevent art blocks? What to do if they hit us?
I’m going to share my thoughts and experiences about these questions below, in this post – and I’ll return to it next week too, in part two. I hope you’ll find it useful.
What is an art block, and why does it happen?
‘(Art) block is a condition in which the (artist) loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences a creative slowdown.’
– Wikipedia: Writer’s block
The most important thing you have to know to handle or avoid creative blocks is the reason why they happen, and to find the pattern that induces them, if they come often.
There are great articles about the types of art blocks that I don’t want to copy here. If you’re interested, you can find a really good one over at Adobe’s 99u, for example.
If you have a creative block, try to find the reason behind it, and write it down. It usually helps you to find the cure too. Maybe you’re just procrastinating because you are tired and haven’t slept enough in the last few days. Maybe you don’t have a dedicated place where you can feel safe, focused and creative. Or maybe you have to deal with personal problems.
My art blocks usually have three reasons:
- I tend to overwork, so after a while I’m simply too tired. It happens every December after Drawlloween (the 31 day drawing challenge popular on Instagram and elsewhere), and the Xmas rush (jewelry-wise).
- Early spring art block. Though I’m an introvert, and I love spending most of my time at home, I need new experiences to feed my creativity from time to time. Winter is the period of the year I go out the most rarely. Nature is sleeping, everything looks dead, and by the time spring arrives, I feel totally burned out. This is strange, because I love winter, but maybe it’s just my romatic-gothic heart, not my child-like creativity. 🙂
- I just run out of motivation. I often experience this when my business is slow or when I don’t get enough support on social media. Luckily this is the easiest to handle, but let’s talk about it later.
My creative blocks have two stages, and both of them need a different cure.
The first stage usually takes about 2-4 weeks.
This is the time when I feel totally dead. I don’t have energy to do anything, I’d rather sleep all day. Though I obviously cannot sleep for days (weeks), I know that first I need to charge my body and brain, and I can do several things to speed up the process:
This is pretty obvious, but it does not mean that it’s easy…at least for me. When my boyfriend sees me doing nothing, he knows that I’m really-really tired. I still cannot handle this well, so if you have any tips how to do it without getting frustrated, please, tell me in a comment. 🙂
After a day or two, I can read or even play computer games like Stardew Valley, The Sims 3, Lethis, or a truly ancient classic like Pharaoh + Cleopatra. I’ll write a full post about inspiration later this month, these games will be perfect examples.
2. Leave the house
Going out for a walk always helps, especially when I go to my favourite park, Városliget. Nature has the amazing quality of making us calm and relaxed. When I’m in the park, I try practicing mindfulness: I try not to think, just see the small wonders around me, smell the air, the trees and the grass.
Luckily, we’ll also go to theater and concerts several times this spring. These events help break the everyday monotony.
Though a good daily routine is very important for productivity, I need to do things that are new and exciting from time to time… especially when I’m struggling with creative blocks.
3. Clean and declutter
I know it doesn’t sound much fun, but it works! As I’ve said in an earlier post, your living space is like an extension of your body. If you refresh it by cleaning and decluttering, you do the same for your body and mind as well. Plus it’s (a kind of) exercise.
I usually do the spring cleaning in late spring when I repot my indoor plant friends, but this year I’ve decided to do it in March, and I hope it will help prevent the spring art block. I’ve made a long cleaning list that will take a lot of time to complete, so this month I’ll be happy if I’ll have a few free evenings to draw and enough time to work on jewelry. I hope it will work. 🙂
4. Eat good food, drink enough water
This is not easy this time of the year, but I try to eat as much fresh fruit and as many veggies as possible. I’ve switched to a no sugar, low carb (paleo-ish) diet almost two years ago, and it’s amazing! I have much more energy, lost all my extra weight (I’m an US 4-6 size now), and have much fewer anxiety-problems. Did you know that carbs and sugar induce anxiety?
5. Don’t buy art/craft supplies
When I have a block, buying new supplies just makes everything worse! Maybe I’m happy and excited for a few hours, but when it’s gone, I feel guilty about spending our hard earned money on things I don’t need, and I’m also stressed, because I feel that I should use those new supplies immediately to create something exceptional. Only a few people are able to create great things under pressure – and I’m not one of them.
5+1. Meditate and work out
I don’t do either of them, but I know I should!
I grew up in the countryside where we worked a lot growing our own food, and of course we never went to the gym or exercised for the sake of moving. Though now I’ve been living in the city for over 15 years, I still cannot update my mind about this. When I want to move my body, I go for a walk or clean our flat. I know that it’s not the same, but, well, no one is perfect.
Next week I’ll share my tips about how I get back to creating when the first stage of the art block is gone. I know I haven’t said anything new or magically inventive, and I don’t expect to in the next post either – but sometimes we just need reminders of the things we already know. I hope it will help (at least) some of you. 🙂