Challenging a Creative Block: 12 Strategies to Help you Get Over It

We all experience a creative block from time to time. Did you know there are a number of ways to manage that frustrating, stuck feeling, and find your flow?

I’ve a helpful and comprehensive list of strategies to manoeuvre a stubborn creative block when it happens, many of which I use myself. 

Let’s face it, creativity takes many forms – there’s painting and art, writing, music, making and crafts. Yet how we express ourselves creatively is such a personal thing. Sometimes we have to get things done, and finish a piece, but it can be hard to get going or stick with it. 

What’s a Creative Block?

While creativity may come in waves, a creative block refers the experience or inability to tap into our own means expression and imagination.

Have you ever sat down to write, paint, or compose music, and found it isn’t happening? No matter what, you just can’t get going and the frustration mounts. Regardless of how hard you concentrate, things just don’t flow. Maybe you don’t start at all. There may be a vague idea of what you’re wanting to create but it’s just coming out all wrong. Things just don’t knit together like you want them to. 

We’ve all been there. 

What Causes a Creative Block?

What can I say? Loads of factors influence creativity. For some, the barriers to inspiration may happen in certain situations. If you know, it’s easier to manage and plan around them. 

Sometimes, placing ourselves under pressure to create can cause problems. Plus, when the ability to be creative is tied to income, it can tap into our sense of worth and self-esteem. Naturally, how we feel about ourselves and our work can block our ability to be creative and imaginative. 

Other reasons for a creative block include life stressors and worries, unrelated pressing issues and deadlines, major life events, as well as our own anxieties and insecurities, like perfectionism, self doubts, and being our own (harsh) inner critic. All very unhelpful!

Pablo Picasso quote graphic with a cornish beach

Strategies to Overcome A Creative Block

Knowing what’s driving a creative rut can definitely help us move out of it. If you’re unsure, or just don’t know what to do next, here’s 12 strategies to help you tap into your creativity and embrace the creative process.

Accept that you’re experiencing a creative block

It’s a pain, I know, but accepting that you may not be in the mood or just aren’t feeling it is part of coming through the other side of a creative block. By accepting our stuckness it doesn’t mean inspiration will return immediately. Instead, knowing something will come, at some point, is reassuring. Have faith that this time of feeling blocked will eventually lead us to a place of creativity and expression.

Trevaunance Cove St Agnes in the most and rain

Don’t force it

We’re all different and for some, forcing the creativity may work. Personally, when I’ve attempted this, I’ve made mistakes and it’s added time, especially when painting. I find leaving it for another, more optimal time, is best for me. I know those creative sparks will come, so it’s about accepting that and getting on with something else. 

Find an alternative creative task or activity

If I’ve got a painting to do and I’m not feeling it, doing an alternative creative task is good. I still feel like I’m being productive. Sometimes I’ll sketch or look for inspiration for the next piece. Or, I may write a blog post, or edit some photos. They’re all expressions of creativity so I feel like I’m doing something, just not what I planned. 

You may also consider doing something new and getting out of your comfort zone. There’s some great online classes out there, such as Life Drawing classes from the St Ives School of Painting. Why not look around as see how you can branch out and explore other methods and mediums?

Quote graphic about creative block from Maya Angelou with picture of boats

Make notes at other times

Occasionally sparks of inspiration happen at the most inconvenient times. I find making notes on the go ensures these ideas don’t get lost or forgotten. I have notes on my phone for things like instagram captions and I’ve a running document on my Mac for blog post ideas. 

As for art, I save photos for inspiration and sketching. There’s lots of ways to spark vision and ideas with curiosity and references , all made when actual creativity didn’t happen. I need to get better at remembering a sketch book when out and about, but I’ve always got my camera on me, even if it’s just my phone, to capture some ideas. 

Approach what you’re trying to do from a different angle

Break out of your usual routine, it’s good for us all. Write something you wouldn’t usually write, draw or make marks with your less dominant hand, for example. Just do something different to challenge yourself and see where it takes you. 

a small acrylic painting of 3 boats on the water
a hand holding 2 tubes of paint in front of Tri Hok painting by Penny Sherwood
Fine Art Limited Edition Print (above) – Tri Hok

Focus on the smaller steps

Sometimes it’s daunting to think of the end product, or what we’re trying to create. This may prevent us from starting or making progress. To overcome a creative block, it may help to think about what you can do for today, or this hour. Focus your attention on one thing and see what emerges. An hour can pass quite quickly. You never know you may find yourself totally immersed in whatever you’re doing and you’ll want to carry on.

Have more than one thing on the go

Placing all our creative attention and energy into one project means that if we’re in a bit of a creative rut, that one project may not progress for a while. That’s why it pays to have more than one project on the go. When you don’t feel like doing one, there may be another that appeals. 

pastel drawing of nude female with Andy Warhol quote to help a creative block

Look around for inspiration to tackle that creative block

Inspiration can come in many forms. When I don’t feel like painting, I tend to look at the work of other artists or listen to podcasts. I may seek out YouTube tutorials relating to art or photography. There’s always blog posts write as well. 

Creative inspiration can be found anywhere, and we all have places where we feel inspired. Friends are a fabulous source of encouragement and feedback, don’t underestimate the value of chewing over ideas and frustrations with your besties.

There’s some great podcasts out there. One of my favourites is Art Juice and I dip into The Inspiration Place and Talk Art. For other podcasts, you may interested in this post, 7 Super Podcasts for Creatives.

Remind yourself of a few things

If there’s lots of noise in your head and you’re doubting your abilities, try and think about why you create. Tap in to what it brings to you, your wellbeing, and your life. Consider what your enjoy about it. This can help remove or waver increasing expectations and pressure. 

I find looking back at previous work and seeing how much I’ve done, and how much I’ve learnt helps too.

A yellow boat to hire at St Mawes
Aerial view of a yellow boat with a life saver ring on the roof

Structure some creative time

Factoring in creative time doesn’t always work for everyone but it’s about putting that time aside and making space. You can use the time however you see fit. Sometimes simply making the time to play with paint, words, or cameras is enough.

I’m a big advocate of Daily Painting, an initiative promoted by Carol Marine. The idea is to paint, or do something artistic, for an hour a day, every day. Not only will your art improve but you’ll be flexing your creative muscles on a daily basis.

Allow yourself to fail or make mistakes

Embrace the process – making a few errors doesn’t mean you’ll never get there. It’s part of getting you there. Allow yourself to make or write something bad or substandard. It may get it out of your system. You never know, it could be fun!

A mixed media painting completed to help manage a creative block

Just start

Sometimes the hardest it thing is starting but taking that leap maybe all we need. Starting is exciting; you never know how things are going to turn out, and what you’ll end up creating.

Sometimes managing a creative rut is about working out what’s causing it. It could be life pressures and stressors, anxiety, depression, or just feeling stuck. Whatever the cause, experiencing a creative block means there’s a drive or feeling that you want to start something and that’s positive. It’ll come. I sometimes think trusting the process is the best thing to do.

pinterest graphic for creative block strategies

Author: plbedford

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