Creative block or writers block is such a taboo word mention, let alone talk about it. The reality is all great creatives have it. It's a time or period where the juices slow down, where new ideas become scarce and creativity becomes monotonous. I had my first block in the first six months of our business, believe me, it was scary! (It lasted a day, Which when your starting out feels like eternity.) I freaked out, and felt like my creative life was ruined, but the storm passed and I moved on to making more work.
In reality this happen all the time, and as Seth Godin points out, they become longer the better you become. I can attest to this, I had a a period of about two month last spring were nothing was coming about, (which is so taboo to say) Believe me, I was still making work, and working as hard as I possibly could, but I wasn't having the juice flow.
I started searching everywhere for answers, was this normal? What were the ways out? Was it a reflection on my personal vision? The answer is, it happens to everyone and it will happen to you. So learning to become comfortable with the void and allow that time to make you stronger is so crucial.
I'm so glad that those two month happened, although it took about another two months to step out of the fog, but now I feel so much stronger because of it and have learned about my creativity in ways I never could of before.
With that said here are four main exercises that helped me.
1. MAKE A TON OF WORK.... MAKE MAKE MAKE.
(and do it now)
This is probably going to sound countercultural, the very fact you feeling this way is because you can't make "work." This why this is the most crucial point and you must do it now. Creativity has been taught to us by the media that its a gift that your born with or its a "ah-ha" moment were the baseball flies out of the sky and nails you on the head with creativity. The reality is creativity as pointed out in Creative Confidence by Tom & David Kelley is a muscle that needs to be utilized every day.
So with that in mind Make a ton of work, make so much that you forget that your in a "creative block," which brings us to number two.
2. Let go of Expectation!
We are creatives, we are people of taste, of skill and are determined to challenge the status quo at every moment possible. With that in mind, lets place those expectations on the back burner, because its what's often holding us back. This was so hard for me, I was in a place were, ever piece of work was client work, do or die, pushing the bar of excellence, so much so that I created walls for myself. Its so important to let go of EXPECTATION and start creating. Now many of your might say, "but I've groomed my following, or all I have is client work how can I let go of what has built my career?" Two words: Passion Projects!
Passion projects, work that makes you excited, that has low stipulations and you can be free to express yourself in every way possible. Many of my mentors and fellow artist, the ones who are becoming great, are constantly filling up their time with passion projects. Why? Remember earlier when we spoke about our brains being a muscle? Thats why, passion projects allow for the creative juices to start flowing.
3. Start Experimenting!
Try everything, EVERYTHING! If your an hand-letter try graffiti If your a landscape photographer get in a studio and work with strobes, if your a folk musician listen to jazz music. GET YOUR HAND DIRTY
By placing yourself in new situation your take your brain from maintaining mode to discovery mode. Your senses are heightened, your brain activity is firing, and your allowing yourself to learn which creates growth.
Recently I was seeing a receptiveness in my commercial work so I've dove into "cinematic portraiture and strobe work." Why, because is completely out of the norm, and believe me I'm seeing such incredible personal growth in my work and I'm loving every minute of it!
4. Start Meditating!
Ok, ok so you might be, what the heck? Is this some eastern-yogi-wama-on-top-of-a-hill-no-shower-stuff?
Yes there is that, but I'm not talking about that at all. I'm talking about brain exercise.
I've been meditating almost everyday for the past 6 months and the growth has been amazing. I use an app called HEADSPACE. I'm a huge believer in the strengthening of the mind, focus and creative flow and meditation is the exercise for that practice
The whole goal of meditation for me is to straighten my Visualization. Visualization is taking an idea and staying focused on that idea till it reaches its end. Imaging you have a yellow tennis ball in you hand and you threw it up in the sky, can you image were it goes? does it leave your town? does it fly in to the atmosphere, and circle around the earth only to soar into orbit, around Saturn and then leaving out Galaxy? This is Visualization and its important to creativity. It allows you to see a creative idea to its fullest while remain focused and tact sharp.
Steve Jobs, Seth Godin, Arianna Huffington and so many others have had huge ideas come from the exercise of the mind throughout meditation.
Hope this helps! Feel free to share it and comment bellow!
- Joel Bear