How to get through a creative block (in ten easy steps)

I have approached this subject before.  If you have any creative practice, at some point you are going to get block.  It’s the other side of the inspiration coin.  The good news is it’s just a moment in time which will pass.  Even better news there are some small simple things that can help you send artistic block on its way a little bit quicker.

I have packed this post with videos and podcasts in the hopes that if you come across it when you really need some help pushing through a block, one of these will spark something for you.

Here are just some of the things I have been playing with over the last 4 years.  If you try any of these tools, then please let me know how you get on in the comments.  Also if you have other ideas or tactics you use to bust the block then please let me know.

  1. Do something that makes you happy – It is a new theory I have been working on recently, but I’m pretty sure that the tortured artist trope has had its day.  I know when I am happy and feel like I am looking after myself then it is much easier to motivate myself.  If you are experiencing the frustration of artistic block, it can only be a good thing to switch your emotional gears.
  2. Try working in a different surrounding or cleaning/re-organising your space.  Your environment can have a big impact on your thinking.  I sometimes will move from my desk to sit in the kitchen or garden.  Or set aside some tidying time before I begin a drawing session so that there are fewer distractions.  It also helps that I hate tidying, so I am always really happy to be back to drawing by the time I’m done.  I also listen to music or put a film on in the background which can help to reset your mood.  My favourite go to is the Amadeus soundtrack.
  3. Sleep on it.  Not literally but the sentiment here is to step away from what you are doing.  Fresh eyes can really help you move past your inner inspiration walls.  This is a tactic I learnt from one of my mindfulness teachers Michelle Levey who taught me to cosy up and get curious about the challenges your mind can bring you.  If you have the luxury of time then sometimes this is a good tactic to take.  Take the time away from your project to get curious about what is stopping you.  You might find it helps you to tap into deeper resources.  The important thing if you try this to be kind to yourself, the worst thing you can do is to start making yourself feel bad about feeling bad.
  4. Top up your creative bank account -listen to music or a pod cast.  Inspiration is infectious.  If you have creative friends you will know that spending some time talking to them can spark ideas.  If you are looking for a good podcast about creativity then you can’t go wrong with Creative Loving Spirit by Paul Macauley.  Other good options are Mindfulness with Tamsin Bishton, The Art History Babes and Creative Pep Talk .  On the music front then Gudjor never fails to come at me left of field, it’s surprising and captivating.
  5. Surround yourself with things that you find inspiring.  I have created a wall of images I find inspiring and reassuring.  To get you started I would like to share this video which includes one of my favourite prints which never fails to lift my spirits and give me an idea. 
  6. Finished is better than perfect.  You might find yourself blocked because no matter what you try to finish, nothing ends up living up to your own expectations.  The quest for perfection creates a sense of paralysis faster than anything else I know.  Jake Parker has a great youtube video I turn to when I notice I’m skirting around the unbeatable tyrant that is perfection.
  7. Revisit unfinished work.  At any given moment I have a stack of at least 10 unfinished sketches.  If you find yourself falling out of love with a project half way through, don’t throw it away, put it aside for a rainy day instead.  This way you have somewhere to go when starting something from scratch seems difficult.
  8. Exercise your creative muscles.  Just like your real muscles, you can build your creative muscles so they can take you further on less energy.  One great way to exercise is by speed drawing. Simply go somewhere, set up what you need and then draw whatever is in front of you in 5-15 minutes.  No matter what the outcome finish at the time you have set yourself.  Turn 90 degree and begin again.  Even if you don’t like what you have done at the end, you will have at least four drawings by the time you do a full rotation back to where you started.
  9. Know what motivates you.  This is easy said and hard lived.  Knowing yourself is a life times work.  However there is one small thing I have noticed works for most people, which is break whatever goal you are trying to achieve into small easy steps.  I find it really demotivating to be working towards a far off goal and constantly feeling like I am getting nowhere.  Where as if I have a bunch of small things I can accomplish along the way, the more I do, the energy I gather as I go.
  10. Experiment.  Pick a piece of work that you have completed that you really like, then try and recreate it in a different medium. If you used pencils, try collage.  If you used water colour, try charcoal.  If you used ink try finger paints.  You may surprise yourself, and surprise in my opinion is the fore-bearer of creation.

#FollowFriday – Gudjohr

Hey, do you like to have your ears pleasured while you draw?  Of course you do, who doesn’t.  Art and music just go together like Cagney and Lacey, Watson and Holmes, Columbo and… okay so that one didn’t work but you get the gist.  During Inktober, I am feeding my brain lots of good music in order to come up with ideas.

a1164701648_10I always listen to music or have a film on in the background when I am doing something creative.  I find it helps soothe the spirit and get the thinky brain ideas flowing.  Recently I have been having a secret love affair with Gudjohr.  He’s a Brighton based musician and his newest album between the blinks is particularly delightful.  I was very pleased he gave me permission to link to his work.  Alongside his music, I also really appreciate his cover art.  It’s trippy, cool and unexpected, which seems very fitting.

You can go and listen to more of his stuff here:

Spotify

Enjoy listening and tell me what you like to listen to while you create in the comments below.

Daily Doodle Q&A and Giveaway results

First off I just wanted to say a massive thank you to all those who submitted questions to the Q&A.  It was a genuine pleasure sitting down with Paul and answering them.

You can find Paul’s podcast, Creative Loving Spirit here and the book we wrote together here.

To find yourself a copy of the Mountain Faces Meditation, then head over here.

Giveaway winners!

I have put all the question in a hat and then pulled out the winners!  The full list of questions I received was so good I had to let Fate be the decider.  If your name is listed below, please email me with your address and I will pop your prizes in the post.

Signed book and original drawing:

  • Kitty Jade

Original drawing:

  • Brian Balke
  • Von Smith
  • Jupitergrant
  • Sanandi-Jacq
  • Hetheru Mer Djehuty
  • Bonnie Rae

 

Give yourself the gift of time

As a creative person, do you recognise this:

I have had this idea, and I think it could be something really good.  But I don’t have time to give any real thought right now.  I’ll start it tomorrow.. next week… next month… I mean… I’ll get around to it eventually.

I know I feel that way.  In a way posting a doodle a day, every day has become a bit of a double edged sword.  On one hand it has encouraged me to commit to a daily practice which has lead me to producing more images than I thought I was capable.  However on a busy day it can become the procrastinating tool or block that I could really do without in my life.

banner 3I can sometimes become locked into a pattern of producing because I feel I have to and not because I want to, and that really affects the pride I feel in sharing a piece.  So when my good buddy Paul Macauley posted that he was hosting a workshop that would help shake creatives out of their funk I couldn’t wait to hand over my money (which is a rare occurrence this year).  In 2019 I have committed to making myself a better person, and that work needs to take place internally as much as it needs to take place externally.

And it couldn’t have come at a better time.  On the first of January I made a dramatic change to my eating.  For over a decade I have had a very unhealthy relationship with food.  I have been obsessed, in love, and completely dominated by food.  I have been using food as a way to sooth any discomfort (physical or emotional) I feel. I have been stashing junk food away like a squirrel preparing for a 15 year long winter, and lying to (and lashing out at) loved ones when they express a concern.

However with the support of a few good friends (and a very competent therapist) I have promised myself that I will not turn 30 and hate what I see in the mirror any more.  In order to pull this off I am going to have to lean into other soothing tools which I have allowed to take a back seat to my food obsession.  Which means I am recommitting myself to drawing again.

Scan 62In particular I am going to finish at least one of the larger projects I have been chewing on.  I did some creatively focused coaching with Paul at the end of last year (as well as a podcast and a book), so I know that the trust I place in him will be totally rewarded with a rich and fulfilling day.  My hope is that in posting this I will also encourage a few more people to sign up and support him.

I can honestly say that I have rarely met a kinder and more thoughtful human being.  So if you are in Brighton in January, please consider this as something to gift yourself.  A day where you can focus in on making something that is important to you.

What is the day about?

Wouldn’t it be awesome to have more confidence in what you’re doing? To more authentically express what is yours to make? To see a way forward that feels exciting and full of possibility?

In this fun, collaborative and supportive workshop I will share inspirations and exercises that invite you to open your head, heart and hands to:

  • Liberate your true wants and deeper intentions
  • Develop your thinking and principles
  • Identify small, meaningful onward actions
  • Rediscover the playfulness of ideas and making things

The expression of your unique experience and understanding is important. Let’s make the things we love in a meaningful way and share them with the world.

Where can I book?

EventBrite: And for a limited time only, there’s 25% off.

 

 

 

(In case you missed) Creative Loving Spirit (podcast rec)

As I write this I am listening to me and my dear friend Paul Macauley talk.  I recently had the privilege of joining him on his podcast Creative Loving Spirit.  It’s a privilege because it’s not often I get to talk about art and my blog to people, and speaking to someone like Paul who asks good questions is quite joyful.

So please listen, I hope you enjoy and don’t just listen to my one, there is a whole series to fill your ear holes with!