June 9, 2010

Busting Through Creative Block

Writer's Block, Creative Block, whatever you choose to call it, the results are the same: you lose your ability to create new work. It can impact any of us who embark on creative endeavors: writers, musicians, fine artists, artisans, designers and craftspeople. Creative Block is as varied as the people it effects--lasting from a day or two on a specific project, to extreme cases that last for years. Those who have experienced it describe feelings of frustration and numbness and claim that the results are defeating, even crippling.


"You don't know what it is to stay a whole day with your head in your hands trying to squeeze your unfortunate brain so as to find a word." (Gustave Flaubert, 1866)


For Flaubert it was finding words, for artisans and craftspeople it is about finding ideas. Ideas for new designs, shapes and color combinations..what to draw, paint, photograph, sew, knit combinations of beads to string, glass to meld...

Several months ago I found myself stopped in my creative tracks for weeks on end. I'd sit with piles of fabric in front of me, a sketchbook in my hands, and....nothing. Finally, a friend of mine who was also a painter told me I needed to acknowledge my creative block, stop fighting it, and know that it would pass. She reminded me of our shared belief that all things are impermanent and unsteady. In other words: "This Too Shall Pass." Realizing that I needed to recognize, accept, and be mindful of the experience I was having enabled me to begin passing through it. Part of this process was talking to others, so I began asking other Etsy {NewNew} artists what their experiences were. Here are some of their responses.



ACCEPT IT- IT WILL PASS
In the spirit of being mindful, Aliza of Designs By Aliza suggests reminding yourself of the larger picture, and remembering that being creative is a process. "The days of not creating have to be there to get to the next creative idea."

DECLUTTER- CLUTTER MAKES IT HARD TO CONCENTRATE
Some people thrive in a chaotic environment, but the majority of us, as Marilyn of Vyphuisdesigns points out "Struggle through the clutter of our lives." Finding the time and energy to concentrate and be creative can be hard enough, physical and mental clutter makes it worse. One way to deal with Creative Block is to re-organize your work space. Freeing up additional workspace or purging your work area of visual clutter can be cathartic and help kick start your creative process.


GET SOMETHING ON PAPER-JUST A LITTLE SOMETHING
It's not just the physical clutter that can impede our creative process; mental clutter can also be an obstacle to generating fresh new ideas. Molly Shoelace of MShoelace suggests one way of clearing the mental clutter is to write it down. "Jot down some of the things you want to do and you may find it's not as overwhelming as you thought. Then , try to do one thing--do just one rough sketch, a doodle, or write a few descriptive words. Once that momentum gets going, you'll be back on your way."

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH CREATIVITY- CREATIVITY BREEDS CREATIVITY.
Kimm from KimmChi finds inspiration by taking a stroll through a museum, or flipping through an art book. She suggest that those who are faced with creative block talk to other creative people from different fields, or borrowing inspiration from the creative forces of nature as you take a walk in the park.


CHANGE GEARS
Having some trouble with a particular project does not mean you have come down with a full blown case of creative block. You may just be bored or tired of what you are working on. Try something different. Taking your mind off the project you are struggling with may actually lead to the generation of new ideas and solutions. Lauren from Paperelle says "By the time I'm done with something else I'll usually be reinvigorated to do the original task that I was blocked on."

RELAX
Stay centered and be aware of the source of your creative energy, suggests Alton Weekes as a way of keeping the creative ideas flowing. Give your mind a bit of quiet time every day so that it can be open to and have room for ideas to flow in. Meditate, listen to music, do yoga or take a walk.



TRY NOT TO BE TOO CRITICAL OF YOURSELF
When we self-edit ourselves we stifle our own creativity. Moe at Made By Moe described a "childlike energy" that flows through her when making things. Remaining receptive to that energy source by opening yourself to it in a confident, non-critical way can help you to continue on your creative journey when you have come to a bump in the road.

I cannot share all the responses I received from The {NewNew} team members-- I hope others will post their suggestions and tips in the comment section below. Membership in this group of talented metro region artists and designers is opening this month! Please email Thenewnewny (at) g mail dot com for information about how you can join!



Holly Ellis of Ellis Design

8 comments:

Lorrie Veasey said...

Great post Holly!

Karina said...

Love this post. Getting new materials always helps me get over any creative blockage.

Simone said...

These are some great tips and I love the interspersed images

Linda // PurtyBird said...

Excellent advice, nicely delivered!

persuede said...

Great post. The biggest tool I use to deal with creative block is discipline. even if i spend an entire hour making circles on a page, i commit to doing something creative for an hour everyday. the practice can take the pressure off and serve as a kind of meditation/distraction -- much like taking a walk or doing something other than what you're trying desperately to work on.

molly shoelace said...

i'm already inspired! great article, thanks!

Metalicious said...

Awesome post!

Patricia said...

Hi! Saw this post and wanted to let everyone know about a workshop I saw advertised at Go Yoga in Williamsburg. It's called "Meditate to Create: Techniques for Finding Flow," and it's led by Joelle Hahn. I didn't attend the first one she did, but I heard it was wonderful. It's tomorrow, June 13th, from 4pm-6pm. Enjoy!