Let's face it, we've all been there. No matter what kind of a creative individual you are, I am 99.9% sure that at one point or another you have experienced a creative block (or even a creative crisis - don't you just love those?). It can be really hard to overcome those challenges that arise on your path, so today I'm going to give you a few ideas of how you can unblock your creativity and (finally) stop sabotaging yourself. Get ready because there might be some things that you won't like hearing...
I'm Elina (@elinalukas), a modern abstract artist. Mindfulness plays a big role in my creative practice and today I want to share some things that may just help you unleash your creativity or jump over some of the hurdles that might come your way. Trust me, I've been there before plenty of times (I tend to get a creative crisis about every two months) and have developed some strategies that make creative dry spells actually useful.
Step 1: Accept It
I could just leave it here because this concept is so simple, but allow me to elaborate on it a bit further and explain why it's important to accept creative blocks as part of your creative journey.
If you have ever experienced a panic attack, you will know exactly what I'm talking about. But if you are among the lucky ones that has managed to avoid ever having one (I am truly jealous) despite living in this hyper-anxiety-inducing world, let me illustrate it for you. Panic attacks come in all shapes and sizes, and some are worse than the others. When I first started getting them at the age of 18 I was terrified - was I dying? Am I having a heart attack? Will this ever stop? Will I be able to function normally? Is there something wrong with me?
All of those questions would swirl in my head non-stop, making the whole situation even worse. I would battle against it, trying to actively resist a panic attack from occurring. But guess what? It just made it worse, more intense, more vivid. I struggled so much that at times it became debilitating and I was not able to go about my daily life. That's when I knew something had to change. I imagined the panic attack to be a big wave in the open ocean. If I try going against it, all I will end up doing is struggling, fighting with its power. So, instead of exhausting my energy on fighting something much greater than me, I decided to embrace it - to let it happen and simply wash over me, eventually bringing me to shore. And to my surprise, it worked - my panic attacks became more subtle, more insignificant until they almost fully went away. I was able to breathe again.
You can fight the wave or ride the wave - the choice is yours!
Why am I telling you this? I later realised that creative blocks and panic attacks are much alike - they are scary, can happen out of nowhere and can make you seriously question yourself. So instead of fighting with a creative dry spell, lack of motivation or inspiration, I chose to accept it as part of the process. After all, you cannot be creative 100% of the time - the artist within you needs to take some rest from time to time. Once you recognise that a creative block is not the end of your career but rather a signal that you need to rest and refuel, you will see those periods of time (whether they are just a few days or a few months) as an opportunity to explore and experiment. Which brings me onto my next point...
Rest can also be in the form of swatching and mixing colours!
Step 2: Try New Things
With niching becoming a buzzword over the last few years, a lot of us pigeonhole ourselves (and our creative brains) into one tiny box. It's fun at first, but you soon get bored of doing the same thing over and over again. Your mind becomes fatigued, and your inspiration (or desire, for that matter) is nowhere to be seen. Sounds familiar? That was me just a few months ago, too. I purposefully denied myself the fun of exploring and experimenting with colours, styles and textures just because it wouldn't fit my aesthetic or what I thought my followers would expect from me. And it made me quite miserable.
Like in life, trying new things in art will immensely open up your horizons. Things that you thought were not for you might just become your next big passion - how will you know unless you give it a go?
This is one of the artworks for my collection Experiments on Paper. I used a variety of different tools, like acrylic paint, paint pens, brushes, palette knives to achieve this slightly chaotic look. When I started it, I was feeling very uninspired by everything I was doing at the time and the type of art I was making.
Explore different techniques, try different tools, learn from different people - all of that will leave its tiny mark on your creativity and shape your creative voice.
Ever wanted to improve your sketching and make it less stressful? Get your hands on the newest book by Peggy Dean, Mindful Sketching.
Step 3: Disconnect Your Worth from Your Work
This still gets to me sometimes and I know it's a difficult ask. But trust me, it's worth it (pun...maybe intended?). As artists, we often feel like we're only as good as the work we produce. Only as valuable as the last thing we make. And if that last thing just happens to be sub-par (we all have our off days), our self-worth drops so low that we start questioning the very essence of our artistic abilities. Sounds familiar?
It's easy to get trapped in this loop and put yourself under unnecessary pressure to perform on at your best capacity, every single time. A goal that is setting you up for failure and sabotaging your progress.
Do some introspective work and write down how you feel about your connection to the art you make. Is there something you would want to change?
It's important to remember that while you make art, you are not your art. While you leave pieces of your self, your experiences and your emotions in the things you make, you do not embody them. It's a tricky concept to accept, but once you do, you will be on your way to more a calm and mindful art practice. You've got this.
If you want more ideas on what to do when you're going through a creative block, download this fun bingo board I've put together for you. Print it out and cross of a task every time you complete it!
Elina is a modern abstract artist currently based in Portugal. She loves exploring topics of nature, mental health and little melancholic details of the everyday life. Mindfulness plays a crucial role in her daily art practice and has helped Elina connect with her inner self and have a greater appreciation of the world around her.