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Creative blocks, be gone: The guide to overcoming artistic obstacles

Whether you are going through a creative block or have experienced one, you know they can crush  an artistic flow. Take these tips to get out of the rut. I Fiona Legesse/ The Cougar


Anyone dabbling in the creative arts, whether it be writing, sketching or composing, has experienced the dreaded creative block.

A creative block can manifest in different ways for different artists, but the result is the same: the ever-consuming anxiety that freezes the creative process and eliminates any chance of meeting ever-approaching deadlines.

A creative block can have numerous causes, including a lack of confidence in one’s abilities or perceived pressure to come up with great ideas. The fields of psychology and neurology explain the causes for a creative block and strategies to overcome it.

Neuroscience studies on imagination, creativity and improvisation give us a fuller picture of what’s going on in the brain. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex tends to be less activated when people are engaged in improvising or creative notions.

This portion of the brain controls one’s sense of self and serves as one’s “inner critic.” Essentially, a release of inhibition correlates with higher levels of creativity. When not suffering from a creative block, creativity can feel as natural as breathing.

The problem with creative blocks stems from when we become too self-aware. When an artist starts to fear not being able to produce worthy pieces or goes through a period of stress and trauma, a creative block can prevent them from being productive.

Some of the most common reasons for a creative stump for artists are fear of putting themselves and their ideas out there, harsh perfectionism and excessive self-criticism.

These ideas can freeze out an artist’s creative and explorative side, and they eventually lead to a fear of a blank piece of paper or canvas.

Psychologists believe that falling into a cycle of overthinking a piece can actually lead to more frustration. In effect, a creative block is all in the mind if we give it power over us.

Helpful Tips

In order to get out of an artistic slump, you need to get out of your head and slowly get in the right mindset to inspire creativity. It is essential to spend time to get in the right mood.

Strategies to combat creative blocks center around getting comfortable and mentally prepared to create after a dry spell.

For example, some writers believe having a set time to write everyday helps stimulate their creativity. A set schedule forces writers to write without worrying if it’s good or bad. An allotted time forces an artist of any medium to sit down and just do it.

For writers, staring at the blank page, unable to piece sentences together in just the right way can get painfully frustrating. This form of creative block, also known as writer’s block, is defined as “a psychological inhibition preventing a writer to proceed with a piece,” according to Merriam-Webster.

This definition can be true for any artist in any medium, like an artist frozen in frustration or a composer unable to start a composition.

To get the creative juices flowing, you need to disconnect from the busy world and allow yourself to be bored. Try spending some time away from your phone or disable notifications to social media sites to focus on writing or drawing.

Another tip is to go to areas that inspire you. If you’re a lover of design, you should look for areas that have plenty of open space and natural light. If you work best in busy environments, find a comfy coffee shop or a park if you’re a nature aficionado.

Finding new workspaces gives us a new perspective and can change our state of mind, especially if it is more tidy and less cluttered.

Cleaning and sprucing up your workspace is also incredibly important to raise inspiration. Make sure your workspace is by a window and nicely decorated. Keep it sparse, however, because you don’t want to unintentionally end up cluttering your workspace.

By changing environments and making them more comfortable, you are allowing yourself to be free of inhibitions and get into the sweet spot of creating.

The life of an artist revolves around finding inspiration, which can sometimes lead to binging through a piece, writing or drawing for hours on end while we have the power of inspiration. This can be unhealthy, as it leads to dry spells. The only way to change that is to change from the mindset of quality to quantity.

The best way to get better is by constantly creating and practicing the elements of style in writing or art. By changing our mindsets from quality to just quantity, we practice our crafts.

Creative blocks can be incredibly frustrating in just about any creative field. The science of the brain explains that we must introduce healthier habits, such as setting up a schedule and finding workspaces that allow us to find inspiration, to help get over the dreaded creative block.

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