“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
-Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Our brain is very powerful, but sometimes, it falters too. There are days when you are bursting with ideas; too full of life to contain in pages. But there are months when that impulse leaves you; when every line you write ends up in the dustbin.
A creative block can (and does) happen to anybody who likes to create. It nags at you to pick the pieces up, but ends up looking like an incomplete picture. Here are a few tips to help you through this super-annoying phase:
Believe that it can be overcome.
The greatest wrong you could do yourself is giving up. Nothing is permanent, okay? Not you, not me, not even this Universe. I know you feel hopeless right now, but your creativity has not run out. It is merely on vacation.
Treat this block like a temporary setback. I know there are voices in your head, going: “You’ll never be able to write again”, “You’ve forgotten how to sing”, “You were going through a lucky phase, and now it’s over”. They are all false. This block is far from permanent, and keep reminding yourself that.
Don’t chase the mammoth task of ‘perfection’.
Often, I think of a very elaborate illustration, and end up not doing it at all. The problem with setting yourself a very big goal is that you keep postponing it. During a creative block, our mind is already shutting down on us. Don’t push it over the edge.
Start small. Write one line. Draw for 5 minutes. See what you end up with. Even a small product is better than a huge heap of unfinished to-do lists.
Do it everyday.
Persistence is key. If you’ve allotted 5 minutes a day to your art, keep at it. I learnt this from Kesh. Even if your mind is 100% blank, sit down with your notebook/laptop. Jot down random phrases that come to you. Draw circles, or wiggly lines, if you will. But stick to your routine.
After a couple of days, you will gradually see your work getting better. Doodles will become more defined, your poetry will have more lines, the songs will start sounding better. Practice.
Look around you, and observe.
“But we do that all the time, Meghalee. What nonsense advice is this?”
Ah, do we? Yesterday, my friend pointed out an interesting mural in an alley I’ve walked through a million times. Surprisingly, I had never noticed it before.
Try an exercise where you keep your phone in your pocket, while you’re travelling. You will notice new buildings, weird trees, pick up on interesting conversation, and notice humanity in general. Trust me, it will work wonders on your inspiration.
You don’t have to leave home in order to find inspiration.
You would be surprised to know how much you ignore your own house. The other day, I suddenly realized my balcony has a plant. (Don’t worry, it’s alive.) My grandmother had planted it when I was a tiny toddler. It’s in a corner, behind the ladder, but it isn’t very easy to miss. If you’re looking, that is.
I realized that most of us are moving with the desire to reach somewhere. We don’t stop to look at things that we aren’t searching for. So, take a moment, and walk around your house. Let me know what you discovered!
Carry a small notebook with white pages.
It could be a journal and a sketchbook, at the same time.
Francis Bacon used to carry a Commonplace Book, and jot down events, observations, or conversations he picked up on. That material served as the spine of his infamous essays.
You don’t know when inspiration will strike. And, if you’re anything like me, you have the memory span of a Goldfish. So, store your experience when it’s still fresh. You can work on them later.
Browse through the works of other creators.
Inktober is running in full force right now, and so is my Creative Block. Every day, I read the prompt, and surf through the drawings of other artists. It baffles me how there can be so many interpretations of a single word. If you’re a writer, browse through the contents of different websites, spanning across genres.
The exposure helps your mind kick into work. You could be hit with an award-winning idea out of nowhere!
Learn something new.
When you do too much of something, you often grow tired of it. So, ditch your metaphorical canvas for a bit, and test your brain in new areas.
You could learn a new language with Duolingo‘s app, practice meditation with Headspace‘s app, learn how to draw/illustrate with YouTube tutorials, or even learn Martial Arts online. There is no limit to the creative fields you can explore.
Make art about your Creative Block.
This is what I’m doing right now.
I spent an entire day trying to come up with a topic. The long list pinned to my Home Screen seemed really boring. Creative Blocks do that to you. Things you have been very passionate about, suddenly seem to have lost their fire.
So, write about the dying embers. Sing about how you cannot hit a particular note. Doodle what you think this Block would look like as a human being. Use your best creative weapon to kill it.
Maybe your mind needs some rest. It is quite possible that you have over-worked yourself. So, take some time off and leave your Art Kit behind. Every relationship needs a break, and forcing things only make them worse.
If the Block is still there when you get back, scroll up to the top of this list, and begin again. You are not alone, and this is far from the end. May creativity win!