10 Ways to Cope with Artist’s Block
It happens to all creatives at some point in time. We just hit a brick wall, we don’t know what to do next. Don’t make the even bigger mistake of letting it get to you.
Just take a look at the following suggestions to get yourself out of a rut and back on track.
Seriously, panicking takes up far too much energy. You will go round and round in circles and still be no further forward, so take a deep breath and calm down.
You haven’t lost it; you will be able to produce work again. Think back to teenage love. Your first love left you, you thought you would never get over it and you would never love again. Didn’t happen, did it? But you have to be kind to yourself and remind yourself that you can do this.
If you are an amateur artist you will have the luxury of time to figure this out, less so if you are a professional and you need to pay the bills. Either way the advice stands, don’t panic and try the following suggestions.
Don’t compare yourself to others
It is very easy to tell yourself when you have hit that wall that your art is rubbish, and everyone else is so much better. That is really not a game you want to play.
As I said before, everyone gets stuck at some point and playing the comparison game will really damage your confidence. Why? Well, because we always compare ourselves to someone much further along the journey than ourselves. We never look at those still behind us. We are all at different stages of that journey and we are all exactly where we are meant to be so don’t fill your head with these kinds of thoughts. Instead, try doing something very different to what you normally do. Try taking a pottery class, a calligraphy class, pick up a camera and photograph trees or people; it doesn’t matter what but do something different and do something you are interested in learning more about. It will help you change the way you think and in turn help you get back in the game.
Talk to other artists
We artists are a solitary bunch in general. We busy ourselves in our working spaces to the exclusion of all others. We are so busy making our art it’s no wonder we hit a wall, sometimes. We need outside input and meeting up with friends, including other artists, is a great way to refresh. Tell your friends you are struggling; you never know what suggestions they may come up with which will relight your fire. Sometimes it is a chance remark which gets you back on the right track.
Inspiration can be obtained from all around you
Don’t wait for inspiration to come knocking at your door. It might turn up unexpectedly, but not very likely. You have to make your own luck so grab a friend and visit some local art galleries, go and visit a major art exhibition or a museum. Visit a country house and garden and take a look at what’s selling in the gift shop. Whilst you are out enjoying yourself not panicking, something will make you think. Take a photo, do a little sketch. It may be something you had never considered before but in a relaxed mental state, inspiration is far more likely to appear.
Make an inspiration board
I realise that inspiration boards are all a bit of a cliché, but I produced one recently and surprised myself. I just went online and started googling images and printing them out. I had my son assemble the board for me, (thank you, J), as I wanted to remain slightly detached from it.
Once he had finished it I stuck it up on the wall in my office. Then over about two or three weeks I would look at the board and write a few words about the images up there. I really surprised myself as another area of interest has emerged. I am still not sure what I am going to do with this information, but I have plenty of time to decide. The seeds have been sown. I highly recommend trying this yourself.
Read a book
I read every day and I read all sorts of different things too. From self-help books, to business advice, books about artists and fiction. All sorts of fiction. The only thing I don’t read is horror stuff, just not my thing, but anything else. Widening your mind in this way allows new thoughts to appear. I run a reading group or book club, where we pick one book which we all read each month plus we share other books we have read during the month, too. Reading creates great discussions, hearing other people’s interpretation of a book is fascinating and all another win for your head space.
Get out in Nature
Another way to switch our brains off is get out in nature. Go for a walk in the woods, a park or along the coast. If you can’t get out like this, sit outside or if its winter, sit in a window just watching the world go by. The birds flying about, spiders weaving their webs, all sorts of things are happening outside which we so often don’t stop to admire and enjoy.
By changing your normal routine or environment you will give your head some space to work its own magic.
Be a child
What I mean by this is go and play. You could go and play a sport or visit an old people’s home and play games with them.
But if you are a working artist, remind yourself of the joy you felt when you first started making art. The squiggles in your sketch books, the playing with colours, media, equipment. Look through all your early works to get inspiration and to remind yourself how far you have come. Get all your tools out and mix them up and play with them. Relight your passion for what got you into art in the first place. So be messy and have fun.
Make bad works
Go on, take a chance, no one else is going to see. Make bad work. I doubt you will. But try. You already know so much about what you do and how to do it well that you will find it difficult to make bad work. But try. It will give you the confidence to keep moving forwards.
Clear up your working space
‘Tidy House, tidy mind’ or ‘tidy desk, tidy mind’. There are a plethora of sayings about being tidy and whilst I have used tidying up my space as a way to avoid doing something, having everything where it should be makes life so much easier. Getting things back in order or, if you are already neat and tide, rearranging your space changes the way you see your working space which in turn can change your whole outlook.
I am currently having a total clear out of my office, part of a year-long major project of mine to get rid of ‘stuff’ I don’t need. I walked back into my office this morning and even though I knew I had changed everything; it took me by surprise and made me smile. If you are thinking that won’t work, remember what happens when you go for a totally new hairstyle. The first few times you look in the mirror you surprise yourself. The same thing happens when you reorganise your working space.
But really don’t panic, this stage will pass. They say the darkest hour is before dawn, so in your darkest times you should remember that the next stage is the dawn when something new and beautiful will emerge. Have faith this will happen for you, too.