3 Simple Steps for Staring Down Creative Block


creative blockCreative block feels like the end of your world.

Firstly, there’s the frustration — not being able to do something you love, that normally works like a dream.

Like getting into your finely-tuned, lovingly-polished car, turning the key and hearing a pathetic splutter. Or hitting the ‘Jump to Lightspeed’ button and watching the stars just sit there while the TIE Fighters close in.

Secondly, there’s the professional anxiety. If you’re a graphic artist, will you meet that deadline? If you’re a portrait artist, can you still cut it for your clients?

Last and worst, there’s the identity crisis.

You’re a painter, right? Painters paint, right?

So who are you if you can’t paint?

A nobody?

Logically, you know that’s nonsense. But try telling yourself that at 3 am after another day when the sum of your efforts would fit comfortably inside a Tweet.

Now, there are many different types of creative block, and plenty of ways to tackle them and get back in the creative zone.

But before you start examining this particular block, and tinkering with ways to deal with it, there are three critically important things for you to remember.

Unless you remember these three things, you may not have the energy to do that tinkering. It’ll feel like a hopeless case.

1. Only artists get creative block

Beginners don’t get creative block.

When they sit in front of a blank canvas and nothing comes out, it’s because they haven’t learned how to do it yet.

To be blocked, you have to have been creative in the past. You have to be an artist.

So, you are still an artist.

2. If you’ve done something in the past, you can do it again

This is something I learned way back when I first struggled with creative block.

Your ability to create is still there. Maybe latent, but it’s there all right, deep in your nervous system. You don’t need to start again from scratch — just go back to what you were doing before.

Ask yourself:

    • What was it like when I could create easily?
    • How did I feel?
    • What kind of thoughts went through my mind?
    • What was I doing differently?

Then pick one or two of those things you used to do, and start doing them again, today.

3. Your creative block is temporary

How can I be so sure?

Take a moment to remember the other times you’ve experienced creative block.

Each time, you were probably racked with precisely the same fear — that you’d never create again — yet you came through and you did it.

Statistically, this block will likely be the same.

It feels like the end of the world … it feels like you’ll never create again … until something changes, life goes on, and the images come back.

You will be creative again.

If you can’t create anything else, write this

Take a sheet of paper and a pen. No keyboard — you need to feel these words as you write them out longhand.

Write these words on the paper — slowly.

  • I am still an artist, a creator
  • I still have the ability to create
  • I will create again

Put them in front of you and read them until you feel them.

If it helps, read them out loud. Keep repeating the words until you feel conviction in your voice.

Do this every day when you feel blocked.

Remember these three things, repeat them until you feel them in your bones, and you’ll start to relax.

And the more you relax, the sooner the words will return.

How do you deal with creative block?

Which of these three things is most important for you to remember?

What would you add to the list?

Any other tips for beating creative block?

Let’s discuss these questions in the comments …

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. clvngodess

    To me, block means the concept/idea/project isn’t ready. Or that I’m forcing process instead of developing content. It’s easy to move past block. Recognize the resistance. Spend time with it. I change my scenery, I take a walk. I do something else. Switch mediums. Even wash dishes or do laundry. I do anything but force the art. The brain needs a break in order to do what it does best, solve problems, solve the mystery. I’m not a painter. I am an artist.

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Thanks for your comments. These are interesting ideas you present here. And I think they are really good ones. I also just take a good long walk when I feel the creative process slowing down. Taking a break is sometimes the best thing. Thanks again.

  2. Angela

    Hi Gary – love your blog – you’ve already inspired my to do some work on mine…mines very primitive (cough)…AMLisleenterprises.vpweb.co.uk

  3. simon7banks

    For me, writing poetry is something I can’t do to order, or rather that way I write third-rate stuff. For a while recently that was happening. I was writing, but I recognised it was no good. So what was I missing? The daily commute home on the train, tired and reflective, sometimes in the right mood to create. What else had done the trick? Nature, the outdoors. I still had that. Classical music. Ah. I played some. It worked.

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Music is something that would certainly work for most people to fire creativity back up. It would help to relax you and get you back into the creative mood. Thanks for that little gem of insight. Looking forward to hearing from you again.

  4. Ronald Gillis

    I have a creative black-out every time I finish a piece.What to do?There is only one thing that works for me…….return to the source.I begin by going through all my source material that I accumulated throughout the years.I keep clippings,photos.partly finished sketches and anything that caught my attention in the past.
    I usually create a list of two or three ideas based on this source material.This is sort an action list.
    I do this because I work in spurts.I will finish two or more pieces and then do nothing for a month or so.I think this routine came about because my health has been a bit shaky and I run out of energy.But,it works great and during the down time I spend time online writing advice to people thinking that I am smart or something.
    I am getting ready for another run so…..Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year and I will tickle these keys again.


    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Hello Ronald. Thanks for your comments. It sounds like you have a system that works for you. Everyone is different and it has been so eye-opening for me to read everybody’s comments and see how they handle things. I really learn a lot from these interesting comments. Thanks again, and Merry Christmas to you as well.

  5. Doug Sargent Sculpture

    These are all very interesting ideas and comments.
    Personally I am quite often blocked, but then each piece of antique iron lends itself to become something. Many times the finished piece is nothing like what I thought it might turn out to be. I try to stop working on it when it is appealing to me and tho I have sold or given away most everything I have every done honestly there have been very few works I am ever completely satisfied with.

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Hi Doug, and thanks for your comments. I can relate to what you are saying about the finished piece not being what you imagined it would be at the start. It is this way many times for me in my painting. It’s all a process and one road leads to another, and then to another. And before you know it the work has taken on many new dimensions you never would have dreamed it would have. Thanks again and Merry Christmas.

  6. Frans Commelin

    great writing. o also have this little notebook i write in all things /sayings that inspire me.
    In heavy times i always read a few pages in it.

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Hello Frans. Thanks for your comments. Reading inspirational writings can be a great way to boost our creative instincts. Thanks again for that insight.

  7. Nancy Bennett

    When I’m blocked I do the non-creative parts – inventory paints, gesso boards, organize workspace. Touching the tools, even without using them to create, helps reconnect me with my creative self.

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