Creator’s block is not fun, no matter what kind of art you make.
Inspiration is something that naturally ebbs and flows. We know this — and yet as creatives it can still feel jarring and hopeless when we find ourselves unable to create. What is a writer who doesn’t write? What is a photographer who doesn’t shoot? What is an artist who doesn’t paint?
For many creatives, actually, the portion of time when they are making art is less than the time when they aren’t. People have jobs, families, classes, and other responsibilities that claim their time and leave less of it for creative expression. But not having time to create and not having inspiration to create are different things. You might know the feeling of being at work or in class, coming up with ideas for your next project and fantasizing about being able to pursue them. Sometimes you may bring these ideas to fruition, and other times they just sit on a mood board or in your notes app or in the back of your mind in the “someday” folder. This is not creator’s block, it’s just the natural experience of living under capitalism.
But what about when you aren’t coming up with those ideas? How about when you find yourself staring into space? When people ask what you’re currently working on and you don’t have an answer?
Creator’s block comes and goes, but every time it happens we wonder if this is the time when we’ve officially lost our touch. It’s important to keep in mind that a pause in inspiration is not a permanent halt. Also, stress—of which this year has offered an abundance—can disrupt inspiration. Since there are forces outside of yourself that make it difficult to create, be patient and kind to yourself for not working on any projects.
Sometimes, creator’s block can help you focus on living. You are an entire human being and you’re not completely defined by whatever art you create. A rapper also needs to be a person, and through going through the motions of the human experience, they find things to rap about. The same applies to you. Before thinking of ways to fight off creator’s block, lean into it. Take it as a sign that you should refocus your energy on your life and who you are, and your art will come back to you when it, and you, are ready.
But if you’ve been in a slump for a while and want to get out of it, here are some things you can do to re-spark your flame:
Spend time on Pinterest
Pinterest is an interesting social media platform, because it’s not very social at all. It isn’t about how many followers you have or the other people you speak to: the main focus is inspiring you. People use it to make mood boards for photoshoots, for films, for their lives. Pinterest is a powerful manifestation tool—curating images that make up the life you want to live can help you to be the person you want to be.
Scroll through the images. Type in words that pop into your head and save the images that make you feel something. Do this daily, and with each day make the words more specific. This will help you to eventually create different boards that you can save the images to. These boards may eventually become the launching pad for your next project. Visual inspiration is boundless and meaningful.
Develop a daily routine
How do you spend each moment of your day? Are your days tailored to stimulate your creative senses? Ponder this, and write down a daily routine that factors in things that inspire you. Some ideas: meditation each morning, journaling for at least ten minutes before you start your day and before you fall asleep, reading a few pages of a book daily (can be a different book each day), an hour for free creation (writing/photographing/painting/building/filming/designing whatever you want, just to flex your creative muscle), watching one interview or Youtube video a day, flipping through a new magazine daily, etc. Hopefully these options sparked your own ideas for ways to stimulate your expression: whatever you do should be tailored to your needs and personality.
Identify your inspirations
Be very intentional about the art you consume. Doom scrolling through Instagram and Twitter can actually stifle your creativity, even if at times you find inspiration or peers to follow on there. You don’t have to deactivate your accounts, but maybe set a limit on the amount of time you spend on social media per day. With this additional time, make a list of people whose art inspires you. This can be both the historical greats and the contemporaries. If you’re a writer, whose work are you reading when you say “I wish I could write like that”? Write these people down and spend time daily consuming their work. You can also watch their interviews; they’ll speak about their process, their own inspirations, and maybe their own creator’s block. It’s okay to be inspired by other people’s inspirations. Your research will take you down a rabbit hole that lands you in a space that only your unique eye and voice could find.
Decorate your space with your art
Turn your room into Pinterest. Take magazine pages, quotes, and images that inspire you and paste them all over your walls. You can include photos of the people whose art or career you want to emulate, photos of their work, quotes from them or anyone else that reminds you of the ethos of your work. The four walls of the room you spend the most time in can create monotony in your life and thus your art. Make it so that when you look up, your eyes will always land on something that tickles your imagination.
Prompts can be helpful for all kinds of creators. There are books with prompts that writers can use to get back into the habit of writing, but any kinds of creatives can use them. You can also make your own prompts; write down different prompts that you think will be fun, or get into the habit of seeing anything as a prompt. If you look up and the first thing you see is a wooden door, use wood as a jumping off point for today’s creation. The interpretation of the prompt also doesn’t have to be literal; maybe wood makes you think of brown, and brown makes you think of soil, which makes you think of the roots, and suddenly your creation surrounds the ideas of home, ancestry, and history. Do this however you want to: the point is that using prompts will train your mind to cull inspiration from anything.
Just make something!
Set daily goals. Try your hardest to stick to them. Give yourself an incentive: I will write at least 1,000 words each day, and afterward I’ll treat myself to my favorite meal. Whatever it is, the reward should be motivation enough to make you commit. If you’re a filmmaker, maybe this means shooting at least five minutes of content. The content, regardless of medium, shouldn’t be held to any serious standard. Your five minutes can be various shots of you walking around your neighborhood. Your 1,000 words can be the same five sentences over and over. The point is to create the discipline of sticking to your art. If it makes it easier, tell yourself that you’ll delete it after you make it every day. This may allow you to be more free in your approach to creating, because you know you won’t have to look at it or do anything with it afterward. The more you do this, the closer you will get to suddenly and unexpectedly landing on inspiration. One day, that 1,000 words or five minutes will lead you to an idea you never saw coming.
Creator’s block is okay. It doesn’t define you as a person and it isn’t permanent. You are whole, and you should allow yourself to be whole instead of locking your identity into the daily production of art. This brings a capitalistic mindset into an expression that is far more spiritual and unpredictable.
Of course, if your creative practice is your primary source of income or your field of academic study then the pressure is greater. But disciplining yourself to make something on a consistent basis, even if it is trash in your eyes, will keep you afloat until you come back to center.
If you follow the tips above, you’ll be able to dig yourself out of a creative rut and ensure that they happen less often. Give yourself grace and find balance.