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The Artist's Perspective: Avoiding Creative Road Blocks

There you are, all ready to go and no idea where to go. Not a good place for an artist to be. You have all of the fixings for a creative masterpiece, but none of the creative concepts breaking through. Idealess, empty, energy-less, and confronted with a creative block. Holly crap, what do you do now? Some evil spell has come over you and robbed you of your mojo and it’s not funny. This is serious, an artist without ideas and a direction to go in, is technically not even still an artist at all. Artist’s make art and if no art can be made, an artist cannot exist. Right? Well let see if we can fix that.

I’m afraid I might upset you at this point and I really don’t mean to. I’ve been artistic my whole life and the last nearly three decades of it professionally as a painter, writer, poet and photographer. I’ve never had a block and if I have it has been so minor I haven’t truly realized it. So, I’m either going to be the worst at being compassionate and helping, or the best. I can only promise my hopes are for the latter of the two.

So here goes. I think creative road blocks are more of a creative management problem than a creative emptiness one, and management must be learned like every other skill as an artist. Ideas don’t always just appear in front of you at your will like some sort of light switch you hit when you need one. I must admit, in this light, I’ve been pretty lucky to have some healthy improvisational ideas on the fly. But, over the years I’ve more importantly developed systems to keep me off of the dead end street to nowhere. That by the way, is the key. You want to always have more creative ideas than you can ever produce, which then lets you choose from a creative toy box, grabbing that which you wish to play with and letting the fun begin.road closed sign

Just as you practice your desired creative skill set, practice coming up with ideas. Sometimes I do this with just taking a pad of paper or my phone and developing a list of painting names or story titles. I do so with the good intention of using them sometime in the future, but with no pressure of having to actually do so. A great example of this could be being on a inspirational trip where you might be taking reference photos which could become a future show, project or piece of art. While engrossed in that activity your mind is firing on all cylinders, filled with thought and inspiration. Take some time to, during a break, pull out some paper or your phone and see if you can write down some possible artwork titles. I usually can come up with 20 pretty easily and may even do so more than once or here and there as they come to me. I send them to myself as an email. When I get home each title takes me right back and I find these titles alone can become the only catalyst or ideas I need in the future.

The idea of writing down thoughts may be helpful in the form of a journal. Certainly many famous song writers have kept a journal of what they feel could be a piece of a song to be created later. Just a phrase or few words can become the foundation to build on. The more of these you have, the less chance a block has.

Surround yourself with, or immerse yourself in inspiration. Find that which makes you go tick-tock and keep it wound up. If you just paint, or perform, or sculpt, or type away, and you don’t continually search for and find new things to fill your reference department with, you can quickly become a book-less library, void of things to say. No stories to tell.

Go in search of pieces of ideas to help form full ideas later and - write them down. You can even give yourself a vision board. Having a vision board is a very good tool for those who need help from block, but in collecting their overall thoughts as well. In a sense a vision board can become more reflective than a mirror, which only reflects your outer image and does little to nothing to reveal the inner you.  See related article - Bringing Your Vision Into Focus

Broaden your scope by taking a different path. We are creatures of habit and doing the same thing nets the same results. The same results lack growth and eventually you become so familiar with yourself you bring nothing new to the table. Nothing new has artistic block all over it. Drive a different way to the store, walk down different isles, talk to different people, see different things and be open to discovery. Remember you don’t have to find a lost world, you just need to find the key that has the potential to open a door to a new world and new ideas.

Good luck!

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