12 ways to bust a creative block

Within a couple pages of beginning to read Breakthrough!: Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block & Spark Your Imagination, I gave in to my compulsion to count the ideas presented. The book, edited by Alex Cornell, contains favorite creative-block busters from 90 artists who span the fields of visual art & design, music, and written word.

At the end, I was most struck by the neck & neck tally of those who suggested taking a break and/or getting fresh air (in a myriad of ways) with those who urged digging-in and continuing to work – a 49% to 51% split in favor of digging-in.

Here’s an empirical, but completely unscientific, tally of the remaining top 10 ideas for breaking through a creative block:

10. Refrain from all evil distractions, such as anything done on your couch or smartphone, pinball, solitaire, and the like.

9. Take a shower or bath, and take a glass of wine with you.

8. Talk it over with others.

7. Put on the perfect music.

6. Go about your life and ignore the block until it goes away.

5. Switch to a different project for awhile.

4. Flip through your idea file – in whatever form that takes.

3. Change perspective, such as ‘If I were [Winston Churchill, a fish, homeless, etc.], how would I do this?’.

2. Do a mundane task, such as washing dishes or folding laundry.

1. Switch to another media: sketch instead of write, paint instead of compose, etc.

Spicy food made a showing, as well as starting over, and several were laced with commentary on the relationship between creative block and fear. There were a few philosophers in the bunch who railed against the existence of creative block and some redefined it.  I can’t believe that not one artist espoused my favorite method of nursing creative block with dark chocolate.

You should most definitely read the book to see how your favorite methods fare with this band of artists, and to pick up some new ideas. I’ll leave you with a selection of my favorite quotes from a few participating artists:

“Give yourself the space to freely fail, and that same space will give you the freedom to succeed.” ~Robert Anderson, Product Designer

On switching to a mundane task:  “Try it; if it doesn’t work, at least you’ll end up with a painted room, a mowed lawn, a clean basement.” ~Daniel Demmett, Professor of Philosophy

“The good news is that creative block is all in your head. Unfortunately, so are all the good ideas.” ~Dan Cassaro, Artist

“[The beach] is where I am most relaxed and where my mind can wander freely. Find your beach – wherever that may be – and go there as often as possible.” ~Simon C. Page, Graphic Designer

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Categories: pep talks

2 Comments on “12 ways to bust a creative block”

  1. April 28, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    Each of these suggestions sounds good. I’m filing the list away in Evernotes for reference when and if I need a reminder. I always have so many projects going that switching to another keeps momentum, and usually unjams the stuck one.

  2. April 28, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    Hi Sharon, I’m a big believer too in having multiple project going, which keeps me from getting stuck for very long. Although I have had a few all-out droughts in past years and find that a true vacation is the only remedy.

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