Five Ways to Break Through Creative Blocks
Over the last week, I spoke with a number of incredible creatives who were feeling stuck or uninspired by their work. What I found so interesting about these conversations is that whether they were well-renowned in their field or just getting started, they felt ashamed for feeling stuck and alone in feeling it.
Maybe you've been there?
The convos inspired me to share my five go-to approaches for when I'm feeling blocked (and want to cry or pull out my hair or give up):
1. Remember: you are most certainly not alone.
Educator Sir Ken Robinson (who has one of the top TED talks on creativity) said, “One of the tragic ironies of modern life is that so many people feel isolated from each other by the very feelings they have in common: including a fear of failure and a sense of not being enough.”
We ALL share similar fears about fitting in, being a fraud, feeling judged, or doing enough. These fears are impersonal and universal, and they’re part of what unites us as humans. When we start to believe that what we're feeling is personal and individual, we stifle our potential and limit our ability to connect.
You are not alone, and because of that fact, your fears can be used as fuel to create brave, interesting, and resonate work. Which leads me to…
2. Use your fears as fuel.
Some of my best work has come from a place of feeling afraid and stuck. Before I started writing this article, for example, I was thinking, “I don’t know what to write about… blahhhh… I feel stuck.” Then I started writing about my creative blocks, which reminded me of my conversations over the last week, and VOILA! This post!
Your block can be an article. A breakup can become a poem. The outrage can be a topic for a dinner party. The fear of abandonment can be a letter to your future child (or younger self). The loneliness can be a launchpad to bring others together.
Rather than wallowing in fear, we can channel it into art. And when I say art, I’m not just talking about writing, painting, and creative endeavors. Art can be applied to the way we organize a spreadsheet, pitch a business, or navigate conflict. Life is art.
3. Build a habit of capturing inspiration.
Years ago, when I worked with Seth Godin, an idea notebook sat on a table by his front door. When I arrived in the morning, the notebook reminded me to come up with new ideas that day, and before I'd leave the office, I'd write three down.
They didn’t have to be good ideas. In fact, Seth encouraged us to come up with bad ideas. Because it was only through the habit of creating a lot of bad ideas that we’d eventually land on a great one.
Still to this day, I have a notebook in my home to capture wild, crazy, and terrible ideas. Even if they seem out of reach. Even if I can’t act on them immediately. Even if it’s just a sliver of inspiration.
We never know how the dots will connect over time, and I can say from experience that all of my projects have come together through years of noticing and capturing inspiration.
4. Create accountability + constraints.
Right now as I write this article, I am sitting across from another creative friend Rachel, who is also in the zone. I have 45 minutes until a call, so there’s a time constraint for me to get moving. The simple act of being together, and working alongside each other for a limited period of time, has created focus and accountability.
So the next time you’re stuck, tell a friend (even if you're across the country), and set a timer for 45 minutes.
And if you can’t find a friend, and you're still coming up with excuses, it might be time to…
5. Just f*cking do it.
Sometimes, the only way to move through the resistance, is to do just that: TO MOVE. (Tweet this.)
I’ve definitely had days when I spent more time coming up with excuses for why I can’t do the work versus actually doing the damn work. Had I started to create when I started making excuses, the work would have already been done.
Maybe you've been there? (Or, maybe you're there right now?)
As Steven Pressfield says in The War of Art, the rule of thumb is “the more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”
The Resistance is there, signaling how meaningful the pursuit we're about to embark on is. The invitation is always to show up, no matter how you feel in the moment. Because when you show up for the work, the work shows up for you.
p.s. Community unlocks blocks. We invite you to shared a time when you felt uninspired (I promise you won't be the only one!), and how you moved through it in The Wonder Tribe. <3