Overcoming Creative Block
For many years I believed that creative block is something that comes and goes naturally. A temporary condition in which your mind has run out of fresh ideas and the only way to remedy it is to take a break, rest or have a good sleep etc. But recently I’ve been more inclined to believe that there is more to it than that, and that there are things you can actively do to help you get over it.
To sum it up, you need to learn how to tackle it from a different angle.
What Is Creative Block?
Creative block is a state of mind that prevents you from producing things to your highest level of creativity.
It can occur when you least expect it. You may sit down to work one day and it will suddenly hit you. You may sit there for hours making things, then deleting them while feeling like you aren’t getting anywhere. Even if you love what you do, which I’m sure you do if you are a creative, you are bound to experience this eventually.
If you are someone who has never experienced it, please contact me and teach me this magic.
But if you are like me and you do experience a mental block from time to time, there are things that you can do which will help you get out of it.
The first step is to realise that you are having a creative block. Like I said before, you may be going round in circles thinking you are being creative and then deleting everything to start again from scratch. You probably wont get anywhere doing this and you may not even realise that you’re having a creative block.
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Signs Of Creative Block
We all experience it in different ways, but I think there are 3 main categories than you can narrow the signs down to.
- You feel stuck and start to doubt your abilities (imposter syndrome)
- You find it hard to start something new (no motivation)
- You delay finishing and releasing work (fear of criticism and rejection)
If you feel like you fit into one of these 3 categories, then these upcoming tips will help you along. If they work for me, then why not you too?
Before we can go ono the different ways to fix creative block, we need to know what can cause it. This will help us focus our time into a more effective solution rather than just trying randomly to push past it.
What Causes Creative Block?
The causes of creative block can vary greatly depending on what type of creative work you are doing. Music production, writing, art or graphic design. The list goes on and on. Since this is a blog post about music, I’ll be talking about how to fix creative block in music.
- You are overworked
We live in an age where content is king. People race to post their song before someone else to get ahead of them. They want the views, the feedback, the likes & the follows before the next person does. But you’ll never beat everyone to the end. It’s a never ending cycle thanks to us having easily accessible technology that makes it easier than ever to produce content. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you approach your work like this all the time, you will get burnt out. I’ve been there and it sucks.
- Self doubt & anxiety
Sometimes your ideas just don’t happen the way you envisioned them to and you start to feel like you were never good enough to being with, or that you got lucky with a previous song that happened to do well. It’s natural to feel this way. It’s a good thing to compare yourself to others or to something you did before that you feel is better. It’s how we learn and grow as a person. And in time, others will learn and grow from what we did.
- Rejection of work or criticism
Especially when just starting out, it’s hard to hear criticism of your work. I’ve been producing for upwards of 10 years now and if I go back and listen to my first ever song, it’s the worst thing I’ve heard in my life. Thank god I never showed anyone because if I did, I wouldn’t have known how to cope with the criticism back then. Pro tip: don’t ask people unfamiliar with music who have never made anything musical before to give you feedback. It wont be helpful.
- Existential Crisis
Yes, ok. This one sounds a bit much but bear with me. Life gets in the way. You may be in the process of moving house when a storm hits and your new place gets flooded, or a relative unexpectedly dies. Suddenly you have a plateful of problems thrust upon you and you might start to feel overwhelmed. So you take a step to the side and try writing that song you’ve been putting off. But nothing is happening. Don’t put important things in the back of your mind just to finish a song. The song will always be there to finish later.
- Money problems
The pressure to make money, for most of us, is ever present. That pressure can feel even stronger when you are relying on your creative output to provide for you and your family. Be wary of these things overloading you and breaking the delicate balance between creativity and output.
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How To Overcome Creative Block
There is a never ending list of ways that you can tackle creative block. I tend to do one of two things…
- Approach the problem from a different angle.
- Leave it alone for a while and take care of other things.
This short list will encompass these above points in different ways.
Embrace the fear and change something drastic.
Let’s say you are trying to write lyrics about topic A but you’ve hit a wall. How are you supposed to write an entire song about topic A but you can’t do any more than one verse? Is there something you can change in the way you write things? Maybe all your songs follow a certain rhyming scheme or structure.
Try the following ideas:
- Write a verse from the perspective of something or someone different than you usually do.
- Ban yourself from using that rhyming scheme you always use and force yourself to try a new one.
- Make a word cloud that branches out from your songs main topic, pick a couple of those words, think of synonyms that rhyme and write a verse using those words.
The goal: It might work for you, or it might not. Your should be aiming to light a spark to help you get back into the correct mindset.
Don’t chase perfection.
In my opinion, there’s no such thing as perfection in your own art (whatever that may be). Think of something that you would consider perfection. Think of your favourite song and how it inspires you. Do you think that whoever wrote it took a step back and said, “Yea, that’s it. It’s perfect. I can’t do any more to it.” Of course they didn’t because I know that you have never done that with anything you’ve made either.
“Perfection in ones work implies the completion of art, which is impossible.”
If you find yourself striving for perfection, please just stop. It will never happen from your point of view and you will keep working on the same thing forever (most likely making it worse gradually). Even if you do think something is perfect one day, you will come back the next day and change your mind. And on the cycle goes.
Change your routine & take a break.
Are you sick of doing the same thing every day and making little to no progress? For me, a music producer, I sometimes get a little fed up of working in the studio. So I’ll do the time honoured tradition and go for a walk. I will completely forget about music and enjoy the moment.
Other times, I’ll take my laptop and go for a drive somewhere so I can sit in my car and write some music there.
Sometimes a change of scenery is all I need and it could be all you need too.
Create & then edit.
Break the rules and then follow them. That’s how I think about it. My work flow consists of creating and editing at the same time. This works really well for me most of the time, but eventually I will start to stagnate and struggle to progress any further. Sometimes it’s important to separate the process of creating and then editing. If you are constantly editing while creating, you’ll fall into the trap of criticising and undermining your own ideas.
Get comfortable cranking out ideas as quickly as you can. This allows the creative process to unfold at its natural pace.
Set yourself limits.
This can be quite a fun and challenging way to help with creative block. Having the online world at our fingertips, there is an incomprehensible vastness that can feel like too much to handle when being creative. You may want to write about “this thing”, but you want to fit in a part that sounds like another thing. Before you know it, you have all these ideas and nothing to do with them and you haven’t done anything productive.
Less is more. Especially in song writing. Keep it simple and limit yourself. Only allow yourself to use 2 instruments to make this beat, or give yourself 10 minutes to write a verse. You’ll get better at this if you use this as a creative exercise, I promise.
Hype it up!
Announce your plans to the world and follow through on them. Because if you don’t, you’ll be very embarrassed. Committing to a project where the consequences of failing are greater than your own personal satisfaction if you finish it will certainly get you going.
Tell your fan base, your friends and relatives. Hype it up!
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