Six Secrets to Overcome Creative Blocks

"The creative process is a mirror and a training ground for life." The fifth blog post from mentor and author Katherine Robertson-Pilling.

 

Earlier this week I met a young man in the elevator at the train station. When I asked where he was going, he told me he’s moving to Berlin. I asked him what he’s going to do there and he said he hopes to teach English or be a sous chef in a restaurant. I was intrigued with his story.

 

As we were both on the way to the airport and all the other seats were filled with young children, he sat down beside me and we chatted during the entire trip. He told me he’s originally from England but he’d spent the past seven years in Italy. At the age of 20, he sings in a punk rock band and, unable to find a better job in Italy, he and his band mates have decided to see what they can create in Berlin.


I was struck with his courage, and he reminded me of myself. My own life has seen me move across countries and continents without plans or security several times. While I don’t recommend it for everyone, for me it has made my life a grand adventure.


Blocks are To Be Expected


Life is, and if you listen to your inner heart, not always easy. And, dare I say it, it’s not designed to be. The creative process is a mirror and a training ground for life. So, what can you do when the inevitable obstacles rise up to keep you from:
 

  • Sitting down to write
  • Getting past your first plot point
  • Designing a believable character
  • Performing your original song before an audience
  • Being the first person in your family to go to university

There are many people out there with practical tips for block-busting, so I’m going to take a slightly different approach. I say:
“Work with them from the inside out.”

  1. Tell the truth. The first step is to admit that you’re blocked. You’re stopped. And whatever it is you’re trying to force your way through it isn’t working.
  2. Be where you are. Stop pushing, stop fighting, and just accept it. For the moment this is how it is. You’re blocked.
  3. Listen. Sometimes blocks come from outside you, but most often they lie within. They are parts of yourself trying to speak to you. They offer you information about yourself. What's in the way? What’s distracting you? Are there things you need to take care of first? Do you lack confidence in yourself? Are you reading the reviews before you’re even written the work? Just listen.
  4. Do something different. Get up and do something physical. Walk around the room. Do something mindless (mindfully): sweep the kitchen floor, clean your room, walk the dog, dance. Shift the energy.
  5. Reach out. If it's a deeper issue, talk to a friend. Find a buddy to share the highs and lows and do it. Talk to a teacher. Email someone whose work you admire. What do you have to lose?
  6. Suspend judgment. The creative process is a process of ups and downs, ins and outs, better and worse. Often the blocks within us come from our judgment and fear of being judged. But we’re so busy judging ourselves that we can’t produce our best work.

 

Wherever in your life you feel blocked today, whether it’s a creative project or a larger area of your life, have courage. Dare to express yourself. Your creative work will teach you about life, and your life will inspire your creative work. Just dare it!

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