It was inevitable. The past two years' world events, Covid restrictions and an exhaustive amount of work all piled up into the biggest creative road block I've faced in years. I know the day I hit that wall and it's been a struggle to climb my way out of this months long slump. But the great news is that I did - things are flowing and feeling great again!
I've been though slumps before - it's the natural ebb and flow of the process - but this one was longer and more difficult than ever ... resulting in more learning and wisdom than ever. I want to share my experience because those dark days feeling disconnected from my painting and "nothing-worthy-is-happening" panic can feel lonely and depressing.
Here's what I know:
It will happen and you will find your way through.
Your voice, your vision, your expression of things is important and needs to be shared. I'm pretty sure that if you're feeling blocked you're doing some over-thinking. Stop comparing your work to others or measuring your output and success again others. Spend less time online with looking at others and more time inline with YOU. That's an order! 😉
Now, Let's work though this.
If you're feeling disconnected from your work, uncertain of what you want to express and just generally unexcited about thing, it's time to take a breather. Sleep. Give yourself permission to take a day or two "off" work and do whatever helps clear your mind and refresh your soul. Lots of quiet will help you listen to your heart again (that's where inspiration lives).
Get out of your own way and live a little. Creativity doesn't happen - you need to experience life to gather ideas.
- Spend lots of time outside in nature (and I mean LOTS)
- Indulge with a bubblebath midday (+ candles) and your favourite music.
- Walk. Go for a bike ride. Take in the world. People watch. Absorb the colours and sights around you.
- Bake. Organize. Write a letter to a friend. Listen to podcasts, read books, take notes.
Don't let the bump in the road seem insurmountable in your mind. Don't give it energy or let it snowball. Face it. Get back to your work, pick up your tools and know you're going to tackle this and WIN. Inspiration rarely just "appears". True authentic magic happens in the process of the work itself so Just. Keep. Trying.
Put in the time and you will be rewarded.
This can be the most fun - but also most frustrating - part of the creative un-blocking process. You have to accept that for every little step forward there very well may be two giant steps back. What's important is that you're keeping the creative muscles engaged and even if it doesn't feel like it or look like it, you're feeding the fire and on your way to the other side.
Keeping a playful, forgiving spirit is absolutely essential here - this is all about exploring every aspect of your creativity and testing new ideas in fresh ways. Stay positive too - you might be creating a lot of ugly work but even knowing what you don't like is progress too.
Switch things up. Work at different times in different ways. Paint outside. Put the music on. Dive in. Write,compose, doodle, sketch. There are lots of creative exercises and prompts online if it helps to set a new starting point.
Incorporate different materials. There are thousands of techniques and materials available with hours upon hours of Youtube or online instruction available if you need some guidance. I made giant messes of all sorts of ways this winter and know that I'm taking some of that exploring into my work now (ie. using more and more water and gels mixed in with my paint).
Be bold and daring with colour. Colour can be a fabulous way to open the floodgate of inspiration! Try new palettes and unusual colour combinations and see what you like and what peaks your curiosity.
Change subjects. I didn't know how much i'd enjoy painting flowers until I tried! I gave myself lots of time, took a course and just kept experimenting with techniques and styles to find my own expression within this subject. I loved the process of discovery along the way.
Get up close with YOUR art. Really think deeply about what you want to say with your work. Tap into what's at the heart of your expression. The more authentic you can feel about what you're creating, the more inspired and excited you'll be to keep going.
With time, you will start seeing the kernels of things you like emerging again. Bits of work that make you think "hmm....there's something here". Even if you're not sure what it is, the moment you sense something caught your eye - make a note! Set that piece aside! This is the gold we're mining for!
Try to pinpoint exactly what it is you're liking - it it the colour? The composition? The way the materials came together? The shapes within the subject that showed up? Stay close to these thoughts and feelings and you'll soon feel the clouds parting and the slump lifting.
Stay committed to the process and put in the time to build on the first signs of momentum. Positivity and creativity breeds positivity and creativity. Stay true to YOUR vision for your work and set it free - let it out however feels right for you. Let things grow and develop and enjoy all the things on the other side of of the block you have just busted through. Share your work, show the results of your dedication. Take pride in your efforts. You've earned it.
After some long weeks in the studio I found my groove and am feeling connected with my work again. Phew!
You'll see the results in my new collection of paintings later this month, but in the meantime I wanted to share this because feeling disconnected from my painting and that "nothing-worthy-is-happening" panic can feel lonely and depressing. I learned A LOT on this journey, so if you're feeling a creative block I hope that my experience can help you get un-blocked.