10 Ways to Kick Artist’s Block in the Butt

Whether you’re not feeling inspired, worrying that a piece isn’t going to be good enough, or just can’t think of anything to draw, we’ve all had creative block before. We get it during work projects, when we just want to draw for fun, when we’re writing posts about it (ahem…) Ahh, yes: the creative struggle is very real. But the biggest mistake we can make with creative block is to let it get to us.

There are many ways to ease yourself out of a creative rut, lull, or whatever you’d like to phrase it, and into a creative zone. Here are 10 ways to do it!

Don’t freak out

Seriously, it’s all good. Much like thinking, “I’ll never love again!!!” after a breakup, it’s easy to fall into the dark thought of “I’ll never be creative again!!!” mid-artist’s block. You will get out of this doldrum (and you’ll also love again…y’know, if you needed to hear that too). But getting too in your head about having artist’s block only makes it worse. One creativity test, for example, shows that when you tell people to be creative and draw animals from another planet, their drawings just look like Earthly animals; they fell back on what they knew.

When you’re a working artist, yes, sometimes you have to force yourself to make art even when you’re not feeling it. But other times, forcing yourself to be creative can backfire, and it’s better to sit back for a bit and find some other ways of getting inspired.

Don’t wait around for inspiration

The term “good things come to those who wait” is the worst. Because unless you’re waiting for pizza delivery, sitting around and waiting for things to happen will get you nowhere (even in that example, you had to actually pick up a phone and order that pizza).

You can’t force yourself to feel inspired, but you can put yourself in situations where you can find inspiration. Whether that means going for a stroll, meeting up with some friends for trivia night, or even just finding new music, do something to help spark your creativity.

Get up and take a walk

Sometimes to get out of a creative rut, we need to get out of our headspace. And sometimes to get out of our headspace, we have to get out of our roomspace. Take a walk around your neighborhood, or if you’re fortunate enough to live near a hike-worthy area or even a greenhouse, get back to nature and take a hike. Musician Brian Eno once wrote, “Stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences.” I think the same can be said for the other way around – experiences can be used as triggers for art. Experience a change of scenery.

Go be social

Getting out and hanging out with friends, meeting new people, or even just going outside and sketching passersby might seem like a way of avoiding work. But art imitates life, and some of the best inspiration comes when your mind is clear of work anxiety and you’re living life. The inspiration for Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”, for instance, came from his friend, who would always lament and regret all the places he didn’t take Mr. Frost when he visited rather than being satisfied with the sights he did show him.

Not only does getting out and socializing clear your headspace and reset your brain, but you never know what friends or random people will say that might trigger a note of inspiration.

Clean your space

It may sound a little procrastinate-y! But sometimes with creative block, a little procrastination – just enough to get your mental gears turning in a new way – is ok. And cleaning up your space is a great way of exercising a little creative feng shui to get your flow back. When you set up your space to be clean and creatively helpful rather than stressfully messy, it can help you relax enough to get that creative flow going.

You can also work on your virtual space! If you have an Artist Shop you’re trying to get inspired to make work for, make a rad new cover photo for it. Or re-work your About page!

Look at art you love so much that it’s frustrating

I know the whole “dream board” or “inspiration pinboard” idea is a little cliche. But looking at art you love can kickstart creativity. Maybe it’s that twinge of competitiveness it inspires. Maybe it’s the desire to self-improve or try a new art style. Maybe it’s seeing things that get other artists inspired. But this is a great way of opening the mind and getting the creative gears turning. After all, this is how the site “The Jealous Curator” came about. The site served as a place where its creator Danielle Krysa put art that she loved so much it made her jealous. The site ended up becoming a huge success; a great example of creativity coming out of frustration and leading to success! (Below are a few of my inspirations!)

inspirations

Top (left to right): Camille Chew (her Artist Shop) and Katrin Wiehle
Bottom (left to right): Ashley Goldberg and Sasa Elebea (her Artist Shop)

Step Out of your Comfort Zone

Sometimes creative block doesn’t come from being nervous about our own art, but rather from getting stuck in the uninspiring autopilot that is “the OK zone.” The OK zone is that point we hit where we can do our artwork on autopilot. It’s great when we need to get stuff done quick, but when it comes to feeling inspired or getting excited about a project? The OK zone can get us stuck in a rut where we’re not being creative, and not in the mindset to.

Break out of it by trying something a little different. Try practicing art styles you’ve been meaning to experiment with, or by honing illustration skills you’ve wanted to improve on (anatomy, hand-lettering, etc.)

Read

They say to be a good writer, you need to read, read, read. But reading can help any creative get inspired. Getting lost in a book for a bit gets you out of your own head and into someone elses’, on top of using your creative gears to paint mental pictures of a story.

Another offbeat way you can use reading to open your mind is to go into a bookstore and go into sections you normally wouldn’t go to. Find the weird, books, the books you wouldn’t normally pick up, the travel books, etc. and flip through them.

Play

While you may be doing art professionally now, that’s not why you started creating. Too often we fall into the aforementioned ‘OK zone’ and turn our former passion into autopilot rather than doing it because we love it. Create art no one will see. Draw fanart, characters reimagined in your style, etc. Just draw for fun, draw what you want for awhile with no self-judgement. Who knows – you might even get a sell-able piece out of it!

Make Mistakes

Chuck Close’s famous quote about creativity is, “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work” (see number two in this list!) But personally, I like another part of this quote: “All the best ideas come out of the process. They come out of the work itself. Things occur to you.” Its through the process of making things that we get inspired, learn, and grow. Sometimes when you’re stuck, the best route isn’t to rush it, but rather to just keep going.

.     .     .

We’re an artist community built on the power of helping each other succeed — if you’re reading this and have tips of your own to share, please do so in the comments! Thank you!

Illustrations done by the amazing Katie Lukes

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