Artists throughout time have always struggled with one common problem… CREATIVE BLOCK. What is it? Why does it occur? How do I overcome this? One of the best definitions I’ve seen of creative block is found in Mike Rose’s paper “Writer’s block: The cognitive dimension”. Rose states that a writer’s block or creative block is “an inability to begin or continue writing for reasons other than a lack of skill or commitment” (Rose, 2006). I believe that rose touches on a very important point here “OTHER THAN lack of skill or commitment”. So, if you feel as though you’re not progressing in your production skills, addressing your skill and commitment is the first thing to do.
Through my own personal journey, I’ve found that spending 30 minutes a day (minimum) really helps me keep my skills up to date and myself accountable. Some days it will be a very hard 30 minutes, when others are a super productive 3 or 4 hour session. Back yourself in every day and trust the process.
Finding other mediums to motivate and learn is also a great way to stay consistent and absorb knowledge. Watching streams, reading articles, watching tutorials and interviews with your favourite artists and creators is a great way to help spark some motivation and creativity. Beware though! It is easy to fall into the trap of just watching video after video and not actually honing your skills. Remember, videos and tutorials are very useful, ONLY if you put the work in after to cement the learning.
However, barring the above, here are three helpful tips (that I can personally attest to) that can hopefully help you break through that barrier and reach your full potential as an artist.
1. Changing your setting
I’ve always found a change of setting to be one of the easiest ways to really get back some creative motivation and be able to navigate creative block. I usually find somewhere that features a bit of nature and is comfortable (this is important). Some local parks are good, maybe even areas near the beach (not on the sand lol) if you have those available. I always find nature to be one of the biggest and easiest inspirations to tap into as an artist.
In a research article by Chin-Wen Yeh from the department of Horticulture in Taiwan, it studies the link between being in a natural environment and the expansion of creativity within the mind. “Natural environments allow our minds to temporarily detach from daily states, such as moments when we are in a daze or daydreaming, to obtain a “flash of inspiration.” (C.W. Yeh et al, 2022)
There’s no right or wrong setting, you just need to find what works best for you as everyone is different.
2. Reaching out to your network
If you’re lucky enough to have met some people or have had people tutor you in your production journey, then reaching out to them is a great way to help navigate creative block. Everyone has their own unique tips and ideas, so learning from your network can be a great way to unlock your potential. Even listening/looking at one of your friend’s projects can be a great way to see how someone else is navigating a similar space.
If you don’t easily have access to a network like this, places like Reddit are a great way to connect with other like minded artists that are in similar stages. Remember, Flume used to be a big online music community guy and you can still find his tips and comments to this day from some of his old accounts. Places like r/MusicProduction and r/WeAreTheMusicMakers are a great starting point to see people at different levels of production, whilst also gaining access to some great resources. All of these things are great ways to break the creative block.
3. Listen to new music
I know I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am a huge music fan first and foremost. Before I even learned piano, I was mesmerized by different sounds and how they could combine to create something new. Listening to new music, artists and genres that you may not have explored yet is a great way to keep your mind adaptive to change and analyse similar elements between different types of songs.
Personally, I think some of the best artists are those that can recognise these similar elements between genres and blend them into something new. These are the pioneers of the industry and the greats.
In conclusion, having a creative block sucks and sometimes there’s just no way around it. Fortunately, we live in the 21st century and have a world of information at our fingertips, so we’re much better equipped to deal with these types of issues. Try some of these tips, and most of all, remain consistent. All artists of varying mediums suffer these similar issues, but it is the true great artists that are able to power through and stay focussed on their vision.
Citations Yeh, C.-W., Hung, S.-H. and Chang, C.-Y. (2022) The influence of natural environments on creativity, Frontiers. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.895213/full (Accessed: 20 October 2023).
Rose, M. (2006) Writer’s block, Writer’s Block | University of Illinois Springfield. Available at: https://www.uis.edu/learning-hub/writing-resources/handouts/learning-hub/writers-block (Accessed: 20 October 2023).