How to Overcome a Creative Block and Get Back Your Flow

4 Jan ‘23
4 min
Finding purpose
Editorial Board OpenUp
Gecontroleerd door Psychologist Paul Hessels
creative blocks
Creativity isn’t something that can be forced but when it flows freely, it feels amazing. Even the most creative people have a creative block sometimes, and it’s normal to feel frustrated and worried when it happens – especially when all you want to do is create something!

 

The ability to think and produce creatively is not static – it comes in ebbs and flows.  Some days your brain feels like it’s overflowing with ideas and inspiration, while other days your creativity dries up like a lake in the desert. Why does this happen and what can you do about it?

 

What is a Creative Block?

 

Firstly, what is creativity? It’s your ability to use your imagination, synthesise information, explore ideas and question old assumptions to create something new. When your creativity is blocked, this process is somehow interrupted or disabled. A creative block has been defined as being unable to start or continue a task for reasons other than a lack of skills or commitment. 

 

“Something that plays a clear role is being-in-the-now”, explains psychologist Paul Hessels. “Creativity has to do with creating something new through combining existing pieces of knowledge (associations). This creation happens in the here and now. The more your thoughts are in the past (what have I done already, what have others done) or in the future (deadlines), the less space there is in the present. Mindfulness can help you shift your attention to the here and now.”

 

⚡️ Also interesting: 31 Self-Reflection Questions to Ask Yourself

 

More often than not, creative blocks are the result of fear. This can manifest in different ways, including:

 

  • Self-doubt
  • Low mood
  • Stress
  • Performance anxiety
  • Fear of failure or criticism
  • Lack of faith in yourself and your work 

 

This negative state or mood can block the feeling of being able to explore ideas and create freely. But that’s good news! It means the block has nothing to do with losing your talent or that you’ll never be able to create again. Instead, it indicates that your mental state is hampering your creativity in some way – and that’s something you can work with.

 

How to Break a Creative Block

 

In this article, we’ll share some tips and tricks to help you get those creative juices flowing again. The most important part is practising self-compassion and patience – even though this can be difficult.

 

If you’re highly self-critical, this is your reminder: restricting and criticising yourself undermines creative thinking. Instead, allowing yourself to be who you are and to express yourself freely enhances creativity. Don’t be so hard on yourself, accept that people’s creativity gets blocked sometimes and make space for compassion. 

 

Everyone has the capacity to be creative – although admittedly, some more than others. If you’re experiencing a block, remember that it’s normal and that most creatives go through it sometimes. Don’t give up and try the following:

 

1. Get in touch with the ‘why’

 

Remind yourself of who you are, and what your creativity and creative medium (e.g. writing, painting, dancing) mean to you. Having a purpose, knowing what you’re doing it for and having an intention behind it, gives you the focus and motivation to create. You could try writing about why your creativity is so important to you. 

 

“Albert Einstein once said: creativity is intelligence having fun”, Paul reminds. “That is what you can look for. Not the rationalised version of purpose. Because, sometimes, that part can come with a lot of pressure. Remember to enjoy yourself first: intrinsic motivation is much more powerful than extrinsic motivation.

 

2. Take a step back 

 

Creativity is hard to force. It’s something that flows and bursts out when you least expect it. So sometimes the best thing to do is to take a break, let go and do something else for a while. 

 

Meet up with friends, ask them questions you’ve been thinking about, go for a long walk in nature, travel to a place you’ve never been to, or read about an unrelated topic you’ve always been interested in. You might be pleasantly surprised at how taking a step back or away, can make space for new ideas to come.

 

“If it is a bigger creative block, I try to ride it out and just let it happen. I will still draw, but most pieces will end up in the trash, and that’s OK. I think some of the biggest bursts of creativity and artistic growth I’ve had are usually preceded by a big creative block.” — Ashley Goldberg

 

3. Move your body

 

A 2014 study by Stanford found that indoor and outdoor walking increased the participants’ creative output by 60%. The participants in the study who had been instructed to sit produced only half the amount as those walking. So make sure you exercise and/ or walk on a daily basis or whenever you feel a slump in your creativity. 

 

4. Get in touch with your subconscious mind

 

The language of the subconscious mind is image-based and symbolic (think of dreams). Sit quietly with your eyes closed, focus on your breathing and pay attention to what comes up, you might get new ideas and inspiration. 

 

✨ Try this mindfulness meditation to clear your mind

 

5. Sleep more

 

Sleep helps you to process new information and make sense of reality. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and you might even try writing down your dreams or what happens in your semi-sleep state – it could inspire you!

A few other tips:
  • Keep a notepad/ sketchbook on you at all times for when those moments of inspiration strike
  • Write down all of your ideas, good or bad
  • Draw or write something without an end goal – just allow whatever comes to mind to find a place on the page, without editing, without thinking.
  • Get into a positive frame of mind. Try this mindfulness exercise
  • Do new things, see new places. Creativity is the combination of existing ideas/thoughts/beliefs. Stimulating your brain with new ideas can promote new associations.

“In addition, diversify your artistry”, concludes Paul. “Are you a photographer, but stuck with a project? Try writing a poem about it. Are you a copywriter and stuck with a certain paragraph? Try drawing it out. It doesn’t matter if you’re bad at it, but looking at things from another artistic perspective can help.” 

 

Keep your head up

 

Your creativity hasn’t disappeared – it’s still there, within you. By letting go and not forcing it, you can make space for new inspiration to emerge. 

 

Be kind to yourself and focus on being grateful for all the things you have created in the past – there’s more to come!