Are you butting heads with your own creative block? Today, we’re excited to share expert advice to help get you over the hump from licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Cassidy Freitas. Her key suggestions are below!
If you have ever embarked on a creative journey, you’ve undoubtedly experienced creative blocks. I assure you that even your most idolized creative has had this same struggle. I recently asked a few of my own creative muses about their processes, and they, too, reflected this universal experience. Oftentimes, creative blocks are fueled by fear. Our internal fear dialogue is typically some form of, “I’m not good enough,” “It’s already been done,” and “This work doesn’t matter.” It can leave us feeling like we will never have a good idea again. The imposter syndrome can set it, with a convincing argument that you are a fraud and a phony and should probably give up altogether.
It’s a strange concept, but fear can also serve as a spotlight to what we should be doing. The amount of fear you have about an idea is a direct reflection of how important it probably is for you. If something is below your capabilities, you are most likely not going to be afraid of pursuing it. If you are getting close to inspiration, fear is probably sneaking up behind you.
Have you ever seen a child become so engrossed with their play that it seems to transcend time and reality? In play therapy, we call this “flow.” Creative flow has the same effect. Just like a child lost in their play, the creative who has found their flow gets lost in the work. It’s not even work anymore. I’ve outlined a few points below to help facilitate your journey to this flow and overcome creative blocks.
- Spend time with “why”: Why is this creative work important to you? Which of your values does it reflect? The answers to those questions bring meaning and fuel to your creative process. When the going gets tough—and it will get tough—recall why you sought out to do this in the first place.
- Don’t wait: Yes, spend time exploring, “why,” but also don’t wait until you have it all figured out to engage in your creative work. You don’t have to be completely healed before you can be creative. Do something. Even if you don’t feel ready, start somewhere.
- Show up for your craft, every day: When trying to finish my dissertation, one of my mentors said to me, “A good dissertation is a done dissertation.” It was so opposite of my own perspective, that it significantly impacted me. Whenever I would hit a block and didn’t want to work, I would force myself to sit down and start writing. Sometimes I would open up a new document so that whatever I wrote didn’t even touch the “real” document. I would push myself to do something, anything, and in time I found myself cutting and pasting paragraphs into the real thing. I had found my flow.
- Clean your workspace: Organizing your creative space will facilitate creative flow. Be careful of this turning into fear’s best friend, procrastination. You don’t have to spring-clean your whole closet; you just need a clean and clear space to work.
- Become comfortable with delayed gratification and discomfort: The creative process can be long and grueling. That satisfying end result can take months, even years. If success feels far off or impossible and you quit, well you’ve sealed your fate. If you meet fear and discomfort and keep moving, you are much more likely to arrive at your desired destination. Remember that just as creative flow isn’t constant, neither are those creative blocks.
- Ask for help: Who is your favorite singer? Whoever they are, they probably have a voice coach. Even those who have found “success” continue to ask for help and push themselves to learn more about their craft. You don’t have to be the struggling, isolated artist, and you don’t have to be in it alone.
- You are not your craft: Nurture your craft, but also know that you are more than your art. When you’re feeling blocked, it helps to distance yourself from your work. Revisit the other parts of you that bring you joy, and then come back.
- Use criticism, don’t let it use you: Your inner critic is loud enough, so when others critique your work, don’t let it throw you off course. Listen to their critiques, decide which parts resonate and motivate, then move on to the bigger and better things that are already growing inside of you.
- Know your strengths and limitations: Allow yourself to give wholeheartedly to your craft, and hire others to help you where you need it. Hire a point-of-sale person, graphic designer, copywriter or an accountant if these areas are not your strengths. Identify your limitations and use your resources wisely to get help.
- Nourish your muse: Identify where and what inspires you, and make the time to engage in whatever that is. It may seem obvious, but our lives are often so busy that it leads to muse malnourishment.
- Be inspired by others: Allow yourself to be inspired by other’s successes. Fear will want to compare, judge, criticize (yourself and others), but catch it before it gets out of hand. There’s enough creative room for all of us, I promise.
- Have a mantra: When I’m in a creative funk, I turn to my mantra. For me, I usually become way too serious about my work and I know that loosening up helps me find my flow. My most recent mantra is typically repeated over and over in my best Bernie Sanders impersonation, “What I need, is a creative revolution! What I need, is a creative revolution!”
I wholeheartedly believe that there’s a creative in each of us. Fear, resistance and shame can keep us from living an inspired life. If you’d like more support in living a creative life, I’ll be co-hosting a Creative Living workshop in Orange County, California, this upcoming Sunday, Aug. 28. To conclude, I’ll leave you with this inspiring quote by playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “What you can do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”