ARTISTS BLOCK – WHAT CAUSES IT?
Artist’s block, like writer’s block, is a lack of inspiration that most artists experience from time to time. It describes a period of time when an artist has no ideas for new work or no motivation, or both!
I am experiencing this right now and have been for some time. I’ll reveal why I think this is a little later in the post. There can be various reasons for it. Meanwhile, my research has revealed that the most common reason for it is:
1. PHYSICAL AND MENTAL EXHAUSTION
Other causes could be:
2. SELF DOUBT
3. LACK OF MOTIVATION
4. CRITICISM AND REJECTION
These four things don’t look like so much do they, but there are a multitude of things that underlay each of them. Let’s take a look at examples of what those might be!
Physical and Mental Exhaustion
- Stressful days at work
- Anxiety about a particular person or event
- A lot of study / schoolwork / exams / assignments etc
- Ongoing problems or worries on your mind
- Creative burnout possibly due to some of the other points outlined below!
- Perfectionism – wanting everything to be perfect. The best way to deal with this one is to embrace imperfection and keep on creating. There can actually be beauty in imperfection I’ve found! Importantly, I’ve been assured by other artists I’ve spoken to that ALL artists have stuff ups, days where there visions just don’t seem to be translating in their work, and artworks that don’t turn out how they would have liked them to. Not every bit of art you do will be a masterpiece! Put it aside, learn from any mistakes, move on to the next project.
- Comparison and Imposter Syndrome – following other artists and their work is fabulous and inspirational but sometimes it can lead to feeling ‘less than’ or ‘not as good as’ and that can lead to ‘imposter syndrome’ which is where you doubt your abilities and feel like a fraud.
- Catastrophising – believing something you’ve done is far worse than it is. Self criticism to the max! With me, this can go hand in hand with perfectionism!
- Pressure – putting too much pressure on yourself to create something of value or quality, or perhaps you want quantity.
Lack of Motivation
- You’ve gotta love what you do! Lack of motivation will come if you’re not doing what you’re meant to do and therefore not enjoying it. The right thing will feel great and you’ll ‘want’ to do it!
- Not too difficult and not too easy. If something is too hard you will procrastinate doing it. If it’s too easy, then it can be boring.
- Procrastination. For example – “I’ll do it after I’ve washed the dishes, done the laundry, mopped the floors”, etc etc
Criticism and rejection
- Taking criticism and rejection personally is quite normal. I’m not producing art in a ‘professional’ sense (at this point anyway) so rejection is not really a concern I have. Criticism though is more familiar, but mostly from myself! The way I think about this one though, particularly if criticism was to be coming at me externally, is that everyone has different taste. Some people might not like some of your work but love other work you’ve done. If you understand and expect this, then maybe the bite of criticism or rejection might hurt far less.
WHAT HAS CAUSED ‘MY’ ARTIST BLOCK?
I think it’s been a multitude of things that has caused artist block for me. Firstly, I’ll explain how I’m feeling.
- If I have some time where I could do some art, I am completely blank on what I would possibly like to draw or paint.
- If I just pick something and give it a go – it’s lack lustre. My creativity isn’t there. The flow isn’t there. The joy isn’t there.
- I’m making excuses and procrastinating. The motivation isn’t there.
What’s caused this is a few things which would fall under all headings above except criticism and rejection. Here they are:
- I have had a lot of very sad news lately. Two long time family friends have recently passed away. My auntie has been battling cancer, and my much loved cousin just recently lost her precious 18 year old son to acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. This is a lot for anyone to deal with but as a HSP & Empath it affects me more deeply than most.
- I carry a lot of worry & am emotionally fatigued when it comes to the welfare of my mother. I’ve written before about how I alternate care for her weekly with my sister. Another sister and brother check in on Mum on weekends. We now have a Home Care Package in place which provides a bit of respite to my sister and I (only 4 hours per week but we pay privately for another 2 to make it 6). That’s a ‘nutshell’ version. The full version of my worries around all of this would be very long.
- I’m not motivated to do art. I’m so mentally, emotionally and physically drained that I just can’t be bothered. I have tried and it doesn’t work. I’m never happy with what I produce. I need to feel more rested, peaceful and content.
- Perfectionism – always a problem for me. Not so much at the moment because motivation to create isn’t there but when I’ve tried – it’s been lack lustre as I mentioned above. This means it’s not what I consider perfect enough and so then I berate myself and imposter syndrome can creep in.
HOW TO FIX ARTIST BLOCK?
In my case, I think I just have to be kind to myself and:
- Take a break from art until I am feeling more rested and peaceful. Unless I’m relaxed my creativity just doesn’t happen.
Other ways to help could include:
- Finding inspiration from other artists (I follow a lot on Instagram)
- Practice, practice, practice until the creative flow and ideas comes back
- Try something different. A different medium perhaps!
- Just doodle
- Join an art challenge
- Change up your creative space
- Try doing your art somewhere else. Head outdoors or go on location!
- Do an art class or an online course
- Watch some YouTube tutorials
- Make sure you’re getting some exercise and eating healthy
What I tell myself is to remember that this happens to everyone, I have valid reasons for it to have happened, and no-one is meant to be productive 100% of the time!
Do you get creative block (either for art, craft, writing or other)? What do you do when this happens? I’d love to hear in the comments!
Ciao for now,
Linking up with Denyse Whelan’s ‘Wednesday’s Words and Pics‘