How to work through art blocks

You’ve probably had something like art or writer’s block before. You sit at an empty page trying to think of something to draw, but nothing comes. Or you start a drawing that doesn’t feel right.  It feels like you’ve lost the spark of inspiration. You feel like nothing is working and you don’t know what’s wrong. What must come easily to everyone else, is dreadfully hard for you. We struggle with is the fear of creating. The block exists in anticipation of work, but what I’ve learned is that the block can’t hold up to actual work.

I recently changed my mindset when it comes to writing posts. It used to be excruciating. I’d sit in front of a piece of paper trying to come up with topics. Then I would suffer through the process of writing and revising posts. I’d start writing a post Monday, then by Thursday I would hate it, scrap the whole thing and write something different. My girlfriend would wonder why I bother writing the post on Monday. Which I’d respond with, “It’s part of the process.” Something changed when I gave myself the task of writing two posts in one week. I realized I just had to write until something good came out. Write without thinking too hard, if I don’t like a sentence or train of thought, I take it out later. The process that used to be painful has become more fun and enjoyable.

When we are blocked we attempt to breaking by doing something different and this works. Changing medium, or a new subject definitely helps. The most useful defence against an art block is a strong habit. Drawing for specific set of time, not matter what, no matter how bad or good. Making lots of art without prejudging it.  Art blocks aren’t blown up by dynamite they’re broken down by erosion. A steady stream of drawings will start to create ideas.

If you’re feeling like you’re stuck, you’re not alone. It happens all the time. The trick is relaxing into the process. Getting out of the way and letting ideas flow. There’s a quote from the book Art and Fear that’s not directly related but I think fits.

“The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly – without judgement, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotional expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen, the way a good parent listens to a child.”

Art and Fear – David Bayles & Ted Orland