Here's My Story of Overcoming Creative Block and How you Can Too.
I've been an artist for two and a half decades. Really, I've been an artist for my entire life, but professionally, for two and a half decades.
In that time, I've seen some ups and downs. It's not always smooth sailing. Sometimes there's a period where you get what most people call creative block.
The Truth About Creative Block
But creative block—it sounds like that would be—you're creatively blocked on every single thing that you do, but creative block can happen on one project and not the others.
Or it can happen in one area of your life and not in other areas of your life. Of your creative life, that is.
When I started the podcast, I had the intention of making episodes more frequently than I have, and I've hardly made any episodes at all. It's really not even fully launched.
There are almost zero listeners, and I'm okay with that because I didn't put any effort into it.
I just let it sit there. And I've undoubtedly had creative blocks when it came to this podcast specifically. And it didn't really matter because I didn't have a huge audience. I didn't have followers expecting me to produce anything.
I never established myself with the podcast. And that's just the way it is.
If I had, though, stayed with it, I would have about two, two and a half years of experience. And I wish I did. I wish I stuck with it, but I didn't.
But I'm relaunching it. And I've got some ideas, but I'm not going to promise anything because that's not been the track record. I believe in this case; I have to prove it to myself.
And when I prove it to myself, then maybe there'll be some momentum forward; maybe it'll be more fun.
Maybe I'll finally have some guests.
3 Unconventional Ways to Get Through Creative Blocks
But that's what I want to talk about today: creative blocks, how I get over them, and how you can too.
I think my approach is a little more unconventional, and I don't know if you'll get the same advice from another artist. But the way I deal with creative block is by letting go of the artistic pressure.
1. Release the Pressure
Initially, I stopped pressuring myself with the label of being an artist and the obligation to create. And so I just basically said, Fuck it all. And I started an exploration outside of art.
2. Explore Other Interests
I venture into exploring other interests and potential paths, questioning my identity as an artist. There's no law that says that I have to be an artist or that I have to produce.
3. Question Yourself
It is my job and my income, but people can change their careers. I think it might feel like an identity crisis if you're questioning yourself, as if I'm doing this job and I'm thinking about doing a different job, and why do I have to be an artist?
If I'm not feeling it, if I'm not producing, then I can just quit this at any time and do something else.
But it's hard for me to talk about because, obviously, I didn't switch careers. But it's in the exploration of other possibilities that you get this relational comparison model, where you start to understand that you are in the right place.
Or, you could discover that you're not. And you do need to switch. But the exploration gives you knowledge of where you're at and what your intentions really are, because we think we know what we want, but we don't always know.
Sometimes we might want something, but we're forcing ourselves into a certain model of existence.
But that's the next step in my process: realizing the void. Each alternative path didn't seem to work out, leading me to miss it, create a process, and realize its importance in my life.
Imagine Yourself Doing Something Else
So when putting yourself in even a thought experience of doing something else and just imagining it, you can start to really miss your role as an artist or a creative, of any type, and if I thought about doing accounting, for instance, that just sounds horrible to me, and I don't have the skills or talent in order to do that.
And that would be miserable. Every day would be miserable if I were an accountant, for instance. It's just not happening for me. And I would miss being an artist if I were in that position. And just the simple thought experiment of imagining myself in another role or position at a job, working nine to five.
The Creative Void
It's, it really frames things and makes you realize that would leave a huge void in me because being an artist is fulfilling and it fills a part of my soul with happiness. Which leads us to the next stage, which is returning with renewed inspiration. Upon returning to art, I experienced a flood of ideas and inspiration, signaling a renewed desire to create.
So when you take something away, you realize you want it, and you get it back, and then you have renewed vigor. It's a reverse psychology on creative block: if you're so submerged within doing something day in and day out, every single day you're doing this, you can get overexposed, but you just have to take it away.
And there's no set timeframe. It could be. A few minutes; it could be a few days or much longer. It's going to vary for each person, but when you return to your creative process after an exploration, letting go of artistic pressure, and realizing that you do want to be an artist, you haven't actually overcome a creative block.
Ground Zero after a Reboot
You just rebooted the system. But the next stage is facing the persistent challenge. Despite the resurgence of inspiration, I recognize that overcoming a creative block is an ongoing process. It's the creative process itself, and that's what's blocked. Earlier, I was talking about the podcast and not building up enough momentum.
And how that's a creative block, but I really just didn't get it started right, but I experienced a more profound creative block with my painting.
Client Requests Prevent Creative Block
Now, I also tattoo, of course, and it's almost impossible to get blocked with tattooing because it's a collaborative process.
The client's coming to me and has a request, and because of that collaborative process, a creative block really doesn't happen with tattooing.
Loosing Steam Without Business Demand
Now the business of tattooing rises and falls with the economy, and tattoos are a luxury. For people to have, and definitely not a necessity. So if someone's budgeting, the first thing they're going to cut is tattoos, art, stuff like that.
The idea is, Oh, I can wait a little while longer until things get better before I get a new tattoo or buy a painting. So yeah, the art world is heavily. by the ups and downs of the economy. But yeah, it's really tough to get blocked creatively by tattooing the block. I experienced the whole of last year with my painting.
Going Through the Dark Night of the Soul
And I did do paintings during the last year, but not on the level that I normally do productively. And it made me question myself. I went through it like a dark night of the soul. They call it a shadow work type thing. And I found out a lot of things about the creative process, about myself, and about human nature during this time.
So it was very useful. And it's really changed my whole perspective. And that's what I'm going to share: these core teachings that come from my story of being blocked for an entire year, what I learned from it, and what you can learn from it.
Rising From the Ashes
And I'm working on this course. It's a course called Ashes, and the reason it's called Ashes is because it's a rise from the ashes, like the phoenix symbolism, how the phoenix crashes and burns, and then from the ashes it rebuilds itself, and it's a new and improved form, and it rises up in the flames and the fire, and majestically.
Redefines itself, and so ashes is a course that you can take and do these exercises at a time that you need to. You know, you feel like you've like the creative fires burns you and it's burnt you down Reduced you to nothing but rubble and ashes, and in that you're trying to find some new form, and hopefully it's going to be better this time, and you want to redefine yourself and really refine the creative process.
That's what Ashes is about, and I'm in the process of making it, so it's going to influence a lot of my content that's coming up. I'm currently working on it, but I have the framework for it, and I want to share that with you because you can use some of these things right now.
Get Started Now - 9 Methods to Overcome Creative Block
You don't have to wait for me to finish my course. Sadly, I named this podcast The Artistic Method, and that's, in itself, not sad. But what's sad is that not one episode has really been dedicated to any artistic method. So this is my first debut, honoring the title of the fucking podcast. And here are nine methods for overcoming creative blocks.
Overcoming creative block strategies to navigate and dismantle barriers like fear and self-doubt enables artists to move past periods of stagnation. Alright, number one is enhanced self-awareness. Deepening understanding of one's emotions, thoughts, and behaviors and their impact on the creative process.
So this one's pretty fucking big, and men don't think about emotions as much as women do, generally speaking. But they're there, and we tend to bury them. Whereas women might actually celebrate them a little too much at times. But to become more understanding and aware of where you are emotionally and how that affects your thinking and behavior is super important.
It's way up there. Way, way more importance should be given to that than we do. And ways you can enhance self-awareness are journaling or talking with other people about how you feel. It may be a discovery process because you may not be listening to where you're really at.
And I'm not talking about crying in your Wheaties. I'm just talking about getting in touch with how you really feel. For instance, are you focusing only on the negative aspects of everything? If you only focus on. Just the negative aspects of your life, then it's going to become really bleak and dismal, but you know there's some positive things there, too.
What can you focus on that's positive? It's not all negative, you know, getting yourself into a different mindset and being honest, like if you've If you felt like shit for a while and there were valid reasons for it, then maybe it just needed to be recognized and honored.
You may need the experience of feeling like shit. It may be useful for you on some level, but you don't have to live there forever, and there are other emotions on the spectrum that you need to experience as well. And you can have both positive and negative feelings at the same time, but you get to choose which one you give your attention to.
Which leads me to the next step, which is improved emotional resilience. Techniques to manage and channel emotions positively. Strengthening emotional resilience in art and life. I guess it's asking a question like, When do you feel good? What is that feeling? Is it? Inspired, motivated, excited, exhilarated—it's going to be a slightly different definition for each person, and, when you're at your best, you're going to have a preferred positive emotion, and what you want to do is improve that by becoming more aware of it and then seeking it out.
Seek out ways that you can feel that way. What happens when you do this, though, is that you spend more time logged in to the positive emotions and less time logged in to the negative ones. The negative emotions are always going to be there. If you want to go back to them, you can. But if you consciously seek out positive emotions, which is a no-brainer, we don't fucking do it.
Sometimes we need a reminder to actually feel good. Define what good is, and then go do it. Go get it. The third step is to increase mindfulness and presence. Practice is to develop mindfulness, enhancing focus, and consciousness in art and daily life. So increase mindfulness and presence.
That can be achieved through meditation, but meditation isn't for everyone. But you can do guided meditations if you struggle with actually sitting down to try and meditate. But coming into the present moment isn't necessarily meditation. When you're not in the present moment,
You're either worried about the future or you're depressed about the past. Depression usually happens in retrospect, and anxiety usually happens in anticipation of a coming event. And being in the present moment is just about being here and now. But we escape the present moment by dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
And mindfulness is just coming into the present moment. Now, this is the same as a creative block because art is enjoying creating, painting, playing music, writing, making a video, making content for social media, whatever it is that you do. It's creative, and when you're doing it, you're in the present moment.
You're thinking about it now, and hopefully you're enjoying the process. But creative block is usually going to be when you're not, when you're not willing to be in the present moment, when you're creatively blocked. It's almost the same fucking thing. By becoming aware of this, though, you can start to track your attention and determine whether it's going to the past or the future, or if you can anchor it in the here and now.
It doesn't have to be meditation. Though I do suggest and recommend meditation.
The fourth step is enhanced creative expression. Discovering authentic and diverse mediums and techniques for artistic expression that align with personal style. Now this step might be the most fun for artists, especially those with focus problems, but I'm telling you to try different techniques, learn different techniques, try differentmediums, and; even switch creative paths altogether.
If you're a visual artist, try writing or trying music; just learn something new—a new way to express yourself. It builds new pathways in the brain, and it creates synapses that form new neural networks where you can grow as an artist. It might even help your current art form, and it might help you get over a creative block.
This is a test of the background noise and how much it's affecting everything.
Number five is the integration of art and personal growth. Exploring the symbiotic relationship between personal development and artistic practice. As you grow as a person, your art is going to grow as well. There is a symbiotic relationship between your own personal growth and your artistic development. I think that's one thing that we fail to recognize sometimes: that we need to push ourselves and challenge ourselves with exercise and nutrition.
Meditation, yoga, trying new things, and, not to mention, shadow work, dealing with your emotions, and getting in touch with how you really feel. All of these things create a holistic approach to growing as a person. And at the same time, leveling up your artistic ability, because if you're physically challenged or emotionally wounded, then shit, that's going to affect your art.
How could it not be? Personal growth is also an exploration of yourself, expanding, and trying new things. All of those things contribute to personal growth and integrating your artistic practice. With that personal growth, you're going to see benefits. Number six is connection with the creative community and the importance of engaging with other artists for support and inspiration.
I think a lot of artists that I know isolate themselves like hermits in their studios, and yeah, they're posting on social media and developing relationships online, but in person, there's a lacking community, and the community I am talking about is.
In person because you're actually interacting with someone in reality, not just online, and that kind of support, if they're the right type of people, can really help you blow past creative barriers because you're getting feedback, you're getting advice, and it's easier for someone else to see problems in your work and critique something and let you know what you might be able to try.
You can take that advice or leave it, but it gives you an alternate viewpoint that's outside of your own limited perspective because other people aren't limited and don't have the same boundaries.
As you'll have in your own personal experience, because they're outside of those limitations, they can see inside and quickly and easily spot what you may or may not need to work on and let you know. Because they're not; they don't have any emotional investment as much as you do.
They probably support you as an artist, and they do care about your success, but they're not limited by that; they don't have the personal stress of producing or succeeding. Connection the same as you do with creating your own community. It's just important to know that you have to select the right type of people.
Not all artists are going to be that supportive, and some of them may be jealous of your success, or they may not actually like what you do. They may be soaked. So you have to pick the right community, and that can be challenging to find the right people. It can take years, and then relationships take years to cultivate, nurture, and develop, but they're well worth it.
It's worth getting started on that sooner than later. A community can really help you. Number seven is a practical tool for continuous growth. It is a toolkit of exercises like art journaling and meditations for ongoing creative development. Tools for continuous growth are going to be exercises, prompts, and journaling that really just get your creative juices flowing.
And this is something that's best done when you first start your day. It doesn't have to be in the morning. I know a lot of people are not morning people, and they don't want to add activities in the morning, and that wouldn't even go well. It doesn't have to be immediately after you wake up if you are one of those people who needs some transition time to just come to your senses and get your bearings before you get going.
But sooner than later, in the first part of your day, there's exercise like art journaling.
Writing some things and working on something creative right off the bat. It just sets the tone for the entire day that you're getting in touch with your creative ability. And I'm working on creating. Tools and prompts for that are in my course, Ashes. The eighth step, and this might be my favorite one, is mastery of inner alchemy principles.
Learning the phases of inner alchemy: the dark phase, the light phase, and the red phase. and applying them for personal and creative growth. So this is the creative process. This is the cycle of the phoenix. The dark phase is when the phoenix has crashed, burned, and been reduced to ashes. The light phase is when you're moving from the dark to the light.
You start to reform, redevelop ideas, and get a new direction. And the red phase is when that takes off. And the new fire is creative passion. It's the creative drive to produce and create. This is a good fire. Whereas before the fire burned the Phoenix, it's like being burned out. But this fire is like a new reinstallation of inspiration and passion to create.
And what I want to point out is that every single creative process and every single project you do has this cycle built into it. There's the dark phase where you're just getting started. There's uncertainty. There's hesitation. There might even be fear or doubt. And you navigate through that dark phase through a discovery process.
You start to select things, and, at first, the creative process is expansively infinite, and through limiting things, the creative process is subtractive. It's reductive. You don't want infinite possibilities. You want to narrow the focus to a specific channel or a specific direction.
And that's when you start to move into the light phase. And the light phase is when you start to know. You start to be sure of yourself. You start to be confident. And then you start to create, and that's when the magic happens. That's the light phase. And as you get towards the end of your project and you're about to complete it, or you have completed it, then that's the red phase.
And that's where you feel a sense of accomplishment. That's when you have a product to bring to the people. You've put something into the world. You've manifested your vision. And that's the most majestic time. You've been reborn. You've given birth to your creative baby, so to speak.
And that process of inner alchemy happens on every single creative project that you do. And it happens to you as a person over a period of time. But the creative process is one of those stages of inner alchemy. For now, you can just identify those stages when you start a project. There might be some resistance. some procrastination and hesitation.
You don't feel like doing it. That's when you're in the dark stage. It's really eye-opening when you start to sense that and observe it, and then you know exactly when you start; you figure out what you're going to do and how you're going to do it. And you start to get inspiration and motivation.
That's when that transition from dark to light occurred. And it's simple, but it happens every single time, and it can make starting new projects easier and finishing projects more fun. And you'll finish more projects. You'll start more projects. It's very useful. You just have to try it for yourself.
Number nine is to upgrade the creative lifestyle for renewed passion and inspiration. Aiming for leveling up, a creative sense of passion and inspiration propel artists towards their creative pursuits with a fresh perspective. The creative lifestyle is what you do outside of your creative practice that feeds your creativity or your art.
So there has to be some inspiration. Art can't exist just for art's sake per se because there has to be something that you're observing in the natural world and reporting back on because the way you report back on art is through the lens of your perception, and your conditioning plays a role in that filter.
For instance, say you love nature and you love getting out into nature, and so you go out and you take your plein air painting palette and you capture these beautiful landscapes on smaller paintings, and you take those back to the studio and refine them into larger paintings. That creative lifestyle is feeding the artistic practice.
Not everyone does landscapes; everybody has some source. of inspiration for what they're creating their art to emulate, honor, or celebrate. And so upgrading your creative lifestyle gives you more content. to bring back to your studio and fuel your creative direction. And I see it time and time again, but people aren't feeding that.
They're not feeding their art with their lifestyle. Creating a link between what it is that you're inspired by and, in turn, what you create as your art is very important. So focus on upgrading your creative lifestyle. We'll, in turn, upgrade your creative practice as well. All right.
We've made it through all the steps, just to recap.
Number one was enhanced self-awareness, deepening your understanding of your emotions.
Number two is improved emotional resilience, techniques to manage and channel emotions positively, and strengthening emotional resilience in art and life.
Three are increased mindfulness and presence in the present moment. And not being distracted by the past or future.
Number four is enhanced creative expression. Looking at learning new techniques, new mediums, or new artistic pathways altogether.
Number five is the integration of art and personal growth. Exploring the symbiotic relationship between personal development and artistic practice.
Six is connection with the creative community. Engaging with fellow artists of the right type for support and inspiration.
Seven are practical tools for continuous growth: exercises like art journaling, meditation, et cetera.
Number eight is mastery of the inner alchemy principles. Principles: learning the phases of inner alchemy—the dark phase, the light phase, and the red phase—and how that's synonymous with every single creative project that you do.
And then nine: upgrading the creative lifestyle for renewed passion and inspiration.
On that note, that's all I've got for this episode. And hopefully I'll be making a new episode before the two-and-a-half-year mark. We'll see what I can do. If you found any of this shit interesting and want to follow along with the development of my course, Ashes, you can subscribe to the newsletter that is at ashes early release
And that link will be in the show notes as well. You can go to that page. Put in your name and email, and then I'll update you as I develop the course. It's going to be; I'm going to allow people to take it and interact with it so that I can further refine it and see how, what's helping people most, and what people are getting hung up on, and then change it and improve it over time.
So if you want to be a part of that process, just go to joelwrightart.com and forward slash ashes. See ya By participating in the course development process, you will have the opportunity to provide valuable feedback and contribute to its improvement. Your input will be crucial in shaping the course to meet the needs of its learners. Join us at joelwrightart.com/ashes-early-access and be a part of this exciting journey!