How to overcome the CREATIVE BLOCK aka writer’s block

Have you ever felt stuck? Stuck with coming up with an idea for a project OR you're on a roll and all of a sudden your mind goes blank?

We’ve all experienced creator’s block (formally known as the writer’s block). We’ve all tried various methods to overcome it. We’ve all failed at one point or another to overcome the dreaded curse of CREATOR’S BLOCK

Yet, we still have to create despite all of this. Having to get out of our overthinking mind and emotional frustrations, procrastinations and the temptation to escape with other ‘projects’ or to the ‘couch’.

We now need to ask ourselves the fundamental question. What is creator’s block and how do you overcome it? 

Here are 4 things to consider…

1. Get out of your head!

We need to recognise that it’s all in our heads. It’s a state of mind that’s great for facts, figures and functions. It’s a great place to use logic to solve certain puzzles and situations that arise like using gaffer tape to hold a light into an awkward place without a light stand.

 

Creativity isn’t some special super power that only a few of us are blessed with. We all have it, we just need to embrace it. Remember when we were children? Anything was a possibility! Taking on characters, going on adventures into space in a cardboard box, or fighting a dragon wearing pots and pans as armour and the wooden spoon as our sword.

Nothing stopped us, we didn’t think that, it’s a box so we can’t go into space… We were free and limitless to any possibilities to use whatever means we have around us to create and go on some epic adventures. To explore whatever our hearts and souls desire. 

Now we are older and in an era where expectations are high and people want something ‘new’ and ‘original’. As Austin Kleon, author of ‘Steal like an Artist’ quotes: 

“Nothing is original Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent.”
—Jim Jarmusch

Well there goes the idea of needing to be perfect and having the pressure to produce an original idea that no one has ever thought of before! How can anyone be ‘creative’ anyhow? In order to be creative it’s not about creating something from scratch, it’s simply connecting two previous ideas together that haven’t been connected in a particular way before. Once we realise that this is the actual act of creativity, we just have to let our imaginations join things together like lego blocks until we build that house, unicorn or an octopus climbing a mountain with batman riding it. 

𝟮. 𝗖𝗥𝗘𝗔𝗧𝗜𝗩𝗜𝗧𝗬 𝗛𝗔𝗦 𝗜𝗧𝗦 𝗢𝗪𝗡 𝗝𝗢𝗨𝗥𝗡𝗘𝗬

Creativity isn’t always sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes it is hard work. However, too often we associate creativity with assuming that it’s only a joyful and easy experience and when it isn’t, then we clearly must not be doing it right. Too often we aren’t willing to push through the pain barrier and we stop before we get to the creativity, that ‘magical gold mine’ on the other side. 

In every journey the hero doesn’t get their ‘happily ever after’ without some challenges along the way. For the creator’s journey these challenges can take the form of self doubt, uncertainty, frustration, anger, procrastination and other negative emotions that will emerge that will want to sabotage our progress and hinder us from reaching our creative goals.

Persistence and determination are more connected with creativity than most of us give it credit for because we want to romanticise the creative process into this magical experience where ‘it all comes to me in a dream’ and it requires no hard work on your part at all. Sorry to put a pin in your day dream bubble, but the best art requires effort. However, the greater the effort, the greater the rewards. That is when we realise the vision we have been working so hard towards is worthwhile and fulfilling.

𝟯. 𝗖𝗢𝗡𝗦𝗜𝗦𝗧𝗘𝗡𝗖𝗬 - 𝗝𝗨𝗦𝗧 𝗗𝗢 𝗜𝗧

I know this is going to sound counterintuitive, well at least initially, how can you overcome creator’s block? 

By consistency? Does this mean consistently having creator’s block? No. 

What it means is that whether you feel like you have creators’ block or not you need to take 50 photos, shoot 10 minutes of footage, write 1,000 words, sketch/paint for an hour, whatever your art is. 

When you feel great, be creative. When you aren’t feeling in the zone, be creative. When you feel like the last thing in the world you want to be doing right now is creative. Guess what? Be creative.

What many of us forget from time to time is the craft in our art. It’s by immersing ourselves in it and outside of it that expands our minds for new possibilities of creating. A craftsman works regardless of what is going on around them. Pretend creatives will complain that they aren’t feeling it and won’t work and become cynical and bitter. A true creative will work despite this because it’s something more than themselves. Even if the next day they get rid of all the work from yesterday because it was ‘awful’, but it was the engagement in the process that was more important than the product.

Because the mind is truly amazing when it is engaged in the creative process and even if you are creating rubbish, then suddenly another part of your mind will go on a tangent you weren’t even aware of and it will come up with something amazing that you have never considered before and therefore your creator’s block is gone.

The magic here is to JUST DO IT. Usually it’s the start that is the hardest. Though once you get started it opens the door to so much more!

𝟰. 𝗧𝗥𝗜𝗚𝗚𝗘𝗥 𝗔𝗟𝗘𝗥𝗧 - 𝗣𝗨𝗥𝗣𝗢𝗦𝗘𝗟𝗬 𝗕𝗘 𝗧𝗘𝗥𝗥𝗜𝗕𝗟𝗘

Now you probably think the points above won’t work. And perfectionism comes out and you keep second guessing yourself. We’ve all been there. I’ve struggled between so many great ideas that there is a mountain of it on ‘back burner, bucket list.’ I want to do, yet what stops me is the excuses of ‘I’m not ready, yet’, ‘I don’t think this is good enough’, ‘can I really do it?’ or ‘that’s a great idea, I’ll do that later’ and my perfectionist side of me comes out, wanting the first draft to be ‘the one’.  A dear artist friend of mine Deborah Kelly shared this mega GOLD MINE technique in overcoming that which has helped me on so many levels!

So I challenge you to try this challenge to prove it for yourselves.

I challenge you for 30 days . . . maybe that’s too long, but I recommend it if you can. How about 1 week, just 7 days, surely you can do this.

The challenge is to try to create terrible, awful, abysmal, rubbish, appalling, horrid, horrendous, horrible, atrocious creative work. Each day you are deliberately going to create something dreadful for 60mins. I know this sounds like the worst idea and approach ever and a part of you is saying ‘abort mission immediately!!!’

Just hear me out.

The catch is that each day you can’t use the same approach or technique to create your ‘awful’ art (Tip: consider other mediums, paints, pencils, b/w, different lenses, camera settings). Each time you create you have to come up with a different approach to make your ghastly ‘masterpiece’. 

What I’ve found when I’ve done this is: Firstly, It’s more fun when I’m no longer bound by my perfectionist tendencies and I can just be creative without expectations of myself. Secondly, it gets my mind thinking in ways it normally doesn’t and this mental exercise gets you to think outside the box and thirdly it has helped me to refine my skills in ways that being ‘perfect’ never could, because when I tried to do ‘perfect’ I too often produced nothing. 

When I tried to do ‘better’, even though I was trying to ‘better’ my intentional sabotage and ego, it actually helped me grow into a stronger, more confident creative artist, filmmaker, photographer, leader, coach, actor, speaker…

As a creative (photographer, filmmaker, creative transformation coach, inspirational speaker) for over 10 years, these are the 4 things I have found for myself to look back on whenever I’m feeling stuck or unmotivated to create when I’m on my own. From my experience it’s been liberating to give myself the permission to do abismal ‘art’. Sometimes I just scribble the whole page letting out my frustrations and it has been cathartic and then depending on how i feel I either burn it or rip it up afterwards. The magic here is to do something, anything. Once you get moving that’s where the magic happens. It all comes down to you. Remember it’s all about the journey, not just the destination. In the end the creator’s block is just all in our heads, as Tony Robbins says, “When you get in your head, you’re dead.”  

We don’t want to stay here forever. So let’s get back into the state of fun like when we’re kids, free and limitless full of possibilities! And just do it! Now get out that camera, paint brush, notebook, sketch pad, etc. and embrace creativity and go wherever it leads you. Embrace the challenge. 

BONUS TIP: 
Sometimes to garner inspiration, joining a group or reaching out to other creative people will help inspire you and get you back on your feet. Every hero didn’t get to their destination solely on their own. It is by the power of collaboration and the collective that will take you to new heights. Hence I have built a creative moment called ‘Igniting your creative passions’ group on FML. A space to inspire and support each other’s creative journeys.

So ask yourself "𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐮𝐩?"

It lights me up to create and make magic, create ‘something from nothing’, collaborating with other like minded souls and especially share and inspire other creators just like yourselves, as Issac Newtown says, “We are dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants.” This is my take on creativity that I’ll impart onto you today:

Remember Progress is SUCCESS.

Be You. Be True. 

“Creativity is connecting two or more ideas and concepts. The only difference is that it’s with the expression of your soul.” – Nancy Trieu

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  1. Amazing blog Nancy. Your thought process and your approach is next level and this blog just takes me a journey and bring me back to reality. Such an awesome blog.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Greatly appreciate your insights on this topic that has plagued so many creatives over centuries! We’re so lucky to live in a time where we can learn from each other and share wisdom. Thank you.