This week, we decided to ask one of our artists, Penelope Przekop,  to write a piece on how she deals with so-called “creative block”. Read what she had to say below.

Many artists are consumed with the urge to create and the notion that their lives are defined by it.  Like other creatives, there are moments, days, years, when we do our best to balance practical matters with the knowledge that we may emotionally explode if not for the painting, writing, dancing, singing … whatever. Feeling like this can be both exciting and painful. It’s addictive. If I could keep it fully alive 24/7, I’m 100% sure that I’d end up in some version of hell.

The reality is that while I’m an artist, I’m also a lot of other things: writer, speaker, full-time corporate consultant, mother and wife, homeowner, etc. On the flip side, you may be an artist who has absolutely nothing else in your life other than your creative projects. Regardless of the complexity of our interests, commitments, lives, etc. sometimes we just:

  1. don’t feel like painting,
  2. choose to do something else although we think, feel, know we should be painting, or
  3. don’t know what to paint next or how to get started.  

Are we creatively blocked?  No.  I believe that the “creative block” is a myth that should and can go down the drain with your dirty paint-rinsing water. Here’s how to do it.

(Keep in mind that this is a blog post not a book. Simplicity rules. We can discuss these ideas further in the comments.)  

I’m a firm believer in the power of word choice and how our internal dialogue impacts outcomes. It’s all about self-fulfilling prophecy and it’s extremely powerful.

I’ve never felt creatively blocked. I don’t speak “artist.” I’ve never been caught up in the common language of creatives. Those who talk about artist statements, creative blocks, how their art aligns with the political vibe this week or year.  

If you tell your brain it’s creatively blocked, it’s going to believe you and sit like a stone. If you tell your brain that there’s no such thing as a creative block or describe your “issue” in a different way, it will also believe you and figure out how to go forward. You are what you think about. Just tell yourself that you don’t believe in that crap and start painting.  

Before writing this, I did a little research on Pinterest.  There are a lot of nifty quotes, tips, etc. on how you can get over a creative block. Things like:

  • Take more naps
  • Paint naked
  • Make some hash marks on your canvas with five colors
  • Keep a dream diary
  • Keep a notebook and write down your ideas
  • Clean your workspace

Okay …. Here are my thoughts on these particular ideas …

I don’t think taking naps will help.  That’s all I have to say about that.  Painting naked may be fun but you may get cold or have to remember to lock the door. I do think the hash marks idea is a good start sometimes and will discuss that more next.  Dream diaries and notebooks are fine but I’m guessing most of us do that kind of thing already. Cleaning your workspace every now and then is just a good idea in general, but I’m not sure if it will fire your creative flame.

Bottom line, you’re either a creative person or you’re not. And every creative person is likely on a scale. You may be semi-creative and enjoy painting or you may be the next Vincent van Gogh.  This impacts your level of interest day to day.  If you want to paint you will.  If you don’t feel like it, don’t do it. Why should you? If you don’t feel like it enough days or months in a row, and it’s your only source of income, then it may be time to look for another job. Why burden yourself over it? There are a million other ways you can contribute to society and to your bank account.

Now, if you want to paint and don’t know where to start or what to paint, that’s another issue. I don’t call that creative block. I call that decision making. There are a million things you can paint and a million ways to paint each of those. Don’t be indecisive. Just start something. That’s what I do. I rarely have a clear idea when I start. Do I have to? No. Sometimes I start with a color.

Here’s how to do it …

  1. Choose a color, any color, that pops out at you. Don’t over think it. Just reach out and grab.
  2. Choose a brush and start painting your canvas any way you want to. “But I didn’t sketch out my painting yet,” you say. I don’t care. Paint the canvas. Oh, and turn on some music.
  3. Now reach out and grab another color and do the same. Do this until you find yourself thinking and feeling something, anything.  Whatever it is, just think about it while painting what seems like nothing on the canvas. Just enjoy the painting gliding over the canvas, filling in the white, just like how your life has filled you …
  4. Now, if you are a creative person, you’ll likely get some kind of idea. A spark. No matter how small, weird, large, etc. just think about it for a while. Feel it.

Now, you’ve started something that you must be determined to finish. Don’t look at it and say, “This is stupid,” or “This is hideous.” It is not stupid or hideous. It’s a start. At this point, depending on your style, focus, personality, etc. use your creative mind to begin transforming the so-called stupid, hideous thing into something meaningful.

The key is to keep going until you’re satisfied. Some of my best work has come from the pieces I more frequently categorized along the way as stupid and hideous. I know now that it’s because they challenged me to apply my most creative thinking. I was determined to transform them into something beautiful; I didn’t stop until I was satisfied. And with each painting my confidence grew. I raised my own bar for satisfaction and pushed towards it. My work improved. If you quit at the first feeling of “this is stupid,” you’ll never truly start. This is the courage part.  

Sometimes I do something totally silly, crazy or illogical like paint a big X in my canvas or a face or a tree … or paint a tree and then turn the entire thing upside down and morph the tree into something else. My point is to allow your creatively to kick in once you get started. Don’t lock yourself into a detailed plan from minute one. That goes against the entire idea of creativity. (I suppose highly technical, hyper-realistic, and portrait artists need to do that. For those types of artist, I think it just goes back to wanting to do it or not. Like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. Either you enjoy it or you don’t. If you don’t feel like doing it, don’t do it.) In general, it surprises me how many creatives are regimented. How many believe that they need to do things a certain way. Who told you that?

Be impulsive.

I leave you with this, and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Written by Penelope Przekop