If you are like me, creative inspiration never seems to strike at the right time – especially when working against a deadline. Time and time again, I have found myself staring blankly at an empty page, trying desperately to pull a brilliant new concept from thin air – and failing miserably. Dispirited and surrounded by crumpled sheets of paper, I scrap the entire project. I will never be a genius or break through this creative block, so why even bother? That thought process is a dangerous one. It is the killing blow to creativity and growth. But can it be overcome?
Over the years, I have learned a few practices through personal experience and professional guidance that have continually helped me push past creative block. These methods may not work for everyone, but my hope is that they will help or inspire you in the same way they have me.
- Start every project by thumbnailing
This is one of the first things I learned in college and is my weapon of choice in the fight against creative block. Begin with small, loose sketches or rough drafts on paper, no bigger than a few inches each. I used to ask a professor of mine how many thumbnails to do for projects and he would always respond, “As many as it takes to solve the problem.” Sometimes 30 thumbnails are all you need to solve a creative problem, but sometimes it takes 200 to find the right solution. Occasionally, this method is not an option due to time constraints or deadlines, which is completely normal. Don’t sweat it!
However, it is often more tempting and, quite frankly, more fun to jump headlong into my very first idea without stopping to see if there is a better option. But in my experience, this method often leads to frustration later down the road. Always give thumbnailing a try first – while sometimes not the most enjoyable practice, it is certainly the most worthwhile.
- Be reckless with your art.
I have found that I produce my best work when I throw caution and fear of imperfection to the wind. Use long lines and confident strokes; do not give yourself time to overthink and become timid. Allow yourself to be experimental. Show the paper who’s boss. Have fun. Lose yourself in the reckless joy of having 1,000 bad ideas and knowing that it can only get better from there.
- Find artists who inspire you.
Watch what others do and draw inspiration from their techniques. Learn from them. A great way to learn from your favorite artists is to conduct master studies of their work. This is an excellent approach that allows you to get into another creative’s mind and gives you a chance to see the world through their eyes. But please be considerate, give credit where credit is due, and do not try to pass off another artist’s work as your own. Gain inspiration from creatives around you and find new perspectives – your art will be all the better for it.
- Persistence is the key to creative success.
Continue pursuing what you love; do not give up, no matter how tempting it may be. Many of your ideas may be bad at first, but the only way to defeat creative block is to push through. Push through the negative thoughts. Push through the frustration. Push through the doubt, fear, and temptation to take the easy way out. Do not let anything deter you. The reward at the end is always worth the struggle.
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