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Breaking Through Your Creative Blocks


I had a conversation last week with a client who was stressing about spending so much time on and in her business that she was feeling stuck. Claire told me how she used to love to create just for herself, without a business outcome involved. Only now, she just did not even have time to do that. And, she was suffering. She felt lost and was beginning to be “stuck” with the creating that was important to her business growth. I suggested that she schedule “Claire time” into her calendar for creativity and stick with it, no matter what. By allowing time for herself, I believe Claire would show up better in her business.

As we were talking about how to schedule that time, I remembered the  lecture Elizabeth Gilbert gave at the 2009 TED Conference entitled “A Different Way to Think About Creative Genius.” It was about nurturing creativity. I went back and listened to it again. What struck me then, as well as now, was when Elizabeth was having a hard time writing, she took time and just spoke out to the corner, to let genius come to her. If it didn’t, well, she showed up for her part of the job. Isn’t that what you do many times when you create? You just show up. Sometimes it is a wonderful effort; other times it’s just an effort. But you showed up.

I’m sure you have had times where you’ve shown up for the job but have been blocked creatively, whether it’s from pressures, fears, uncertainties or something else. Here are six ideas to jump-start your creative juices:

Fill the well

Look at other art, either surfing the Internet or visiting galleries. Go on an artist’s date, à la Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. And, be sure to step outside the textile realm, if that is where you focus. Sometimes looking at other art is all it takes to get a new idea.

Set a challenge or goal for yourself

The journal art idea is a great one here.

Challenge yourself to create something small each day or week. Pick a theme. Focus on a particular bit of nature in your yard. Follow it through the year. For example, take a photo each day of the same scene.

Move outside your comfort zone. If traditional piecework is your thing, grab some paintstiks and let loose. If you are a watercolor artist, try photography for a change.

I did this once. I did a monthly quilt journal project. I ended up with a dozen small pear quilts.

Create a daily ritual

Twyla Tharp writes about this idea in The Creative Habit. The daily ritual becomes so ingrained that it sets the pace for your day. She says, “It’s Pavlovian: follow the routine, get a creative payoff.”

She uses the example of the chef who starts each day by tending the garden on the terrace of his Brooklyn home. This creative environment lets him putter, pick veggies or herbs, think about flavors. At this point, he heads off to the restaurant to begin creating.

For me, I have a ritual of walking each weekday really, really early. The fresh air gets me going. What is your ritual?

Take a class to learn a new skill

This could be a photography class, a watercolor painting class, a cooking class, a computer class. Just being creative in some other area will translate into your artwork.

Keep an idea journal

An idea journal is a perfect place to keep your thoughts, inspirations, and pictures safe until you are ready for them.

Fill your journal with things that inspire you from in and outside your space in the art world.

When you are blocked, leave your studio and pull out your idea journal. Ideas will surface.

Act as if you don’t have any blocks and then just jump in

One idea will lead to another. Remember that every piece of art you create doesn’t have to be perfect. One of the quotes I have tacked on my wall is “progress, not perfection.” If I waited for everything to be perfect, I would still be waiting.

Here are two favorite quotes on creativity:

“In creating, the only hard things to begin; A grass blade’s no easier to make than an oak.”
James Russell Lowell

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Rather ask, what makes you come alive?
Then go and do it! Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”
Howard Thurman

So, get creating. Allah, Olé, Bravo!

It’s your turn!

How do you deal with creative blocks?

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