5 Ways To Beat The Creative Block / by Tom Sands

Whether you’re a creator by profession or hobby, you may have at some point experienced the dreaded creative block. As our livelihood depends on free-flowing creative energy, it has the potential to be a serious problem. We’re often asked how we manage to overcome it’s difficulties, and so we thought for today’s post we’d share our 5 ways to beat the creative block. 

1: Use your location.

We came across a highly sensory passage from Alan Moore over coffee this morning, from his book ‘DO / DESIGN: Why beauty is key to everything’. His advice for a creative push was this: ‘Walk through the front door, smell the warm baking bread that makes a house a home. Feel the cold visceral shock of the ocean as the waves break on your body. Lie in a wild meadow and watch the clouds scud across the sky. Slowly breathe in the scent of the summer rain’ (42). Although we can’t always have summer rain at the drop of a hat, Moore accentuates the importance of the natural world and the simple pleasures to warm the creative soul. When we find ourselves needing an artistic refuel, this is exactly what we in the workshop try to do. We go through the door, close it behind us and shut off for a while. We are lucky, our shop is located in the beautiful North Yorkshire area. This means we have instant access to nature’s tapestry. We also have a dog, so an escape is forced at least twice a day. You can also bring a camera and have a play.

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This is invaluable as, like Moore, we both find that our creativity is best enhanced around the textures and colours of the natural world. It means we miss the traffic jams to inhabit crammed repurposed offices in London with their invasive and humming yellow lights. Not to say that some artists find inspiration from the sprawl, though. It’s a matter of exploring your own arenas. 

In Yorkshire, we can utilise the landscape much like the Romantic poet and his ‘Sublime’. It provides a sobering companion to the cabin-fevered mind laced with creative dilemma. Where we lay our hat, or rather our chisel, you can be back from round the river and various surrounding hills in the time it would take to route a binding channel. 

When we find ourselves needing an artistic refuel... we go through the door, close it behind us and shut off for a while.

2. Tidying the workshop 

There isn’t much to say here, except a favourite aphorism, a tidy desk is a tidy mind. Sometimes woodworking shops are left for months and even years coated in sawdust and offcuts, and this may well be giving the flow of your ideas a hard time. Picking your way through an unpleasant space takes up valuable concentration you could be using for daydreaming the next body shape, painting or concept. 

Perhaps more importantly, the catharsis of self-care extends fundamentally to caring for one’s creative space. If you show no care to your space, you are doing yourself, and your work, a disservice. Having a tidy up occupies the section of your brain that requires no creative thought, freeing up a nice bit of space to use later. Also, your space will look great when you’re ready to get going again.

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3. Q&A on instagram

We made a habit of doing this every Friday, but now we do it in our podcast. We discovered that answering questions on things quickly isolates things which you do know, and exposes that which you’re unsure about. It can get you back on track by demanding you to think about why or how you do something. It’s always good to disengage and step back to employ the rational when the mind is playing up. It also might make you think about a better way of doing something.

4. Learning to be absent from comparison. 

If you change the way you respond to competition, you may find yourself trapped in a rut of creative block less and less.

This is so important. Especially when social media sharing is so important to the artistic community. It’s a catch-22. Rather than a tip for when you’re struggling with block only, this one is more about your overall mindset to creativity. If you change the way you respond to competition, you may find yourself trapped in a rut of creative block less and less.

Same goes for taking risks in your work. Many potentially great ideas are killed off before they see the light of day and if we accept that something may not work from it’s conception, it is more likely to hold value in some way; be it as a project to run with or to learn from. It’s easier to kill an idea dead than fear it may not please an audience - or fear it’s potential to be better left in another’s hands. Don’t let that deter you. Throw cautions to those instagram gails.

5. Talk it out

If you’re lucky enough to work with somebody, another creator perhaps, ask for their advice. Maybe not if they’re in the middle of a creative zone, they won’t thank you for that, but if the opportunity allows, talk it over. Take a walk with someone, talk about what you see. 

Speaking of ‘talking it out’, we recently interviewed some other Yorkshire based luthiers, Al and Chris from Alpher Instruments. Al and Chris find the rural surroundings equally invaluable to their craft.

We’d love to hear how you tackle your creative block. The more obscure the better - leave us a comment, and maybe we’ll depart from our list next time and take on some new methods!