10 Ideas for Overcoming Creative Blocks

1. Do you find a blank canvas or page intimidating? Apply a wash of color across it right away. It doesn’t matter what color—just get some color and movement on it. Remember, you can always cover it up later, but staring at a canvas striped with color is a lot more inspirational than looking at glaring white and not knowing where to start. (Even if the place to start is covering up that stripe of color!)

2. Get organized. Go through your studio and put everything in its place. Open every cabinet and every drawer. Most artists have more painting supplies than they use. That box you find in the back of the closet might be just the thing to inspire you to try something new.

3. Try a new medium. If you generally work in oil paints, try watercolor. If you usually do stained glass, try rubber-stamping. Most arts have crossover techniques and information, such as color theory, that can help you to see your own art in a new way.

4. Take a class. There are few things more inspiring than someone who’s passionate about what they do. Taking a class with a good teacher will remind you why you love your art.

5. Read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (or read it again).

6. Create an idea nursery. Every time you see a picture in a magazine that appeals to you, clip it out. Don’t examine why. Put your clippings together in a sketchbook grouped by color theme, shape or any other common denominator. When you’re feeling blocked, work from the nursery by, for example, creating a painting to go in a room featured in a home decor magazine. Or paint a flower inspired by a photo from a garden catalog. Sketch half-formed ideas, or make notes about things you might want to do. If you don’t write it down, you’ll forget. When you’re blocked, it’s the perfect time to go through those old ideas.

7. Get out. Don’t beat yourself up over not being able to work. Go see a movie, read a book, visit with a friend. Just keep your mind open for ideas. When you beat yourself up you’re too busy to notice all the inspiration that surrounds you.

8. Make a list of projects that you’ve wanted to try. Reminding yourself of things you were once excited about is a good way to get your creative juices flowing again.

9. Keep a block journal. Every time you feel blocked, write about it. Put all of your feelings out on paper. Once you’re back on track, write what pulled you back into the studio to work. There’s great comfort in this after a while because you can go back and see how many times you’ve overcome this fear. (But don’t expect the same thing to work every time!)

10. Kick your inner critic in the shins. Your inner critic is your need to be validated and accepted. The truth is that you need to work to please yourself. You can’t do your best work—your true work—with one eye on the applause meter. When you feel those doubts creeping in, remember, you only have to please yourself. If you don’t like it, don’t show it to anyone. Paint over it, burn the evidence. When you work to please yourself, the rest will take care of itself.

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