Some ways to get through a creative block

I am one of those people who work in bursts of creativity; one moment I am so energized by an idea but once that concept sees fruition, I tend to take a rest and recharge until its time to execute another idea. This makes me prone to the "blank canvas effect" (I am sure there is a better name for this somewhere), which means the longer the time I spend away from making, the harder it is for me to actually start working on something again. To prevent impending creative blocks, I keep myself busy by doing other things to keep the inspiration going and to make it easier to get the ball rolling once new projects come in. Here are some of my techniques:

1. Work with a different medium or subject matter

I am used to drawing letters and cute animals with various pens and inks, so from time to time I like to exercise my creative muscles by learning how to use a different medium. For practice I try to paint flowers with watercolors. This is totally out of my comfort zone because 1) I don't know how to use watercolors properly, and 2) realistic painting is not really my style. I find that aside from helping me understand a medium that I am not accustomed to, this exercise develops patience and further reiterates the fact that creativity is a journey and not so much about the final product.

I bought a step-by-step watercolor painting book from Japan and I use that as a guide.

I bought a step-by-step watercolor painting book from Japan and I use that as a guide.

2. Focus on routine tasks

Whenever I feel like my creative batteries are running low, I shift my focus to things that require my attention but not a lot of mental energy. Running my business alone, this means I always have to do administrative work or product packaging duties. These assignments seem like they can be delegated to someone else so I can direct my attention to major tasks, but I set aside time to do them because it's when I am doing routine work that my ideas have time to "marinate."

3. Do a little bit of de-cluttering

It's a debate whether messy workspaces negatively affect or actually contribute to creative output. But as a recent Marie Kondo convert, I would say that I feel more comfortable working in an environment that is tidy. The process of putting things in order somehow detangles my thoughts and gets them ready to be released on paper. I guess part of the logic is I don't have to think about cleaning up anymore so my time for creating becomes uninterrupted by chores.

Current desk situation. And yes, I keep an extra brain in case I need double the mental power.

Current desk situation. And yes, I keep an extra brain in case I need double the mental power.

4. Get writing

More often than not, my tendency to procrastinate disguises itself as a creative block, and when this happens, I know there is an issue bothering me that's begging to be released. Whenever I catch myself in this predicament, I bring out my journal and write all thoughts that present themselves, good or bad, logical or irrational. My journals are for my own eyes only, so I can write about what I'm thinking or feeling without the fear of being judged. Once my thoughts are on paper, I feel like my brain has been freed of emotional clutter and I can get on with my work.

5. Become a student again

Sometimes my creative slumps last for weeks, even months, so when things are this bad I submit to scholarly instruction. Being a student makes me feel like it's okay to make mistakes and to experiment, things that are very easy to forget once you've been doing something for a long time. There are days when I feel like my work comes out of templates, so having assignments and coursework that force me to consider other ideas and techniques brings the fun back into my creative pursuits.

My output for Julia Rothman's Skillshare class. 

My output for Julia Rothman's Skillshare class. 

6. Have a change of scenery

Change of scenery doesn't always mean travelling to a far-off place. When my budget is low or my schedule is full but I feel the need to shake things up, I get up from my desk and go to the mall to drink milk tea or visit a public park where I can soak up the crowd's energy and get inspired to draw. Sometimes it's even as simple as changing the prints hanging on my wall; it tricks my mind into thinking that I am in a new place, triggering the influx of new ideas.

7. Surround yourself with pretty things

Getting back on track is sometimes as easy as flipping through a book illustrated by my favorite artist, or reading a magazine with inspirational tales, or looking at my collection of postcards and prints from art fairs and travels. Having these resources at hand make it fairly easy to keep the motivation up and get the wheels turning again. And besides, who doesn't like to be surrounded by beautiful things?

My weakness: books, magazines, stickers and prints. This is only about 5% of my entire collection. I am a hoarder of cute stuff.

My weakness: books, magazines, stickers and prints. This is only about 5% of my entire collection. I am a hoarder of cute stuff.

8. Have something to remind you of who you are

Admittedly, most of the time, my creative blocks stem from my fear of being insignificant or from envy of other people's success. There are days when I think "what's the point?" because I only see what my ego sees. Whenever this situation arises, I like to go back to the UP Diliman campus because my alma mater reminds me that I am just a small speck in the universe and that I am very lucky to have come across opportunities that remain elusive to many others. Sometimes the way to push through a creative block is to get some perspective, and UP has never failed me in this respect. 

Still my favorite picture of UP. Oble, the sunset, the feeling of being small yet capable of greatness.

Still my favorite picture of UP. Oble, the sunset, the feeling of being small yet capable of greatness.

The idea for this post came to me because I've been trying to figure out what's preventing me from drawing. Writing this list actually motivated me to make art again, probably because I felt the need to test the effectiveness of the tips before sharing them. Hope they also help you get out of your creative rut!