Creative block? What’s holding you back from making art?

What’s holding you back from making your art? Some things are just out of our control and they pull us away from our creative lives. Sometimes we just need a little nudge to get back on track. Are you feeling a bit lost creatively or afraid you’ll waste your precious supplies? Do you need time, energy or a bigger space? If you want to make art but it’s not happening, you are not alone and sometimes a small step can make a big difference.

Figure out your why, your when and your where

Recognising what’s holding you back is a good place to start. One way I do this is to ask myself the why, when and where of my art.

What works for you may not be what works for me or anyone else and figuring out what supports you to create can take a bit of time. Making it easier on yourself will surely help! On a side note, if you rely on your art to make money these tips may support you. But they might not get to the root of the problem. The pressures or deadlines that you face put a new spin on creative blocks. I’m still a fan of small steps though.

Do you remember why you started making this art in first place? What part of the day do you usually create and where? Do you need a tidy, organised space or a creative mess to feel inspired? Perhaps you are more creative in the morning or at midnight. Are you supporting your “why, when and where”? If not, try even one small adjustment to make it easier on yourself to get back to your art.

What blocks are you facing?

There are small steps we can take if we feel ready to get back to our art. Here are some thoughts about my own experiences, maybe take something you can use and leave the rest. 

I want to try everything but I get nowhere

Sometimes I’m full of ideas and often juggle many projects. I want to try everything but there aren’t enough hours in the day and choosing one feels impossible! Multi-passionate people can achieve a lot but we have to learn how to focus. If this feels like you, know you don’t have to drop all your ideas but too much flexibility or freedom can lead to procrastination or paralysis so try this.

Identify one main project to focus on in your creative time and keep one or two others running alongside for when you need to change it up. Keep notes for other projects so you can add them in when you finish something. Choose something achievable and see it through to the end, it will feel fantastic! If your other ideas are still good, they’ll have waited for you.

I’m just stuck, my creative mojo has left the building

Loss of your creative spark is the real deal. Almost all creative people struggle with a block at some time. It’s disheartening and can feel like you’ll never make art again. You might want to keep going or take a break for a while. (If you are physically and mentally exhausted pushing through a block may not be helpful. Sometimes we need rest. Get advice if you need to.)

However, sometimes it can help to feed our muse something new, or return to something familiar and comfortable. If you feel you are ready to get started again, find something that captures your imagination and just play with no expectations about what the result will be. Just get your hands moving. If you need a goal to work towards, keep it small and realistic. This could be a time limit or one page of blue marks in a sketchbook.Be gentle with yourself, take your time and remember that your desire to create will return.

Perfectionism, procrastination and expectations

This is the jackpot of creative blocks, the need to create the incredible piece of art that’s in our head, with no room for mistakes or failure. The pressure is on and we secretly fear we aren’t up to the task and cannot bear to create something that isn’t beautiful. Not to mention that any “bad” art is just evidence that we shouldn’t be painting at all – ugh, there’s a bit of Imposter Syndrome in there too. We want to create something perfect but then get frozen by our own fear and make nothing.

There’s no quick fix for this but it’s possible to chip away at this critical voice, tell it to mind it’s own business and make art anyway. It can help to remind yourself why you make art. Learn what you love about it and use that as your motivation.

I don’t want to waste supplies

Do you ever feel like like you don’t want to waste your supplies on trying new things or making something “bad”. Can you hear that critical voice again? One thing I’ve learned is that artists and makers have learned how to make good art by making a lot of experiments, mistakes and messes. Using your supplies to learn how to make better art is not waste, it’s progress.

If fear of wasting your precious supplies is on your list of blocks, try these tips. Paint colour swatches or tester pieces on cheap card to explore your materials. If you are really struggling with your supplies feeling precious can you downgrade or substitute until you feel more confident? Create something very small just to try a technique or supply. I remind myself often that wasted supplies are the ones sat on the shelf, becoming unusable, because I was saving them for best.

I need more time, space or energy

How many times have you said you “don’t have time” or “I would if I had space”? I’ve done it too. These excuses are tried and tested and they feel like the truth. After all, the artists and makers that we admire all have beautiful studios and craft rooms and don’t seem to have other commitments that soak up their days.

Except that part isn’t really true. They too started on the kitchen table and cleared away for meals. Art was made in small snacks of time while the baby slept or late at night when everyone else was in bed. They balanced their energy for art with the rest of their lives, just like you and I do. The most exciting part is that you can choose the same for yourself in small steps. Starting small is still starting and it’s never too late. You don’t have to skip to the end.

I’m just too tired

There it is, the big one. At some point every one of us feels the kind of tired that stops us in our tracks. Maybe we have physical or mental health issues, our to-do list is never-ending or we feel utterly overwhelmed. Perhaps art used to be the thing we did to feel better and right now we’re not able to do it.

This is a real struggle and it’s true that sometimes we just have to let go of our art for a while. In this case I hope you can be kind to yourself and stay connected to art in other ways. Put art you have made around your home, stay in touch with creative friends or take quick phone photos of things that inspire you. Keep the thread tied to your art at one end so you can find your way back later.

I don’t know how

Lastly, the one I have heard the most as a Powertex tutor is “I don’t know how”. Knowing what you want to create but not knowing how to get there can feel like a huge gap. It’s worth remembering that everyone starts at the beginning and it’s easier than ever to get the knowledge you need and get the results you want, with a bit of practice of course! Find someone willing to share, take courses, watch videos and have a go.

There are lots of online and real life communities all ready to cheer you on. I strongly encourage you to connect with your own cheerleaders and let them nudge and nurture you into making your own art. Personally I have found an amazing community of artists and makers on Instagram. They are always there, cheering me on from the sidelines.

Take small steps

What’s holding you back? Whatever it is,  you are not alone. I hope you can take a small step this week to move towards your art. Maybe you will watch something inspiring or connect with a new creative group or maybe you will take the art supplies down from the shelf and try that project you were inspired by.

Come and join me on Instagram in my creative life and at Powertex With Kore. Leave me a comment and I’ll come by your account too!

What's stopping you making your art?


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