How To Deal With Creative Block?
Oh, weekdays. Here we are again. After indulging myself in such a long, long break post-wedding-ceremony, routines quickly striking back. I’ve flown to Jogja twice this week, and soon will go back to Jakarta for another working weekend. This frequency of travel is part of my job and I wouldn’t mind at all - it takes effort and energy but I’ve prepared for that. What I (surprisingly) find difficult is when lately my mind seems to get clouded easily - I couldn’t think as clear, I process things slower, and most importantly… I feel stuck in stagnancy. Whenever I want to create, or to design or to write, I have to stop for a few minute before I can concentrate on my purpose again. Repetitively. In some occasions I couldn’t even write at all. My hands were stiff and my mind refusing to cooperate. But this is not the first time - these symptoms happen before in my life and it’s quite obvious that I’ve been experiencing a creative block. As someone who works within the so-called creative industry, a creative block can be pretty annoying. A bit of a nightmare, even though not that bad. I won’t say that a creative block is an easy problem to kick away, because many times it can be tricky and it endangered you when there are professional-job-deadlines involved within the period of happening. But I’ve dealt with this before and I’d like to believe that I can always get through the phase again; calmer and faster each time. Here are several things I’d like to share with you, on how to defeat your own creative block:
1. First of all, BREATHE.
Seriously, do it. You might not an anxious person, not as much as I do; but breathing is proven effective for anything related to problem-facing. Be it a creative block or even a broken heart situation. It’s empowering, to be able to sit still and concentrate on your own breath. A short breathing habit every morning (or every a couple hours if you’d prefer) will certainly help us to focus on what we need to do. If anything, breathing will prevent us from an emotional panic attack (or panic-based decision making). I always feel much better after I take a deep breath and trying to smile a little while inhaling and exhaling the air to my lungs. So close your eyes slowly, bring your hands closer to your heart, and breathe in. Breathe out. Have a moment of peace that you deserve.
2. Pay more attention to your physical needs.
Are you eating well? Do you drink enough water? My biggest problem is water - I don’t drink water as much as I want. As a sweet-tooth and caffeine maniac I drink coffee more than water each day, and that’s not a very helpful factor for my anxiety. I also have this sleeping-when-it’s-dawn habit that I (someday) will be happy to stop, because having only a few hours to sleep is torturing my metabolism. I notice that every time I feel exhausted, my brain is less responsive; my body is unable to support the flow of creativity I need to create. But it gets much better when I try to have enough sleep, eat and drink in normal amount, exercise a little. I’d sense the rising freshness in my body and that will lead to a better mood, which is essential for my sacred creative process. You might want to check on your energy level too before blaming the creative block in somewhere else. If we’re not tired, we’ll be more likely brilliant in ideas and spontaneity.
3. Go out and take picture, or draw your surrounding.
It might be my woman-side, really, but I find it really joyful to put all of my favorite essentials inside one big bag so I can bring it everywhere I go. We can’t always expect to spoil ourselves in a holiday or day-offs every time the creative block comes. Sometimes we have to keep doing our job until the blocking period has gone, and that can be really disturbing (nobody likes to work without a passionately conscious mind, trust me). So what I do is this: I pick all of my favorite little things and I make sure they’re stored neatly in my bag. From my makeup (looking good is always helpful), my perfume, my toner spray, my vintage sunglasses, my contact lens and lip balm, my rose gold iPad… up to my leather journal and a book to read along. Whenever I’m bored or waiting for something, I can spend my time being productive by doing touch up, reading, or browsing Pinterest.
4. Pack your bag with everything Favourites.
It is ALWAYS interesting to be anywhere else but your bedroom (or office). Be that a walk to the local market, a short train trip to the other side of your city, an impulsive solo trip to Bali. Anywhere, really. Just step outside your room and walk or drive around. I love taking train trips - it gives me enough time to do nothing but enjoying the views and taking pictures of the passersby. If only I could draw, I would make illustrations out of my neighbourhood and sketches of what I vision in my mind during the walk. In this case, I bring my camera. The visual adventure (and a bit of muscle training) can be a great trigger for your creative nerve to be awake. You will smell the air, hearing noises, seeing greens and many mundane part of life that you’ve missed before.
5. Play the music, loudly.
Oh, how I love beautiful melodies. The right kind of music will stimulate my brain into its most relaxed stage, thus helping the mind to recover from its temporary idleness. I collect old records, so I try to listen them more often while reading or writing. Sometimes I’d sit on the couch and do nothing but listening to my favorite numbers from Fleetwood Mac, the other day I’d dance along ABBA’s. Music will heal the soul, they said. I believe it’s true. Some people choose movies instead, and I think they share the similar stimulation to the brain. I even have my special playlist on Apple Music, containing songs that I consider powerful to change any bad mood into I-Can-Do-Anything mood. You can also combine music with an afternoon walk around the park, with your headphones on and a heart that’s full with meaningful lyrics beside the melodious tunes.
6. Be comfortable.
Some people push themselves to go outside their comfort zone. While it can be true in several ways, I’d also like to make sure that I am comfortable. Not only in a sense of mentality but also physically. Lately I’ve been switching from faux eyelashes to extension lashes, because it gives me more time to be productive (and I don’t have to be angry whenever the glue sticks on my eyelid). I don’t wear foundation or powder, just moisturizer. I switch my clothes to summer dresses and casual pants. I wear daily contact lens and limit my glasses-hours. The one I use, Oasys Hydraluxe from Acuvue, is definitely the most comfortable lens I ever wear in life. They’re the thinnest, the softest. They allow me to shoot with my camera without glasses on (such a luxury), and I don’t have to worry about cleaning the lens because I get to wear new lenses everyday. When we’re comfortable with ourselves, we can be more open to our surroundings. That will allow us to be more sensitive so we soon can gain our creativity back.
7. Choose a new, temporary working place. Somewhere different, somewhere vibrant.
If I get to choose, I’d go to chase the greens. The sense of being in outdoor setting while working on my writing or photography is one hell of a privilege for me. It’s been always remedial, to be close with the nature, without having to literally fly away on a plane to some place far. I’d go to a coffee shop nearby with garden on its side to sit for long hours. I’d go to the park, and lay a picnic mat. Mostly I work inside a studio and the wall can be quite intimidating (or boring), so changing places can be very helpful.
8. STIMULATE YOURSELF. IN MY CASE IT WILL BE: READ, READ, READ.
My creative priority is to write, almost everyday. It can be really tiring to repeat if I don’t try to keep up with the contemporary updates from my field. My work can be redundant too, without exercise. I always try to make sure I have the right amount of readings every weekend, and if possible, every day. There are so many benefits I can gain from reading new materials - from the richness of my vocabulary and the important learning I can get from other writers (especially the best ones). The more I read, the more I learn, the less tension of creative block I feel. You might not essentially in need to read, so get yourself fresh inspiration from your creative field - it can be new music, new movies, new art installation; anything new. And do it often. Constant stimulation outside your everyday routines will certainly prevent another block to come in the future.
I guess a lot of us find different ways to cope up with creativity obstacles. Mine can be too general or too specific for you, but we all share the same point: that a creative block can be understood, then we can find solution for it. I’m still in the middle of a block too, and still trying to keep up with my own advices to “defeat” this challenge. It’s always nice to embrace while we can. I’m going to keep trying and trying, and I hope you will do, too. Stay healthy and happy!