Generally, advice around idea block comes with a statement about how it’s a normal problem, commonly experienced. I wonder how many artists are comforted by this before a deadline when things aren’t working. Or worse, when there is no external deadline, and projects can be delayed indefinitely.
If you are well-prepared, you have a few techniques on hand before idea block hits. My usual technique is to keep working, but to divert my efforts to a related field/topic if needed. Sometimes this means I go to the studio and make something silly or functional for myself, without needing a concept as I do when I make art. In this way, I can keep my physical skills from lapsing. Often while I’m in the middle of working with the material, I will find an idea I can pursue. As long as I keep the same amount of dedicated time in my schedule, I will be available when new ideas start to form.
One method that has always seemed dangerous to me is to just relax and not worry about it. I cringe when I hear this advice given to others. On the one hand, stress is an obstacle to productivity. The added pressure you might put on yourself to get over your idea block will likely exacerbate the problem. But on the other hand, I have seen members of my art school cohort and other artists stop making art indefinitely. Years slip by and life puts up more and more obstacles to art-making.
So relaxing is important, but it’s also important where/how you apply it. When I relax my usual process and make something silly, I keep myself ready for ideas worth pursuing. To relax entirely and stop practising is a different thing. When my ceramic studio manager goes on vacation, the studio is closed. As much as I always look forward to having access to the studio again, I still have to talk myself into going back after an unwanted break. Being in the studio is good, but getting there becomes a hassle when I haven’t had to do it for 2 weeks. Before a break, getting there is just part of my schedule. Small obstacles can become bigger if they are not addressed while too much time passes.
My method works for me, but every creative person has their own way of working. It’s important to be mindful of what is or isn’t working, and recalibrate as needed. Thinking about how to deal with an idea block before one hits can help mitigate stress and make it easier to work through. What works for you?
Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts in the comments, and share this blog with your friends and family.