Creative slumps are a drag. This’ll get you back on track.
Below, writer Angella D’Avignon compiles advice from several S6 artists on the best places to get over a creative block.
It’s totally normal for inspiration and motivation to slip at times. Luckily, you have the ENTIRE real world and digital world (i.e. internet) at your disposal to turn that around. In this article, we’ll walk through the best ways to break through creative blocks–or enhance the creative flow you’re already in.
1. Inspiration is everywhere
The internet is a vast visual landscape. Pinterest, novelty Instagram accounts, and Tumblr are all great sources for new inspiration. Don’t forget obscure blogs! Some of the coolest aggregate image sites are relics of an older internet and let’s be honest–that’s where most of Tumblr sourced it’s images.
Hanna Kasti-Lungberg: “I go on Pinterest and Tumblr if what other people have done is the inspiration I need. Otherwise I go on Google maps street view! My favourite place to walk around in is Palm Springs. I also visit green houses, gardens and parks, mostly in the summers. That gives me a lot of new energy and inspiration.”
The internet is but one source for imagery. Museums, old magazines, design catalogs, and IRL art galleries are great places to break up your eye and take in some new visuals off-screen.
Luke Gram: “I tend to go to museums with friends. I like to view the artwork and find inspiration by viewing many styles all in one day, as well as viewing my friends reactions to certain works and getting their opinions in a light-hearted, genuine way. By hearing what they say I can loosen my own narrow sight and try to appreciate different styles, which can lead to creative ideas.”
Natalie Foss: “I usually look through different kind of magazines (fashion and art magazines mostly), search for colorful blogs, look at/for other artists on Instagram or facebook, listen to some uplifting music and search for 60s and 70s images and patterns. Taking a walk can also make the brain spin in the right direction, so I recommend that! Doing things or listening to things that generates positive thoughts is a good advice.”
2. Revisit the classics
Learning about designers and artists of the past is crucial in developing contemporary styles. Not only will it keep you from reinventing the wheel, it sharpens your eye for design.
Vintage interior design is really hot right now. Instagram accounts like @press_sf or @newagecocaine can point you in the right direction. Once you learn who your fav designers are, head over to Pinterest and make a board full of looks you like. Old modern interior magazines are also great sources!
3. Take a break
It’s inevitable that you’ll hit a wall sooner or later, especially if you’ve been at it for awhile. A way to refresh your brain is to hit restart by taking a break and going outside…or doing anything else really.
Robin Eisenberg: “I leave the project alone and either do something totally different like take a drive somewhere or do something active/physical. Sometimes it feels the same way as it does when you’re trying too hard to remember a word or a name – like your brain is putting so much effort into it that it’s actually just circling around what you want to remember without being able to actually pinpoint it. I find that if I’m really struggling to come up with an idea it’s best to just take a break and let my mind relax a bit. Also, getting another perspective can definitely be helpful. Two brains, that kinda thing.”
Bianca Green: “It’s normal to have those highs and lows of creativity. I usually don’t sweat it and don’t pressure myself to get over it. Spending more time with friends and living life helps me a lot when I am stuck. Then it suddenly hits me and I turn into that artist zombie, forget to eat and sleep, and spend 3 days straight creating. I love those days.”
A few days back in Berlin now and I think today is a holiday here (not sure, but i’m on my sofa either way, lol) and I’m so happy Lucy & Winston shared their vacay pictures with me. Loosing all my pictures was the hardest part about getting my phone stolen. Lisbon was my favorite part of our trip and this was my favorite view 💛💚💙💜
4. Pay attention to the details of your environment
As you identify the motivations behind your artwork, creating artwork with a consistent feeling gets easier. And as those same motivations become clear, your attention to what inspires you will get hyper-focused. It’s like when you first buy a car–let’s say a Jeep. All of a sudden, you realize EVERYONE else who is driving a Jeep. As you start drawing more and more floral patterns, you’ll naturally find more and more inspiration in gardens. If you’re drawing/painting a lot of birds, you’ll find incredible inspiration in the details of a Aviary or Wildlife Sanctuary for birds.
Lisa Argyopoulos: “Inspiration is everywhere if you just look. It’s in nature–go outside, look at the sky, the trees, flowers. Look at the buildings, see shapes. Small objects, faces, toys, etc. Take a deep breath–put your favorite essential oil in your diffuser. Read a book, look at a magazine. Write words, ideas, doodle in your journal. Take a walk. There are a variety of things you can do to clear your head.”
5. Revisit old or unposted work
An idea that didn’t work in the past may be perfect for a current project. Recycling old, unpublished work is a quick way to hit your mark.
Marc Johns: “I get my ideas from everything and everywhere. I carry a small sketchbook and a pen with me at all times, so that whenever an idea comes to mind I can get it on paper. I might be in a lineup at a coffee shop, on the bus, watching TV, or putting the kids to sleep. I’ll overhear a conversation, see some quirky signage, spot an interesting pattern, or think of an odd combination of objects and I’ll pull out a sketchbook and get the idea down on paper. Sometimes an idea for a drawing shows up in my head all ready to go. Other times it’s just a single word, sometimes an object, a layout, which I come back to later to flesh out into something more complete.”
When I need to relax, like REALLY relax and not think too much, I love to put on Moonstruck, a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan rom com (yes you read that right), an episode of Northern Exposure, or one of the Jason Bourne movies. They’re comfortable like an old couch. . What movie or TV show have you seen a gajillion times that you find comforting? . #marcjohns #marcjohnsart #drawing #relax #movies #couch
6. Don’t give up at first mental block
Luke Gram: “Persistence leads to practice. Practice leads to success. Even when I was in places where I didn’t have a camera and couldn’t find inspiration for photos–such as when I worked in the oil refineries–I practiced my eye, using my fingers to frame little mini pictures of my day, snapping them as I worked.
Persistence makes the process become part of your day-to-day–part of your life, which is what I can say has brought me to where I am. I’m not the most amazing photographer. I’ve never had a breakthrough discovery, and my success has not been swift. But by continually practicing, uploading, and sharing for the sake of sharing, I’ve accumulated my following, fans and customers on Society6.”
Camille Chew: “Work towards being regularly productive, but also know when to give yourself a break. If I’ve been working so much that I start getting very easily distracted and no longer feel motivated or am enjoying myself at all, I will give myself a break; just a day to be lazy, relax, and recharge so I can get back to work refreshed.”
7. Get offline
Unplugging is as easy as logging out. Studies show taking a break from social media increases creativity and boosts your mood. That includes Facebook, Instagram and any other ties to the world on the other side of your phone. Even if you can’t do it for long, find moments to be present in the real world. You’ll find proximity to something real can enhance your connection to ideas more meaningfully than what you get from a computer screen.
Monika Strigel: “Mostly it helps to get outside, take a walk, watch a movie, read a book. Or it helps to get 100% offline for a few days (no, don’t check your Facebook) and do something with your hands. Like gardening, crafting, remodelling your home, decluttering, cleaning up your workspace.”
A day (or two) off never hurt anyone. I mean, people have been doing it for millennia before the internet. Relaxing is just as important as the grind.
Cat Coquillete: “When I need to get inspired, I close my laptop and go outside. Thanks to earning passive income through sites like Society6, I’m able to live wherever I choose. I’m currently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand and the city is loaded with creative inspiration: art galleries, markets, temples, and boutique shops. I can also hop on my bike and be in the mountains in a half hour. There, I find inspiration through nature. I take my camera and shoot things that I find interesting and paint them later.”
Talk about the perfect “office”. 💻🙌🏼 I love discovering new nook & cranny coffee shops in this gorgeous city. ☕️🌿 I see more leafy green watercolor paintings in my future. 🔮 Love ya, Thailand. #InspirationDaily — • • • @matadornetwork * @beautifuldestinations * @bbc_travel * @worldnomads * @cntraveler * @thewanderlusty * @worldplaces @theglobewanderer * @fodorstravel * @wearetravelladies * @darlingescapes * @visualsoflife * @worldplaces * @passionpassport * @coffeeshopsoftheworld — #travel #passionpassport #visualsoflife #dametraveler #digitalnomad #letsgosomewhere #nomad #exploretocreate #expatlife #lovetheworld #getaway #bonvoyage #wanderlust #travelphotography #lifeisajourney #darlingescapes #goodnight #visitseoul #travelstoke #beautifuldestinations #bbctravel #worldnomads #iamatraveler #thewanderlusty #tlpicks #worldplaces #theglobewanderer #fodorsonthego #wearetravelladies
Among the most important ways you can find inspiration, getting away from your computer to pay attention to details around us just might be the best. Everything we create in art is derivative of the real world–so go out and find excuses to excite your senses. And if you’re really committed to getting inspired from the indoors, make good use of the internet, tv, music and movies. Each one of those is a rabbit hole, even when you think you’ve tapped all the inspiration you can.
Featured Image by Cat Coquillette