How To Overcome Your Creative Block

One of the things every artist/creator faces is - Creative block or writer’s block.

There are various reasons for this to occur - fear, self doubt, sometimes there’s just no new idea you can think of. 

At this point you’d probably tell yourself you’re not feeling inspired or motivated and you’ll continue when either strikes again. It’s always good to take a break from your project to get a fresh perspective, but it can also get into a vicious cycle of "taking breaks" and you take longer than you should to come back to it or completely lose all motivation to finish. 

There are some of us who are lucky enough to easily be in the creative space at any given point, some may not have to do anything for a long period & get that stroke of genius every now and then, create something amazing and take a break till the next creative idea comes. The rest of us have to try a little harder than most to even get somewhere close.

If you’re a part of the last example, do not fear. There are some habits you can cultivate for yourself to overcome this and get much better at your craft.

The hardest thing to overcome is not the creative block or creating itself, it’s sitting down and doing your best work when you feel like you’re not in your creative zone.

Personally, I went through the same ordeal in the last year when I decided to pursue making music again. I kept going through cycles of not being inspired or motivated to sit down and start or finish a track. Most of this was triggered by self doubt and the fear of not being able to produce something good since I took a very long hiatus from making music. 
I tried many things to overcome this state. From the list of things I have tried, first is meditation (which I will speak about in a different article), and second is reading these 2 books by Steven Pressfield, which changed it all for me.

1. The War of Art

2. Turning Pro

Steven Pressfield is a well known fiction and non-fiction writer who has gone through the same blocks as any artist. While doing so he also figured out the causes and hacks to overcome these creative blocks. 

In his first book - The War of Art, he talks about ‘Resistance’ being the force that holds you back from creatively growing, why it happens and how to overcome it. The Resistance will give you many and all reasons to keep you from doing your work.
The Resistance is nothing but procrastination.

As an artist you have to be ruthless with yourself first, accept that the best thing you can do for yourself and others is to be an example and an inspiration. Wouldn’t you want others to look at you as you look at the artists you admire and be inspired? How would you go about doing that?

It’s quite simple. You get yourself to sit down and do the work. 

It all comes down to a little discipline and consistently putting yourself to sit and do the work regardless of what mind set you are in. You mustn’t let the resistance dictate your life as an artist. 

And once you learn to resist resistance, you will automatically start forming a habit. Once this habit is formed, you’ll gradually start seeing an incredible improvement in your work.

Of course, you won’t immediately fix your problem as soon as you finish reading this book. You need to put in the work everyday. But you will get a firm understanding of the many ways Resistance works against us and definitely be motivated to take the first step to overcome it. I did, I kept trying and I did some of my best work since I started. I do have certain days where I feel zero motivation to do anything creative but as soon as I sit back down to work, I’m back to the flow instantly.

You don’t have to take my word on it, check out the book. It’s a really fun and very quick read. You can finish the book in under 2 hours. He’s narrated the entire thing like a story. I still read it from time to time to get that little extra motivation to have my creative juices flowing.

His second book, Turning pro dives deeper and helps you get your mindset in to thinking like a pro. I recommend giving this a read after book 1. This one’s also a quick and fun like the first.

Both these books have changed the way I approach my creative work. It took me sometime to follow the discipline, but now I don’t look back. Making music is a part of my daily routine, even with a day job and other priorities. In just a few months, I saw a huge improvement in the music I was making, the speed at which I was producing, and general productivity. I don’t even have to have a new idea everyday. All I have to do is sit to work and the creativity just flows.

If I have to simply put it, its just this - Show up and do the work. Everyday. 

That’s all it is. No matter what else you’re doing daily or what you’re feeling, fix a dedicated amount of time for your craft and just show up. Everything changes from there, everything becomes a lot more easier.

If you’ve already read the books or if you do end up reading them, do let me know in the comments below what your thoughts and experiences are after reading these. If there's something else that's helped you overcome your block, please feel free to share it also.

Sachin Menon 1 week ago
Really well written man :) I'll be checking these books out for sure. I definitely need to implement a fair bit of what you've said in my own workflow for sure. Just a couple of things I'd like to share from my experience as well to overcome creative blocks. 1. Listen to and start seriously enjoying all sorts of music. The less limited to genre you are, the better. The more you listen, the more you'll start noticing little productions tricks, or songwriting choices, or interesting approaches to sound design which you can then take forward into your own work. The more you know, the less the chances of you experiencing creative blocks regularly become. So many more ways to get inspired you know. Hope this makes sense :P 2. For me, creative blocks used to come about as a result of trying to "make it" in the deep melodic house & techno scene. I was too focused on the genre, and that resulted in my music sounding like everything generic out there (boring). Then I changed my mindset. Started focusing on making music I considered good without worrying about the genre or what label it was going to. Near instant, extremely positive results. As an added bonus, whatever I picked up making different music helped with my target genres as well. The more I continue to practise this mindset of making "good music", the easier I find it to be in a creative space at any given point. Hope this helps :)
Sooraj 1 week ago
Thanks my man! :) And yes, I completely agree on what you've also said. I have recently been trying to "not make" a specific genre based on its trends but just let thinks flow and its' starting to make a huge difference in what my sound is. Being exposed to all kinds of music expands the creative possibilities.
Nikhil 2 weeks ago
Makes so much sense. Thanks for this write-up, and it's great to see that you're putting this to practice. This feels like such an easy fix, but when I think about it, setting aside time to show up consistently is a major major challenge! Will check these titles out. Look forward to your write-up on meditation.
Sooraj 2 weeks ago
Thanks Nikhil! :) Yes, setting aside time is always challenging. I did read somewhere though for creative work you should spend a minimum of 2 hours at least everyday, especially for beginners, if you want to practice and get better at your craft. In this time and age 2 hours seems like a stretch for most, but I think even the 1 hour every day can make a huge difference.
Dwayne Xavier 2 weeks ago
Such a good article. Everyone should be aware of the reasons for their creative block and how to tackle it. I can relate as I face such creative blocks or overthinking while I'm working on a project. Going to give these books a read. Thanks for sharing this :)
Sooraj 2 weeks ago
Thank you! And you're most welcome buddy. :) You're going to enjoy reading these books.
Dawn John Philip 2 weeks ago
Great read! The idea of "just sit down and do the work" is so simple yet something we all overlook constantly. I think treating our creativity with the same importance or more than we would for any profession is extremely important. We get better with practice and experience. Going to check out these books for sure!
Sooraj 2 weeks ago
Thanks Dawn! Yes, the moment we start treating it like professional work, everything around it simplifies. I'm still surprised every timeI sit to make something how fast the ideas pour out than it used to before. Definitely a game changer for me.