Pushing (past a block)

When I was younger, there was only one way of dealing with creative blocks- rage, tear up the page, cry a bit, and then stop trying altogether for days, weeks, sometimes months at a stretch until I fell into flow and picked back up. But one of the better things about growing up and growing older is that you learn to accept that there will sometimes be ruts along the way, but they aren’t dead ends. At the end of the day, if you love something, you will keep returning to it- and at some point it will open itself to you again. I’m wary of using the word ‘faith’ here but it’s the closest thing I have to describe what this working relationship is like.

A lot of the practical workarounds to a creative block involve setting aside pride, shame, and the high expectations that those feelings come with. You pare back down to the basics- the stuff you’ve told yourself is easy. But sometimes tracing your progress back to the starting point is the only way of orienting yourself again, of finding an anchor and getting ready to set out again. There’s nothing wrong with that- with pausing to take stock of where you stand, what you want to learn next, how to gently ease yourself into practice and flow once again.

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Another thing that helps is to keep switching up materials, tools and references, keep varying your cultural intake until the spark is ignited again. If portraits aren’t working out, stick to thumbnails. If ink is scaring you too much, go digital. If the human form is too boring, try animals, or architecture. And so on. With so much in the world to choose from and focus on, it’s hard not to find something that fascinates you enough to help you break free of a block.

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