Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
How to Overcome a Creative Block Reading Time: 6 min 33 seconds.
Do you have a creative block that you’re ready to overcome?
Have you ever felt creatively blocked, stuck or totally uninspired?
Maybe there are voices in your head telling you that you’re not good enough to take that next step. Or perhaps you don’t even know what the next step is.
As creatives, our process has peaks and valleys.
It’s not always a smooth and inspiration-filled ride. Sometimes your creative life might feel dry. You try to make something, come up with a good story idea, brainstorm….
And nothing. Your well is completely empty.
I’ve been there. Many times.
Just last year, my inner creative landscape felt as dry and barren as an abandoned baseball field in the middle of an August heatwave.
In this post, I’ll walk you through some of the things I did last year and other things I have done over my whole life to overcome creative blocks.
I’ve been obsessed with creativity since I was a kid. I asked my mum the other day what I did as a kid, and she said, “You were always drawing and cutting things out.” I don’t remember being that kid who was always carrying scissors, but I’ll take my mum’s word for it!
A Creative Block Often Hits Right After a Life or Career Roadblock
It wasn’t until I hit the age of 18 that I experienced my first creative drought. I’d dropped out of musical theatre school—disillusioned by what I felt was crappy training—and I had no freaking clue what to do with myself.
I was stuck, uninspired, lost, and filled with no small measure of bitterness.
It took me two years to get unstuck.
What did I do to go from feeling blocked to inspired? I forgot about acting for two years. Instead, I wrote shitty screenplays, went on long walks, and took up black and white photography.
Rather than force myself to fall in love with acting again, I just let it go and was creative in other areas. Eventually, the acting bug returned.
Since then, I’ve taken many paths to get myself unstuck or unblocked.
Now I see getting stuck and unstuck as part of a constant creative dance. Here are some of the things you can do if you’re feeling uninspired or stuck and you’re not sure how to get yourself back in the game:
How to Overcome Creative Block Simply and Easily!
These are just some of the things that have worked for me. I’ll share some examples of each of these 12 things has worked for me. Hopefully this inspires you to try something new to get unblocked!
1) Try Mindfulness Journeying / Chakra Cleansing.
Are you rolling your eyes back into your head? Don’t! I was a total skeptic before I tried working with Shai of Pome Mindfulness. If you feel stuck or stagnant, a few sessions with her can turn your mind back into a waterfall of creative energy and ideas. If you also happen to love storytelling, then you’ll delight in this method of getting unstuck.
Before I started doing Mindfulness Journeying with Shai, I was totally stuck on a big project that I’d been working on for two years. I was drained and exhausted. After going on an inner journey, I got re-inspired and found a clear path forward.
2) Go to a Sound Bath Regularly (with a Good Musician/Sound Bath Practitioner)
Sound baths have a multitude of benefits, including helping with anxiety and depression and boosting your creativity. But they also bring your mind into a state where you can unravel things that have been blocking you. They are a calming and transformational experience.
If you can’t access a sound bath, then listening to a recording can be helpful. If I’m starting to feel jammed up, I’ll listen to my friend Faye Mallett’s crystal bowl soundscapes on repeat while working.
I started attending sound baths a year ago and they have hugely benefited my sanity and creativity.
3) Try The Artist’s Way If You Want to Learn How to Overcome Creative Block.
If you haven’t tried this classic method of getting unstuck, now is the time! Every artist should give this 12-week method a go at least once in their lifetime. Just buy the book, The Artist’s Way, and follow along. Go all in! You will be surprised by what you discover about yourself. This is best if you have the time to dedicate to yourself.
4) Do off-axis projects.
Maybe your last project was a so-called failure. Or perhaps it was just incredibly trying, and now you’re feeling stuck or scared to take on something new.
Sometimes easing your way back in with small or off-axis projects helps. After I wrote and toured my first solo theatre show, I felt totally burned out.
It had been an insane ride with both uplifting and soul-crushing outcomes. (Newspaper reviews are the worst!) What got me back in the creative game was writing short stories. I didn’t try to write another show immediately. I just noodled about with short narratives until one day, the idea for a new solo show hit me.
5) Let yourself be a beginner again.
When I was feeling stuck last summer, I bought a gimbal and started teaching myself how to use it. This immediately got me feeling creative again. I didn’t make anything mind-blowing. That wasn’t the point. But I reignited my creativity by letting myself be a beginner again.
Knowing nothing about how to do something correctly and throwing yourself into the fire anyway can be invigorating.
6) Take yourself on a retreat.
When I was writing my second solo show, I became stuck again.
Nothing I did could release the words that were inside me. It was time to get away. I flew up to Northern BC and spent a week surrounded by 3-foot banks of snow. Still, the words wouldn’t come. But it didn’t seem to matter. I rehearsed in an old wooden theatre, watched VHS movies from the 80s, and took solo walks on a frozen lake.
On the flight back to Vancouver, the words started to pour out. I completed the draft that week. Sometimes you just need a change in scenery to unblock yourself. Often, that change in scenery needs to happen solo. I’ve taken many solo trips to get myself unstuck over the years.
7) Invest yourself into ONE thing rather than spreading yourself too thin.
In other words, quit everything and do ONE thing instead. Yes, this is tough advice. But sometimes you’re blocked and drained and feeling uncreative because you’re doing too many things! Sometimes you don’t know the next step because you have too many projects with too many next steps. Or sometimes you don’t feel motivated because you’re so crowded with ideas. This incredible video below has a great explanation of how FOCUS and ACTION will help you get unstuck in your creative life.
When I went all-in with online filmmaking, I got unstuck. I didn’t overthink it. I just committed like crazy to learning how to make films by myself. That’s it. All in. On one thing!
8) Do something WEIRD that you’ve secretly been wanting to do.
One of the best creative decisions of my life was going to clown camp. Yep, that’s a real thing. In the summer of 2007, I studied Pochenko Clowning at a place called The Clown Farm in the Ontario countryside.
I slept in a tent for 18 days and studied clowning. The classes were in a converted barn. By the end of the two and a half week program, I felt like I’d grown 2 inches and become a new person. Before the clown program, I’d been limited in my range as an actor. After that program, it was like I’d unleashed a dragon.
Nothing was holding me back from bringing it all on stage. I’m not saying you need to go study clown. But there’s probably something you’ve been longing to do that you just haven’t let yourself. Maybe it’s too weird or inconvenient.
9) Fall in LOVE with LIGHT.
This is an easy and cheap way for filmmakers (and EVERYONE ELSE) to get re-inspired.
I began the process of mindfully observing light about five years ago.
I wanted to improve my lighting abilities as filmmaker, but I was feeling intimidated by all the tech stuff. It occurred to me one day that there’s light everywhere. If I wanted to become better at lighting, I should observe light every day in the natural world.
I would take walks where the only purpose was to pay attention to how the light hit the buildings, people, streets, plants, and landscapes. Falling in love with light got me out of fear and into inspiration.
I did end up buying and renting lights and getting much better at lighting. But the simple act of engaging with the natural world is what changed everything. If you’re a creative of any kind, falling in love with light will help you get out of yourself and into presence.
10) Take the Next Step…Daily
Sometimes we get stuck because we don’t take the next step.
We know what the next step is, but we don’t do it. We put it off because it scares us. This will get us more and more jammed up and stuck over time. The longer you avoid the thing you know you’re supposed to be doing, the more stuck you feel. But it’s an illusion. You’re not MORE stuck. You’re just locked into a mental habit. It’s time to knock that habit to the curb. How? Take the next step.
One small tiny step.
No need to commit to every single step.
Just take one small action today.
If you’ve been putting off writing a short film, simply sit down and brainstorm 20 ideas for films.
If you’ve been avoiding starting a YouTube channel, write a list of all the things you’ll need to do to launch your channel.
11) Develop a Creative Habit that You Link to a Location or Cue
I don’t have writer’s block BECAUSE I write regularly.
I’ve created a habit. Two locations in my house stimulate my creative writing because I’ve cultivated that habit in those spaces. All I have to do is sit in those spaces, put on my writing music, grab my laptop, and open up either Scrivener or Om, and the juices start flowing.
You can develop a habit by simply doing the same thing at the same time in the same place with the same treat or reward.
I write as soon as I get up—sitting on the floor next to the patio. I’ve got my laptop, a coffee, and cinematic music in my ears. It took about 30 days to turn this into a habit. Now, even if I have to take a few days off, I can get back into it with ease because I’ve cultivated a habit cue that works every time.
12) Take a Course
Sometimes the thing you need to get unstuck is structured learning.
Sometimes you need a guide who will walk you from out of the darkness and into the light. If you’ve been longing to take a course, but you haven’t let yourself, go for it.
Sometimes we’re very cheap with our inner artist.
We won’t let ourselves spend the money on something that excites us. I’m not sure why that is, but I’ve observed it in myself. I’ve spent thousands on courses I didn’t even really care about while not permitting myself to study the one thing I really DID want to learn.
I’ve tricked myself out of this weird loop by gifting myself courses I wanted to take for my birthday. Whatever it takes for you to let yourself take the courses or programs that most excited you, do it! Good education in an area that you’re curious about is always worth it. —-> And if the thing you’re interested in is filmmaking, then make sure you check out this filmmaking course—->
13) Get out of your comfort zone!
Switch your life up. Listen to this advice from Rainn Wilson. He drops some beautiful nuggets.
So what have you tried to get unstuck or unblocked?
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About the Author
Hi! I’m Colette Nichol. I’m a solo filmmaker and story strategist based out of rainy Vancouver, Canada. I’ve been making videos and micro films for small businesses and global brands since 2014.
Plus, I LOVE to help aspiring filmmakers pursue their dreams and start making films. This blog is designed to help you gain the knowledge you need to become a filmmaker.
If you want more, get on the waitlist for the Story Envelope Academy Solo Filmmaking Mentorship Program. It opens up 1-2 times per year and is the best way to become a filmmaking or video pro fast!