008 : Dealing with Artist's Block

     I have been creating for as long as I can remember. It started off when I was very young, probably nine or ten when I distinctly remember getting into drawing. Sitting down at the old family computer, searching Google for images of old cartoon or video game characters, and just drawing them in a notebook with the standard yellow pencil. Slowly amassing knowledge about art over the next nearly two decades, I have become the creative you see today. One of the most vital things that I have learned is that there is only one way to stay relevant in this oversaturated environment, and that is to produce work as often as humanly possible. This tech-driven world has drastically decreased the attention span of the general population, which means your window of relevancy can be incredibly small. Drop off for a week or so, some people will lose interest. Disappear for a month, say goodbye to most of your following. Take a year off, you might as well hang it up. Sometimes, however, that down time is unavoidable, even worse when it is entirely undesired. Artist’s block, similar to writer’s block, is one of the worst plagues any creative type has to deal with, and it is incredibly difficult to shake off. Although frustrating and defeating, you can push through the void of inspiration or motivation and still pump out content that will keep your name in people’s mouths, or their fingers.

     I am no stranger to artist’s block, I find myself hitting a wall roughly every three months or so. I will spend months releasing new content every single day, only to wake up one day with literally no inspiration or ideas in my head. I spent years just letting the lack of inspiration to be an excuse. “I just don’t have any good ideas right now, but it will come back eventually” was my go-to expression to justify my time wasted while being unproductive. Instead of finding remedies to the problem, I would sit around playing video games or trolling reddit for hours on end, accomplishing nothing. By the end of each night, it would be three or four in the morning, and I would just feel shitty about myself for wasting yet another day away. Over the last two years, I have found ways to push through these lulls in creative energy, and I hope they can help you as well.

     First and foremost, remove the desire to create excuses for your lack of inspiration. Do not allow yourself to not create something simply because you have no ideas. Do not justify laziness. This is difficult to do, especially if you attempt to work through it and nothing comes together well. You will always be your own worst critic, even when you are creating content that is successful. One thing I have been doing lately to combat the artist block is to simply draw things that I see in the space around me. Plants, furniture, hands, anything. Grab something from your kitchen and draw that. It does not matter what the content is, just draw something from life and use that as practice to further develop your personal style of drawing. Even if you already have a style, use this time to find a different aspect of that, push some part of your artistic voice to a new level. Maybe you are not a traditional artist, perhaps you are a writer experience writer’s block. Does not matter, same thing applies. Have a friend tell you something to write about, and just write about it. It does not have to be good or bad, just keep the routine of creating moving forward. That progression will help speed things up to get you back to a good spot.

     The most important thing to remember while utilizing this method is to still keep posting all of your work. Unfinished work, unsuccessful work, maybe even inherently bad work, still post it for your audience to see. This will allow them a more intimate look into your process. Allow them to see you as a human creature that struggles and has to work for their craft, as opposed to just a brand or a company. I have spent so much time being worried to post unfinished pieces, or process photos, or bad sketches because I assumed that would detract from my overall success as an artist. However, once I started posting more intimate looks at the work I was creating, I reached a wider spectrum and began accumulating more attention. One statement I will always live by is that all publicity is good publicity. If people are seeing that you are active, even if they think it is trash, they are still looking at it, still talking about it, still remembering your name. That’s the most important thing.

     Another practice I have found to be successful is to collaborate with other artists. Sometimes, all you need is someone else to provide the idea and the framework, and suddenly you start getting all sorts of inspiration and ideas to make it work. Have some friends just throw ideas at you for things that they want to see you create, and get to work on those. You may hate some of the ideas, but even that is helpful. Being pushed out of your comfort zone makes you a better content creator. Make a game out of it, tell your friends to give you ideas, and use those ideas to make really quick five to ten minute sketches. Same goes as a writer. Get a prompt from a friend or even the Internet (trust me, reddit is an unending wealth of ideas and inspiration), and just get to writing. Give yourself a goal of how many words to write, and then write more than that. Like I said, sometimes you just need someone to push you a little bit in order to get out of a creative slump.

     Finally, and this does really only apply to traditional artists and painters, but go abstract. Just get weird. Pull a Jackson Pollock and throw paint on a canvas. Do some weird charcoal drawing just creating layers of atmosphere. Maybe just doodle for a few hours, with no real direction in mind, and see what happens. After it’s said and done, step back and look at the abstraction as a whole, and see what you find inside of it. Often, I have just painted off of impulse, dropping colour and water all over the place and just letting gravity do it’s thing, and ended up finding something great in the end result. Get weird with it, loosen up, you might just find your inspiration again.

     What all of this boils down to is that the best way to battle artist’s block is to simply defeat it by not stopping the creative process. You may not have any tangible ideas in your conscious mind, but the talent and inspiration and creative drive still exists. Allow yourself to get frustrated with the work you may put out during this time, but never stop releasing it. Let your audience see you while you struggle. Let them observe your process out of the inspirational void. They will appreciate the insight, and you will continue to keep their attention. And at the end of the day, their attention is what will keep you alive in this field. Keep creating, keep fucking up, and stay evil, my friend.