What Your Creative Block Is Trying To Tell You

If the ancient Greeks believed the Nine Muses inspired artists, I would like to imagine Creative Block is a difficult roommate who makes it impossible to get anything done. Not as an excuse, but as a way to make something frustrating somehow manageable.

My Creative Block and I have been constant companions for years now, and like a difficult roommate, I’ve started to learn how to work around the “lack of inspiration.” In fact, my Creative Block has taught me a lot—about perseverance, discipline, grace, and the value of showing up. It’s that friend who treats you with tough love. You struggle, you manage, and you come out better for it.

At first, I was afraid this meant I was losing something I could never recover. I had this romantic image of an artist who is suddenly possessed by genius and a divine drive to create their masterpieces. In reality, most artists don’t create like that and not everything we will create will be masterpieces.

But we should still make things anyway—for the joy of it, for the process, for the sake of creation.

A watercolor set, paintbrushes, paper, painter's tape, and cups of water in a flatlay of Nikki's set up

There is nothing I find more satisfying than creating with my hands or writing heartfelt pieces—but these rarely come easy. This can be perceived as a problem because both my job and my hobbies involve being creative; I’m a writer and content creator on the clock, and an artist off the clock.

Creative block is something all creative people have to manage. Whether you’re an artist as a job or a hobby, it’s an occupational hazard.

So what is your Creative Block trying to tell you? As with every relationship, roommate or otherwise, the key is communication. This is what I’ve learned about where I am in my creative journey and how to deal with its struggles.

You need to remember the good times.

Life has a way of distracting us from the things that matter most to us.

Remember why you started drawing, painting, sewing, writing, singing, dancing, playing an instrument… you get the idea. You need to tap into that and try to channel it again.

While looking through artworks from my childhood and teen years, I remembered what I enjoyed the most about making things. I realized how being creative related to core parts of my identity. I made things because I love it. So, my goal moving forward became to “just make again” in the hopes of rediscovering the joy of it.

It might be different for you, but don’t be afraid to dig deep and ask the big questions: why do I create? What do I enjoy about the process? When was the last time I had fun with it?

You’re not paying enough attention to me.

Of all the artists I look up to, they made creativity a part of their everyday life.

Inspiration and motivation are fickle resources. Pablo Picasso said it well, “Inspiration exists, but it must find you working.” What you can rely on is a habit. Some do 5-minute doodles, found poetry, or daily journaling—just to name a few.

I still can’t commit to a daily drawing habit, but I do dedicate my weekends to painting now. I have this passion project where I’ve painted two postcards every month since 2018. It’s pushed me to document my life and make an appointment in my calendar to practice.

A flatlay of Nikki's Postcards Project, from 2018 to 2020

You need to focus on something else.

Sometimes your Creative Block is trying to pull your attention toward the other things going on in your life. If you do the math, two postcards per month since 2018 means I should have over fifty postcards by now. I haven’t counted, but I probably have much less. Last year… was intense.

On the outside, it seemed very productive. I sold at my first artist’s fair, I joined Inktober for the first time, and I had my postcards project. The truth is there were about six months when I did not make a single thing just for me. The doodles—the warm-ups, the attempts—I did manage to make, I did not like.

There were things happening in my personal life that needed my full attention: a career change, family health emergency, and the emotional weight of it all. I don’t regret or resent any of these things for taking time and energy away. I didn’t even notice in the moment.

Let go of the guilt that you should be doing something. You should be profiting from your skills. You should be so much better by now. We all go at our different pace and deal with life’s demands. Honor your season. It will pass, and you will be in a better place again, creatively.

Flatlay of postcardsFocusing on mark-making and practicing my brush strokes became a meditative practice. It helped during an overwhelming time in my personal life, especially since I had a hard time conceptualizing anything.

You just need to ignore me (your Creative Block) and keep "showing up."

It’s hard, but to get stuff done, you might just need to grit your teeth, show up, and do it. Even when you don’t feel like it sometimes, it pays off in the long run to just keep on keepin’ on (as they say). Even if you're not 100% satisfied with the result.

Create passion projects with deadlines for yourself. You could also switch things up by trying something new. (It may also help to follow a prompt list or ideas notebook to refer to.) I did Inktober, a Draw This In Your Style, and my postcards while I wasn’t feeling my best creatively.

I do a bit of creative journaling now, too, to further push myself to just get something down on paper. It’s a safe space where I can express myself freeform.

Inktober 2019

Creative Block can be a pain in the @ss, but by understanding what it’s trying to tell you, you can hopefully deal with it better. With some perspective and a gameplan, it could even leave you better than when you started.


Written by Nicolette "Nikki" Bautista
Nicolette is a Manila-based creative freelancer and Cambio & Co's Community Storyteller. She's written on the digital space about mom-and-pop's, small businesses, and social enterprises. In the pursuit of her eclectic interests, Nicolette has a broad portfolio including short videos, album art, and storybook illustrations! Find her on Instagram @of_nicolette and ofnicolette.wordpress.com

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