This is a repost of my reply to a message by one of our members at Drawing Ideas Community on creativity and artist blocks and when you don’t feel like starting.
I expand on it a bit more for some context and offer some tips that I have found to be helpful to me.
I’m more inclined to think that what feels like a creative block is often nothing more than just resistance (as has been well articulated by Steven Pressfield in his classic book The War of Art)
I always had difficulties concentrating and was diagnosed with ADHD in my childhood. This explains why so often during class I would just doodle on paper, which seemed to be a great escape at the time. This mind-wandering activity has resulted in thousands of drawings, sketches, and doodles over the years…
Fast forward to this day. Whether I’m on the phone, waiting for something, or doing anything that requires concentration, drawing is the most effortless, entertaining escape.
Yet, when concentration is needed most, like when I have to sit down to work on an actual commission or a personal project, I end up experiencing the same restlessness that would normally urge me to draw something. So, what’s going on here?
My theory is that the resistance I experience comes not from the act of producing art itself, but from the conditions and setting. In any other scenario, I escape from that effort and concentration by drawing, however I have to force myself into those states if I want to draw to complete my work…
So, how to overcome creative blocks and find the motivation to draw?
This is what I have found that works for me, and I hope you find it helpful.
1 – Learn to be OK with unfinished sketches -Start and quit intentionally
This is often an overlooked, simple hack. Learn to be OK with quitting. It’s ok to just move on to something else, even if you start sketching daily and quit after a few minutes.
A month later you have 20 rough sketches, and probably some decent ones. Even 30 unfinished, rough sketches are better than zero and you get to improve your skill further.
I find that one of the reasons I would get creative blocks and struggle to start on a new project is because I get carried away thinking it all the way through to the finish. I have an obsession with the end in mind. So, to get over this, I have trained myself to quit intentionally before I even start.
Art is never finished, only abandoned.Leonardo da Vinci
If you are into writing, you’ve probably come across this Ernest Hemmingway quote, where he says:
“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it. I always worked until I had something done, and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.”— Ernest Hemmingway
So try it. Start a sketch and intend not to finish it (doing this makes me more comfortable with unfinished art, which is still art) and prevents the blocks because one can’t imagine its conclusion.
2 – Draw anything, do it everyday to make it a habit
Draw anything but do it every day. Sketch a flower, leaves, abstract lines, doodles… Do anything that engages your imagination. The aim here is to build a habit.
Habits then stick with you and give you the momentum to keep going, to deliver your art when you lack motivation. For example, I have a habit of drawing when I’m on any sort of phone call.
“Habits stay with you even when you don’t have the motivation.”Neeraj Agnihotri, Procrasdemon – The Artist’s Guide to Liberation From Procrastination
3 – Join a like minded community or Art Club
Drawing Art Club & Learning Community of DrawingIdeas.ART
Join a local or online Art community or Art Club, be active and interact with the community. This is a great way to get inspired, meet new people, collaborate, and get influenced and motivated by the power of the group.
Better yet, join us at Drawing Ideas Art Club. I’m very active in this community, and we have thousands of like-minded artists from all over the world who come together to discuss many subjects, ideas, and opportunities. This very post was actually inspired by a discussion held on our Facebook group.
4 – Read books on resistance – or a chapter of the WAR OF ART book
You cannot defeat your enemy unless you understand your enemy. One of the best books on the topic of resistance, aka, creative block, is Pressfield’s book War of Art. I highly recommend reading from this book on a regular basis to remind yourself that what you are dealing with is not insurmountable, and is nothing more than resistance.
“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
5 – Get comfortable with sharing your art more
Share your sketches and rough drawings, abstract creations, and paintings here on our page.
Join the Drawing Ideas Art group and interact with other artists on their work.
In short, what helps is interaction with other creatives, a push for momentum, and a bit of reading on creativity.
….Under the recent circumstances of being at home …. ALOT I have been consumed by my frustration that my actions do not reflect my wants and desires of getting creative. I asked myself today what do I want to be? and I said an artist, I then asked myself and how can I do that? and the answer is clearly, make art.
Now I know this sounds easy but I keep seeming to bang into a wall time and again. I spiral by thinking what then shall I create? I come up with project plans and study ideas, themes and mediums I want to use but it gets out of control I want to do them all, I’m still trying to find my style and a style of working that keeps my momentum moving but sometimes for weeks I don’t create anything and it upsets me as art brings me unexplainable joy….Original post by Danie on Drawing Art Club & Learning Group
Various unfinished sketches slideshow – by Nab Zamali
Resistance is just something I had to learn to live with and not overthink or dwell on too much.
Some days, it’s just not happening. I just can’t even start or touch any medium. Not starting, quitting, leaving things unfinished, changing plans…
How do you deal with Art Blocks? Join the discussion at the group.