6 Tips for Creative Roadblocks

Creative roadblocks are awful. They leave you feeling like you might not ever create anything that you love ever again. Dramatic, but absolutely true. Honestly, one of my biggest fears as a full-time artist is the ever-looming possibility that I will run out of ideas. Overly dramatic, but true. 

The past couple of months, I was not just creatively blocked, I was ill too. Rather than wallowing (or, you know, taking care of myself with rest), I usually try something new first. I bought giant canvases and a plethora acrylic paint and decided what I really needed was a change of pace. Um, nope. Epic fail. And now I have a giant canvas filled with a bazillion layers of fever-induced frustration. A giant result of not taking care of myself, mentally or physically.

  • Roadblock Tip No. 1: Check in with how you feel physically. Don’t try new (hard) things when you are ill. Rest. Drink fluids. Take naps. Read books. Listen to podcasts. Walk in the opposite direction of your studio.
  • Roadblock Tip No. 2: Don’t try new things. Stick with what you know. Great at knitting? Make another scarf. Love coloring? Pull out that adult coloring book you bought in 2019. Bringing fear, negativity and doubt are not the emotions that contribute to creative success. 
  • Roadblock Tip No. 3: Take a break from social media. Scrolling through Instagram and looking at all the beautiful work other folks are creating feeds the roadblock monster. You’ll end up with adding jealousy and “imposter syndrome” to the list of negative stuff you already have swirling in your noggin.

Once I admitted creative defeat, I gave myself a silent pep talk and patted myself on the shoulder. And then I walked away from the easel and started organizing my studio instead. My bookcase was reorganized in rainbow order again. I finally set up a functional shipping station. My filming equipment came down and reassembled to create better videos. I created a new inspiration board. I packaged up old art and sent it with a love note to my far away friends. You get the idea, right? It’s important and highly satisfying work that has the added bonus of distracting me from all my creative woes. 

  • Roadblock Tip No. 5: Distract yourself with simple, satisfying work. Easy, mindless tasks are your creative BFF. By organizing your supplies, cleaning up your space, or just potting new plants to add to your creative space, you’ve cleared your mind and your table. The distraction of organizing is a powerful tool to moving past a creative roadblock.

Amid all the reorganization, I decided it was finally time to purge colors from my Daniel Smith watercolor palette. I love Daniel Smith paints but have noticed over the course of the last couple of years that it held a substantial number of paints that I added to my palette just because I had an open space to fill. (I am quite sure I am not the only one, right?) I made the decision to shift from my 126-well palette to the 77-well palette. (Both PL126 and PL77 can be found at robax.com) It was easy to see which pans I used all the time compared to the colors that were collecting dust. 

  • Roadblock Tip No. 5: Purging unused supplies reduces creative overwhelm. Overwhelm is a sneaky part of creative roadblocks. How could surrounding yourself with all the creative goodness bring you anything but joy, right? Rather than inspiring you to play, they often sit in their original packaging collecting dust. Gift them to someone who might use them, and you’ll end up with a space that holds the stuff that you really love. Creative clarity for the win!

In the end, I spent about a month organizing, modifying, and purging in my studio. I didn’t sketch, illustrate, or paint the entire time. And I feel great! My mind is focused, my desk is clean, and I am ready to imagine up all sorts of goodness. Oh, and I might have rewarded my arduous work with something new. Not something that will collect dust, something that will really use and have fun with. While purging my palette, I realized I haven’t played with new brands and colors in years. My reward is a new experimental palette! I’ll be infusing it into my work, and e-courses throughout 2022. 

  • Roadblock Tip No. 6: Reward your hard work with a creative supply works with what you love. Set an organizational goal and reward yourself for a job well done. Make sure it’s something that compliments the supplies you already have and use on a regular basis. It could be a set of round canvases rather than traditional shapes or a new brand of watercolor paint in a few fun colors that compliment your current palette. You get the idea!

Want to see my 2022 palettes? Just click on the button below!

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Responses

  1. Thank you so much for the roadblock tips. I asked this in a ZOOM question. I too was trying something new but it frustrated more so I took your advice and practiced drawing and that got my noggin imagining all kinds of ideas. Thank you for being such a wonderful teacher and mentor.

  2. Purging Unused Supplies is like giving yourself a holiday. For me it was like cleaning out my closet or my file cabinet.. only better. . Once I saw my physical space open up where before it was crammed with untouched supplies, I immediately felt gratified and more motivated to make art. So yes…all those rubber stamps, boxes of pastels, ephemera and scrapbook papers found a new life in the neighborhood recreation center, and I am looking forward to relaunching my creative self in 2022.. Thanks, Danielle!