You can also find this post on Tumblr.
art block, writer’s block, “art funk”, “burnout”, yada yada… it’s all the same thing, being a creator and wanting to create but having some kind of a wall preventing you from doing this.
this wall can take a lot of different forms, and i’m going to approach this post from the perspective of a visual artist, but no matter the medium, we all have a skill we’ve trained ourselves in and what I’m talking about will apply regardless.
Anyway as I said there’s a few different forms this wall can take. Here’s a few of them that I can think of:
- Disillusionment with your current skill level
- A loss of direction
- Lack of drive
It’s really important to identify exactly what your wall is if you want to be able to dismantle it. This isn’t every way it can manifest either, just the most common ways that I see it manifesting, and you might have multiple at once!
Take some time to really self reflect on what the problem is if none of these are resonating after you’ve read the post, whatever it is you can find a way to manage it.
The most common advice I see for “defeating [creator’s] block” is committing to spending like five minutes a day working on something, anything at all. And that’s good advice! but not really for creator’s block, I think.
It’s GREAT advice if you’re lacking in discipline though, like I can easily get distracted and not work on things for months. So committing to work on comic related things for at least 30 minutes a day (and having this commitment be to other people that I’m checking in with each day, i think thats an important part) has worked really well for me, personally.
But I wasn’t dealing with any kind of a block, I just lacked discipline. I don’t think it’s very useful if for example, you hate how your art looks so you don’t want to draw anything anymore lmao
With that in mind, lets go through that list and I’ll try give you some advice from my experiences, and hopefully it’ll help give you the means to identify the problems you’re struggling with and find solutions to them if my advice isn’t quite what you need.
1. Disillusionment with your current skill level
So! it’s time to pull out everyone’s favourite graphic! this version was created by shattered-earth on deviantart, though the original is by Marc Dalessio
obviously this says art, but again this is applicable to all mediums. It’s an important concept to understand, the idea of a creator’s high vs a creator’s low depending on how developed your critical eye has become compared to your skill level.
If you’re not aware of it and don’t understand what’s happening, it’s REALLY easy to lose all motivation to create anything. Because why bother, if everything sucks? Definitely one of the most dangerous blocks you can run into, I think.
The solution, as with all of these walls, is to be kind to yourself.
Your critical eye improving is emotionally taxing, but it’s also an opportunity for great growth! It’s not easy, though. To get through it, you have to really confront what you don’t like about your work and target your weaknesses, and then you have to put in the time to try and improve them. That’s tough.
But self study doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Talk with your friends, seek out communities of creators, and follow resource blogs, channels, etc. I really think the best thing you can do is surround yourself with other creators, I’m in a few discords and hang out in the creative section of various forums etc
But this is really important: The act of targetting your weaknesses in order to improve them is going to make it REALLY easy for you to lose track of what you like about your work, and can in fact compound the issue and make you only focus on your flaws.
So, be kind to yourself. If you’re not happy with what you create, take the time to critically analyse your work. What don’t you like? What do you like? Don’t lose track of what you like while you study the things you’re less confident about, and with some patience and work your skill will catch up with your eye again.
I really can’t emphasise enough how important it is to not lose track of what it is you like about your work. The biggest motivation killer is always going to be falling out of love with your work, so do everything you can to prevent yourself losing the joy of creating.
Like, sure, a work might be technically perfect, but did you enjoy yourself while creating it? If you always ensure the answer to that is yes, the mismatch between your critical eye and your skills will be easier to handle because at least you’re still enjoying yourself, you know?
2. Loss of direction
An issue you might run into while spending all this time studying your weaknesses and improving your skills, is a lack of direction with your work.
Your technical skills are improving, but you’re just not happy about where your art is going and you’re left with this generally disatisfied feeling despite not seeing anything technically wrong with what you’re doing.
Thankfully this isn’t too difficult to solve once you’ve identified it! Take some time to gather up works by others that really resonates with you, and look back at your own work and pick out the things you like. Then spend some time contemplating, something about it all really hits. What is it? If you can find it, if you spend time trying to really capture it, you’ve found a direction again. Hold onto that, and if you ever find yourself losing your way, go through the process all over again!
A hurdle you might run into with this is, like, if you’ve focused on developing a particular style for your work. Don’t be afraid to try something new while you try capture what resonates with you, you don’t have to pigeonhole yourself into one way of working if it isn’t bringing you joy any more!
And also, don’t be afraid to try something COMPLETELY new. I’m by and large a 2d visual artist, but sometimes I just need to do something different. So i explore things like 3d modelling, I don’t really post my writing but I do do a lot of it for comics work, and i’d like to dabble a little more in music………… anyway point is, try something new if you’re bored LOL
i think there’s a lot of value to be had in trying out something you have no/less experience in. Like, when your focus on one particular skill that you’re really good at, you set your standards higher and higher and its exhausting reaching them all the time.
Picking up a new skill you have no experience in whatsoever, it gives you opportunity to just be really bad at something and have fun with it, and also, you get to have the joy of improving again because it’s so much easier to improve at something you don’t have a lot of experience with!
It doesn’t even need to be a creative skill, I just think it’s nice to step away and do something different for a while. You might find your new direction doing this, or in stepping away from things for a while you might remember what drew you to your original medium in the first place, and you’ve regained your direction.
Fatigue is a rough one. As I said before the solution to all of these is to be kind to yourself, and that very much applies here.
Personally speaking, my unmedicated adhd is at constant war with my chronic fatigue and general health so I have this tendency to work in really intense bursts and be left with long periods of exhaustion after the fact. Not ideal!
My personal solution for balancing out my intense drive to create things and my very limited amount of energy was to heavily strip back my process. The best way for me to explain this is probably like… i took the standard art process:
rough sketch > cleaned sketch > lineart > colours > shading
and I went
rough sketch > clean ed sketch > lineart > colours > shading
in other words, I stopped doing anything beyond a sketch and just spent time trying to improve my line quality so that my rough sketches would be clean sketches, thereby turning 5 steps into one single step. Which meant i could get ideas out with the energy level i had!
and then a couple years ago, missing working in colour but rarely ever having enough energy to colour my sketches, I went
rough sketch > cleaned sketch > lineart > colours > shading
which is to say, i just stopped drawing lines entirely which let me work in colour again.
Now, like, this is a very personal solution to dealing with my fatigue. I can’t really tell you how to manage your own, because I think it requires identifying
- what about your work it is that you need to convey what it is you’re trying to capture.
- what about your work is especially taxing and exasperates your fatigue.
And what this means is going to be very different depending on you, and also your particular medium of choice.
But once you figure out what it is that you need and what it is that is taxing you, you can strip everything back so that you only have what you need and the amount of taxing work you’re doing is as minimal as you can make it.
Remember, if your work conveys what you want it to convey, it’s a successful piece regardless as to how polished it is.
So really identify how much you need to do to create a successful piece, and remind yourself that finished is better than perfect.
4. Lack of drive
For me, the reason I have such an intense drive is, like…. if I don’t create what I want to be created, who will? I’ve gotta take matters into my hands if I want to get what I want, you know? Nobody else is gonna cater to me.
So I think, if you’re struggling with finding the drive to create anything, I’d write down the stuff you want to exist.
What is it that you find lacking? What isn’t being created that you want to see? How can you be the one to fill that void? Constantly trying to fill this void is why I never run out of ideas for things to create.
I’m being vague here because it could be literally anything. if you asked 12 year old me id have given you a list of cool dragons i think should exist, and thatd be a great list! because then id have a list of cool dragons to draw (which is what i did most of the time actually)
if you asked me now, id give you a list of character and story concepts, and boy you’ll never guess for what reason i spend all my time writing and making comics LMAO this bitch is GAY and will make GAY BITCHES
So yeah. If you’re struggling to find the drive to create, lacking in ideas and inspiration, sit down and think about what you want to exist that doesn’t exist. you have the power to make that real!! how can you fill that void?? literally any answers you come up for that are ideas you can work with. and the more you tackle it the easier itll get to make ideas.
thats my advice on how to get through blocks. i hope it was helpful, and if nothing else helps you realise that creator’s block is not just some nebulous force that you have to wait to go away, but something with a root you can identify and smash to pieces with enough stubbornness and a sledgehammer