“Hitting the wall” in your creativity
It can be frustrating to “hit the wall” in your creative output, but — speaking from experience — that wall isn’t a wall. And once you realize what’s actually happening, you’ll feel a lot better about your journey as an artist.
We often feel exhilaration as creative people. When our brains are storming, when our synapses are firing, and when our output is exciting… these are the moments we live for!
But it’s not a constant. Sometimes, the creativity comes much slower. During those times, it feels as if we’re not progressing. And the excitement that comes from finding something new is a long-distant memory.
If you talk to many artists during those times, they’ll tell you that their creativity has “hit the wall.”
But, speaking from a position of experience and perspective, I can assure you that this is not the case. In fact, what you’re experiencing is not a wall, but rather, it’s a plateau. It feels as if you’ve come to a full stop because you’ve stopped experiencing that exhilarating upwards “whoosh” of creativity. But, in fact, you are now on a horizontal plane.
That’s an important distinction. You can move forward on a horizontal plane. It may not be as thrilling as a vertical “whoosh,” but it’s important that you move forward nonetheless.
After all, this is where you’re learning about yourself as an artist. This is where you build speed. And muscle memory. This is where you master all of those things that became apparent during your last explosion of creative energy.
Besides, moving forward is the only way to get to the next “whoosh” of creativity. And trust me, the burst of artistic energy that occurs after a long plateau is a satisfying experience indeed.
Don’t get frustrated about “hitting the wall.” See it for what it is — a preparation for the next big explosion of creativity.
Here are some excellent strategies for getting your brain working again after you feel as if you’ve hit a wall:
PUT PENCIL TO PAPER
For many of us, creativity is intrinsically linked to the act of making marks — writing and/or drawing. When I look back on the times when I felt my creativity had stalled, there’s a common thread — I was unable (or unwilling) to start the physical process.
So snap out of it. If you’re trying to write, start a sentence. Or re-start the sentence that you’re working on a difference way. Use different words or put them in another character’s mouth.
If you haven’t even gotten that far, don’t underestimate the power of idle doodling. Start a sketch and follow it where it goes. Fill your page (or several pages) with nonsense, free-associative sketches. It’s amazing how much inspiration comes springing out of this process.
CHANGE YOUR PROCESS
If you write in one particular setting, find a new place. For example, if you write at home, go to the park — or a coffeeshop. If you write during the day, switch it up and write at night. But be careful: Make sure you’re still actively pursuing the writing process and not simply avoiding it. In other words, a trip to Starbucks can inspire your writing — but only if you actively try to write while you’re there. If you spend the entire time chatting up the barista or simply staring out the window, you’re doing more avoidance than actual writing.
DO SOMETHING MINDLESS
Clean your room. Fold the laundry. Rake the leaves.
But do these things without the usual headphones or background noise.
Allow yourself to do these things in total quiet. Once your hands are busy, your mind will wander.
I love it when my kids tell me that they’re bored. Because necessity may be the mother of invention, but boredom is the father of creativity.
So let yourself get good and bored. Turn off the music. Unplug the TV.
Oh, and get far, far away from anything that will deliver you the Internet.
Remove all the distractions and then get beautifully bored.
Your mind will find something to do. All you have to do is direct it.
If you’ve spun your wheels for an hour or so — and I mean really, really tried to get some creativity happening — give up. For now. Do something else that makes productive use of your time. For me, that often means pencilling some of the strips I’ve already written. Or do something that needs to be addressed for your business (are your receipts organized and filed so you can find them during tax season?). Or make that improvement to your Web site that you’ve been putting off. Just make it a point to come back to writing at your first opportunity and try again.
Get your heart rate up and keep it up. Get a good, long, tiring workout in. And then, once your body is good and exhausted, sit yourself down and write.
SUGAR AND/OR CAFFEINE
Not a health nut? Stop by Dunkin Donuts and pick up a large coffee and a donut. The resulting buzz can propel you into a little chemical-induced creativity.
Before you take this as a license to write off bad eating habits as the cost of doing business, keep this in mind: This works best when the sugar/caffeine comes as a jolt to your system. If a coffee and a donut is part of your routine breakfast, it’s hardly going to be a jolt.