When Creativity is Stuck

Do you ever just stare at the blank page in front of you, seeing spots? Maybe you’re holding a pen or paintbrush. Or maybe your ‘blank page’ is a metaphor for something else. A block of wood uncarved? A spool of untouched wool?

Human creativity comes in an endless array, and everyone’s blank page looks different. But no matter what form it takes, that ‘blank page’ can be torture.

What do you do when creativity grinds to a halt? If I am being honest, my first reaction is usually to pout. But that doesn’t help. So next I ask, why am I stuck?

Often it’s because I’m tired. But sometimes it’s something deeper. When a word surfaces that reminds me of hurt, or other emotions and memories that are uncomfortable, my knee jerk response is to push it away. When I deny the words a place, it stifles my creativity.

Have you ever told the uncomfortable no? That never goes well for me. It becomes a splinter in my foot that throbs and turns red.

I can exhaust myself with emotions that come with writing a difficult piece, though. It’s never a good idea to push too far too soon. Give yourself time when you are dealing with subjects that dredge up a lot of pain.

But the blank page doesn’t always mean I’m denying myself. Have you ever sat there staring in to space? That can be significantly worse than the splinter.

But what does it mean? Like I said, usually for me it’s because I’m tired. But the other times? I have noticed for me it means I haven’t learned the thing I need to fill those blank lines with yet. My brain can’t connect the dots I don’t yet understand.

What can you do if you haven’t learned what you need to create finish your project? An answer will be different for everyone. We should each seek it out.

Sometimes that knowledge isn’t something we find with research, though. It comes with life experience. Interacting with people, animals, nature, and the world. It will also depend on the manner your creativity manifests itself. How a writer finds knowledge looks different from how a sculptor does.

How to know you’re missing the knowledge and not just tired? You might not. When creativity becomes a battle, it’s time to move on. Set what you’re working on aside and do something else. Not forever, but for right now. This can help you determine why you’re stuck.

Go for a walk, chat with a friend, do the dishes, wash the car. Try changing your surroundings for a bit and see what happens. Still stuck? Then work on a different project, be it poem, painting, or anything else. It’s okay to lay it aside. It’s okay to give it a rest and flex some different muscles.

I often flip through my file of unfinished poems, read each one, and asking myself if I have found the word that fits. I pull out a few to focus on that day. But I don’t strain myself until frustration. It’s okay to put it aside until tomorrow.

What if you’re on a deadline? Well, putting it aside for something else doesn’t mean you don’t pick it up the next day. Be honest with yourself if it’s something you can finish alone.

Last bit of advice. Ask for help. My mild dyslexia has me constantly asking for help, be it from my grammar software, or friends and family. I ask the internet countless things a day. I ask surrounding people to tell me there stories and learn from them.

Sometimes the greatest tools in our creativity kit are other people. A friendly conversation can turn the blank page into a project brimming with life and potential.