You Can't Force Creativity: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Struggle to Create

Tuesday, August 04

By Nadia Tirolese

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You have a little free time and at last you can sit down to create. The only problem is the blank page in front of you is making your head go blank. When you think of the art you want to make, the song you want to write, the epic novel you want to pen...your brain becomes an avalanche of disconnected parts and you don't even know where to begin. If you are one of the billions of creative people in the world, you know that inspiration and creativity can't be forced. If anything, the more you try, the less likely it is that you will succeed at bringing your incredible ideas to life. But what are the reasons behind this creative block, and how can you push past them and come out the other side with a fresh, energized perspective? As a creative person, these 5 questions have helped me to tap into my own creative abilities when I feel low on inspiration and motivation.

1. What motivates me to create?

People create because they love doing it. If you are starting to feel that love ebb rather than flow, it can help to examine your own motivations. Motivation is often the wellspring of creativity, and once you tap into that, you can get into the zone again. Do you want to change the world through your political art? Do you want to move people with the beauty of dance? Do you get a rush when you play a musical instrument or sing? Do you want to write stories that communicate your life experiences? It may help to write down your motivations and review them.

2. Who inspires me the most?

It can be a filmmaker, an artist, a musician, a writer, or even someone you know personally. What is it about this person, these people, that fills you with admiration? Answering this question (and reflecting on it) can help you realize or remember the sources of your creativity. If a person you know inspires your creativity—and, better yet, if they also are creative—connecting with that person can help you tap into your own creative energy.

3. What makes me happy?

What is it about the creative process that fills you with energy, focus, and drive? The creative process can be tricky to navigate because getting started is often easier than following through. Although some projects are best left incomplete, you can finish more projects successfully if you can balance the slog of the nitty-gritty and technical aspects of the project with the joyous, fun parts. This is because knowledge + passion = joy: the things you already have knowledge about (and love to do) will bring you joy. For example, maybe you're a musician that writes songs about your personal experiences. Creating the instrumental tracks and lyrics—as well as mixing all the tracks—is hard work and can be frustrating. However, your love of creating and performing music will balance with the more challenging aspects of your songwriting process, making that process more worthwhile.

4. What experiences can I have that will change my perspective?

Going for a walk or exercising at home, having a meaningful conversation, listening to music, reading a poem, book, or article, or watching a movie are a few ways you can change or shift your perspective to get into a more open frame of mind. Creative block can happen when you get stuck in the rut of a routine that is repetitive and uninspiring. Though some parts of your routine can't be changed—work or school, caregiving, housework, meals, etc.—the parts of your routine that are more flexible, such as breaks and free time, can be used as an important source of inspiration. You don't always have to be creating; even just taking in experiences and information can help you build a storehouse that you can use later.

5. Are my expectations realistic, or are they too high?

Perfectionism is one the the worst killers of creativity. Having unrealistic expectations and putting too much pressure on yourself is paralyzing, especially when it comes to artistic pursuits. Criticizing your own work as a preemptive way to prepare yourself for the criticism of others may seem like a good idea, but in the end it only inhibits your creativity. I personally have a perfectionistic streak that gets in the way of my creative projects, and lowering my expectations has been an effective way to ease this tendency and allow myself more room to learn and grow. Although it's not easy, making mistakes, struggling, and sometimes even failing are important parts of the learning process that add up over time to improve your artistic and creative abilities.

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