Creative Blocks, Failure and Inspiration

 “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
Maya Angelou

Creativity is illusive. It is hard to describe and often given an almost coveted status. But creativity is just one of our many cognitive abilities we use when making something and can be harnessed and nurtured. Sometimes my mind rushes with ideas, colours, projects, new and interesting things to make. And other times it feels like a void, and I get frustrated with a lack of motivation.

What is it to create something from nothing?

I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic a few months ago and it made me think about creativity and the relationship between creative block, failures and inspiration. I realised that these things are bound together when we do something creative and that it is a process. In the past I felt a desperate panic that creative blocks meant my creativity – something I valued highly in myself – was gone forever. But I realise now it’s not possible to be endlessly inspired. Life gets in the way, unexpected things happen and instead of seeing this as negative, I decided to embrace it as part of the creative process. Breaking away allows you to refresh your mind and come back to your craft with new ideas and a new perspective.

I think this is why I enjoy running my blog. It isn’t a portfolio of my best work; rather, it is a work in progress of my creativity. A dairy showing the different processes my mind goes through when I get an idea and how I experiment with materials to bring that idea to life. And it is through running my blog that I have found my creative balance, and a focus on the process of art making.

Every single person who has ever created anything has failed in some way. How could they have got better if they didn’t fail at first? Failing is a way of finding answers to something that hasn’t worked. When I first began working with polymer clay I burnt it to a crisp. Whoops! Maybe I should have been more careful with the instructions. I like to keep all my first monsters I made as a reminder of how much I have improved. I embraced my failures to gage what works and what didn’t. Just because your work has failed doesn’t mean you are a failure. You are a person separate from your work (even if it doesn’t feel like it). Deciding on this approach is the best thing I did for my own creative practise. And just because something isn’t working doesn’t mean it is a failure. It could just be something your mind is working out. Or enjoy the materials you mess around with.

In my experience, inspiration hates the mundane, the routine and the everyday. It craves something different even if that is noticing something small you never noticed before. I’ve listed some things I find help when I’m struggling for inspiration.

  • Go for a walk
  • Buy something unusual
  • Talk to someone new
  • Read something completely different
  • Relax – have a bath, book a massage
  • Rearrange your creative space
  • Change the pictures on the wall
  • Doodle or journal with no purpose
  • Go to a new place for the day
  • Swimming/ dancing/ exercise