What causes creative block?

*This story was updated and edited by Jenna Heil on Wednesday, October 12, 2022 for clarity and brevity. 

Experiencing creative block is an inevitable part of life, especially for artists and designers. It can come in many different forms and for a variety of different reasons. Identifying the source of the block is essential, so you can take the appropriate steps to overcome it. Take a look at four of the most common causes of creative block!

1. Stress!
While some thrive under pressure, others can feel stifled by stress. The ability to create is often linked to external circumstances and when stressful situations arise, it can halt creativity. To help combat this and bring back the creative juices, we recommend finding a comfortable and calm space to quiet your mind. Shut down your phones and computers, spend time outdoors, mediate, cook, sew, sketch, paint or listen to music. Find something that brings you joy and focus only on that. This peaceful time will allow you to create a space for new ideas to grow.

2. A growing period.
Creativity can be similar to growing flowers in a garden, it’s a repeating cycle that includes germination, growth and then flowering. Perhaps what you perceive as a creative block is rather a period of development or growth, not a block. Changing your mindset to this philosophy can be both liberating and soothing. When we allow time for ideas to grow and bloom, we increase the chances of those ideas coming to life and reaching their full potential.

3. An abundance of ideas.
Decision fatigue is quite common when there is an abundance of ideas and an uncertainty about which one to pursue. While typically having too many ideas isn’t seen as a bad thing, sometimes the more ideas one has, the more overwhelming it can be. For creatives in this position, it can be beneficial to write or sketch all of your ideas before choosing the one that produces the most excitement and joy. Remember, you can always pursue a different idea in the future if it doesn’t end up working out how you initially expected.

4. Fear of imperfection.
One of the most common reasons for creative block is the fear of imperfection. Many creatives consider themselves perfectionists, which can prevent them from pursuing ideas or completing projects. The reality however is the only way to truly “perfect” your craft is by actually creating. To push through the perfectionist mindset, artists and designers need to help encourage each other and remember that growth is the closest thing to perfection. It’s not the end of the world to start over when an idea reaches a dead end – it just means a new beginning.

As you walk through any period of creative block, remember to give yourself space and time to create as an artist and designer. Recognize what causes your creative block, and do your best to push through. Creativity cannot be forced, so remember to look around you for new sources of creativity and allow yourself the ability to fail in order to succeed.

For more information on what causes creative block, check out the Student Learning Center’s tip sheet on Creative Block. This piece was written by Lea Greenwood from the SLC. The SLC welcomes students from all programs both on-campus and online who strive to do better in the classroom while perfecting their craft. Self-schedule an appointment with the SLC here or email the SLC at learning@rmcad.edu