Creative blocks impact more than just artists: How to take a break, push through, find hope to create

By Jessa Chadwick, Assistant Arts Editor

You do not have to be an artist to experience a creative block; it could be writer’s block when it comes to composing a paper for school or a professional block for a project for work.

Wherever it may be, everyone has experienced a creative block at some point or another.

As dead week approaches, it would seems like an appealing idea to take a break and allow another side of the brain to work while the creative side recharges; however, that may not be possible as deadlines and finals approach.

That academic pressure can cause stress, but there is a payoff—and that is in the creative process itself.

Senior fine arts and English double major Glen Simpson III encourages fellow students to keep going.

“Don’t give up on yourself,” Simpson said. “Push through the pain and the struggle. It is most important to have, as a writer or an artist, hope. Put your heart into whatever you’re doing,” he said.

“Give it [your] all, because you’re the only person who can create. You create your own special. So if you don’t create it, the world will never have it. The world will be less because you’re not in it. Just have hope.”

However, having hope can be a challenge if you have a perfectionist nature. Crouch-Mathis professor of literature and English, Dr. Benjamin Myers, helped to identify the issue and encouraged creators to keep going.

“There’s a poet-teacher named Richard Hugo who talks about writing towards the goal,” Myers said.

“He says you have to be willing to write badly every day because that’s how you work toward the good work. So a lot of times writer’s block happens when we’re afraid to go ahead and write badly until something good happens.

“I would say that writer’s block is unwillingness to write badly,” Myers said.

“You can always write but writers get blocked when they think that their first draft has to be great. It’s not really a thing that happens to you; it’s a state of mind. There’s procrastination and then there’s paralyzing block. They’re both degrees of the same thing. Sometimes we want to hold on to the potentiality rather than the reality that we may have to revise and revise. That’s what I think writer’s block is really about.”

Most students know when they need a change in environment but it can be hard for them to be willing to take that needed break.

It may help to switch tasks so that the creative side of the brain has a chance to rest; this allows the little brain cells to do their work better.

“Sometimes it helps me to go to a different place than where I usually write,” Myers said. “Sit down with a notebook and go, ‘okay I’m just going to sit here and write, good or bad, I’m just going to write for now. Just pushing on through.’ So often [a break comes] just while I’m doing something else,” he said.

“I’ve got a problem in something I’m working on, can’t figure it out and I go for a run and then three miles from home it’ll click. And then you have to run home repeating it to yourself not to forget it. Or it can be driving or taking a shower. It’s switching from the mundane routine of writing to some other mundane routine.”

While it can be hard to hold onto the hope for a creative end, it can be even harder to push through and follow the process.

Creating often makes students tense and stressed because they tend to focus on how the outcome reflects on them as an individual, on their own self-worth.

People pride themselves on what they can do and by how well and how quickly they can do it.

“If it’s a certain kind of slump, you push straight through it and work through it,” Simpson said. “Eventually you get it done. That one’s a harder [way] to do it and probably not as healthy but sometimes has to be done. Being an artist and a writer, I get really agitated if I can’t write or draw well. So if I keep pushing and pushing and pushing, I get more stressed, more agitated but after a while, if I just chill for a second and get back into it, I usually can push through. Sometimes it takes a little bit long than a couple minutes; an hour or two, a day, maybe a week.”

Although simply “pushing through” is sometimes the best or only option, it may help to simply steep in other artistic creations.

Students should ask themselves why they want to create or how they want their work to affect others.

It is also important for the student to look back on who or what has inspired them.

“Immerse yourself in art and be inspired by that,” Simpson said. “That really helps. Being in it, seeing other people doing it, you’re like, ‘okay I can do it too.’ For art especially, I get on Pinterest and I just look at a lot of things.”

A strange aspect of creating is how everything affects other decisions or issues the artist may be dealing with.

While a student is trying to write a paper, for example, he or she may also be trying to figure out what kind of job to apply for, what to eat for dinner or other projects that need completing.

Some of these dilemmas then impact the creative process; it becomes cyclical.

“The more stressed out you are, the bigger the block,” Simpson said. “Especially if you have a lot of family issues going on or things akin to that nature, such as school. The more stressed you are, the worse the block can be. But also, for me, working on art takes away stress so it works against itself,” he said.

“It just depends on how bad the block is. Sometimes I won’t even know and then it’ll just go away. And I’m like, ‘I was in a block but I’m okay now.’ Like, last night I had a block when I was working on something. I just couldn’t figure it out and then I [thought] ‘I have to have a different mindset.’ And so I did and it worked.”

So then what should a student do once he or she has pushed through their block?

Part of holding on to hope is believing that no matter how rough a newly created piece is, it can always be made better.

“To write a page of good material usually you have to write pages and pages of bad material and then pick through and find what’s good and work with that,” Myers said.

“So usually when I’m just pushing through blocking myself, I usually say, ‘I’m going to put my pen on the paper and I’m going keep going and then I’ll go back and keep what’s worth saving and then start again from there.’”

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