Breaking Through The Block: 5 steps to break the cycle of creative block

As creatives, we've all been there, whether it's lack of motivation or lack of inspiration, we've all been creatively backed UP!

Personally, I've just come out of a creative block that lasted longer than the lockdown tier system seeming like a good idea. Literal months of nothing, nada, zilch, no new ideas, no inspiration, no output. I had less going on creatively than that time Paris Hilton tried to make an album (what was she thinking!?)

But whilst I was in total creative distress, I did learn a thing (or 5) about pushing through the block and getting back into the creative flow.

1. Identify the 'why?'

Creative block can manifest for all sorts of reasons, for me, a lot of times its a combination of stress, burnout and sudden lack of faith in myself and my abilities (it happens to the best of us, even someone as fabulous and talented as me!)

But sometimes its something as simple as staring at the same project until your eyes melt, or finding that nothing is igniting new and fresh ideas (I'll get onto that later).

I think my latest blockage went on waaaay longer than it should have because I wasn't really getting to grips with the 'why?' - I had a trillion and one things going on... I moved house, work suddenly got busy and stressful, I was juggling a lot of clients; it was all too much and looking through the retro-spectacles, I can see now it was classic burnout. But unfortunately I am far too stubborn to admit that to myself so I literally just pushed through saying yes to everything (not a hot tip btw, would not recommend).

If you can take a moment, step out from under your denial blanket and really ask yourself what the root cause is then hopefully you'll be able to figure out which of the next four steps is going to help you the most!

(10/10 would recommend both of these websites, but you probably already knew that... most of my 8 hour daily screen time is spent on Pinterest, no judgement!)

2. Inspire yourself to be inspired!

This one is for those times when the creative block is a case of wanting to create but not knowing where to start!

In general, my first port of call is Pinterest, but there are more niche 'inspiration generators' out there. One of my personal favourites is Lauren Homs 'WTF Should I letter' - packed full of funny and quirky slogans to start you off, if that's your kind of thing! (For others there are so many art prompts online, or even search DTIYS (draw this in your style) on Instagram and have a go!)

And of course lets not forget the real world (when it opens up again!) If you're a city dweller like me, get yourself to a museum or exhibition, play or show. I genuinely believe creative stimuli of any kind can get that inspo engine revving. In fact when I was studying my Poetry MA my tutor used to say '100 Poems in, 1 out'. You've gotta stay inspired to be inspired, you feel me?

(PSA: you can follow me on Pinterest here, I have boards for most visual creatives!)

(As you can see, even I, a creative genius, have days where all I can muster are watercolour splodges, its all good ya'll!)

3. Something is always better than nothing.

Okay so you're inspired now, you've got a prompt or you've bounced off to the Tate Modern and sipped coffee, drooling over Hockney and Lichtenstein. But that white page or screen is still a bit too much.

Well in the words of Mr Nike 'Just Do It'. No really, it might suck, it probably wont be your best work, but every storm starts with a drizzle. So drizzle, start the flow, I don't know how many more metaphors you need to get the idea. The creative process is one that's built on sketches and edits and reworks and self evaluation. But you can't edit or re-evaluate a blank page. So just do it. You don't have to show anyone, no one needs to know that your masterpiece started with a scribble.

(That's me, stunningly beautiful, looking at my work thinking, this coffee is nowhere NEAR big enough and I need to take a fucking break...)

4. Distancing & fresh eyes

You did it! You you've started the design, the painting, choreography, whatever. You're doing it. Amazing, the process is beginning. You're probably a light shower by now, way past drizzling.

But, you've been doing this for 8 hours. Your eyes are out of focus and you've lost all ability to objectively analyse your own work. Suddenly everything sucks and you don't want to do it anymore.

So don't. Okay, okay, I hear you say "But Penny you just said to 'just do it' no matter what". Well, don't trust everything I say, you don't know me! Take a break, have a nap, go and do something else and as my boss would say, P E R C O L A T E those ideas. In the midst of a project timeline I always find the moments of true inspiration happen away from the work itself. In the middle of making a coffee, in the shower, walking the dog... you get the idea. So take a break, distance, recharge and get excited to go back to your work with fresh eyes.

(An accurate visual representation of what it feels like to overcome the block and be on damn fiyah!)

5. Time heals all wounds (and blocks)

So you tried to figure out the 'Why?' - couldn't get there? You spent 5 hours on Pinterest, went to a show, the Tate AND took a nature walk - still nothing. You sat down, and you 'just fucking did it' like I said (maybe you hate me now...) and you're still not feeling creative process flow..

Well there's only one thing for it. Time. That unstoppable, relentless passing, wonderful and terrible thing. Eventually, at some point, in the middle of feeding your guinea pigs (maybe that's just me?), you will have an idea, feel the urge to create or just feel like its time to revisit these steps; and maybe this time they will work for you. For me it was about three months, and they were a LONG three months too. Maybe for you, its a week, or a year. Either way, I promise, it comes back.


Don't just take it from me, here's what you lot had to say on the matter:


For me the trick is not to try too hard. So maybe doodling , going for a dog walk, chatting to a friend or just drinking 🍷!

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