Creative Block Ends
Creative block always seems to come around when you most want to be creative. Right after I released my last EP I had a burst of inspiration that left me very frustrated. I soon got to a point where my ideas outpaced by ability to execute on them and although I had started writing and recording, I hit a brick wall at the height of my creativity and shelved the projects I was working on. Everything sounded like garbage, I no longer felt connected to the music, no longer had an emotional response to the music, and I even stopped listening to music completely.
This lasted for six whole months. I got to a point where I honestly felt that I would not be able to finish the music I started and might never be able to write music again. It was totally irrational and I knew what was happening but it still didn’t help those feelings subside.
Creative block is just part of the creative cycle. Everyone’s cycle is slightly different but there are patterns that seem to be universal. The idea that you’ll never be creative again is not uncommon and unfortunately it comes like clockwork. In the book Art & Fear the authors talk about this phenomenon at length and it’s comforting to know that this block doesn’t las t forever. It comes on suddenly and lifts just as quickly and mysteriously as it appeared.
Following the release of The Spirit of Things I recorded a lot of music. Much of it was bad but there were good songs as well. Now, six months later, my creative block has lifted. I’m suddenly excited to create and moved by music again. I listened back to the unfinished mixes of songs I recorded for three albums over the Fall and Winter of last year and I was surprised to find that I had enough material to release at least two albums right now. All they need is mixing and mastering.
Avoiding creative block
You can’t always avoid creative block but there are some strategies that can keep it away for a while. One thing I’ve learned is that anxiety will destroy creativity. One thing that was creating anxiety for me was the artificial deadlines I was creating for myself. I committed to releasing two LPs over the Christmas holiday. It was an unrealistic goal. Other projects consumed my time and I didn’t pay attention to the projects I had committed to because I was no longer excited about them.
I learned that it’s okay t o shelve a project for a period of time. I intentionally took a one month break in hopes that I’d come out the other side feeling better but it didn’t work. You can’t force these things. It’s okay to create something and allow it to simply be out in the world. Let it simmer.
When art feels like a chore something is wrong. There are times when you know you won’t create anything unless you are disciplined with your time and force yourself to sit down and create. That’s fine. But be prepared for nights where nothing comes out. Don’t force things too hard. Let things settle sometimes.
I tend to never go back to a project once I drop it. This time I decided to revisit the music and I found it was worthwhile to finish. So do review your old work periodically and see if there is anything you can salvage. So often I find something that I don’t know how to reproduce but it’s too good to let go to waste.
They also say to be ruthless and kill your babies. It’s true. The garbage you create will become an anchor that drags you down eventually. Let go of your babies and focus on what is working. Holding on to the art that isn’t working will only cause more frustration.
Expect creative block
Only you know your cycle and you know when you should expect to find yourself wrestling with creative block. When it comes, do your best not to panic. Use the time to take a well deserved break. You never know how long it will last but it isn’t forever. I just went through half a year of it. That felt like forever.
Cope with it
Eventually I realized that I was in this for the long haul and I stopped forcing creativity. I cleaned up my working space, tried to enjoy the new free time I had, and focused on other aspects of my creative life that weren’t directly tied to making music. I worked on setting up a Patreon for when I need it in the future, I redesigned this website, and I’m working on making my artist branding look consistent across all my social media and streaming platforms.
The end result
Most often you’ll find yourself coming out of creative block with your ability to create intact. That’s awesome! I got a bonus, though. I found out that I have at least two albums worth of material and that I plan to release this spring. I’ll also be working on new music shortly for release later this summer.
Working remotely because of COVID has been great for my ability to get music recorded. Now that vaccines are widely available and things are returning to normal that may change. I am worried and anxious that I will no longer have the option to work from home soon and I’ll have to go to the office which will cut down in the amount of time I have to make music. Right now I can work 7 days a week because I’m always home. If I had to go back to commuting that would be cut down to just the weekend nights. But I have to remember that since 2018 I consistently released two albums per year up until COVID hit and now I’m trying to break last year’s record of four releases in a single year.
In the next few months I’ll be releasing the music I recorded right after the Kokoro sessions. There are at least two LPs and possibly one EP ready to go and I’m beginning to record music for a brand new release starting today.
Creative block blinds you to the true worth of your art. There is so much going for you that creative block will obscure. I highly recommend you read Art & Fear and rest assured that hitting this wall is just part of the process; it’s the part right before you grow as an artist and move on to doing better work.