Why Creative Blocks Aren’t Always Bad

Today, I'm joining a group of bloggers tackling the subject of creative blocks. To find out more or to submit your own article, scroll down to the bottom of this post. If you're new to this blog, you can find more about subscribing for free here.

Whenever you feel stymied, stuck, or frantic, remind yourself, this is the result of having too many good ideas — even if it feels like you have no good ideas at all…
—Julia Cameron

Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance. Anne Lamott calls it “being empty.” Others call it a lack of inspiration. Whatever the name, most creatives will agree that from time to time, they feel blocked.

But I don't believe that's true.

Personally, I've never experienced a creative block. I've never run out of ideas. What I have experienced is paralysis due to too many ideas.

When it comes time to “ship,” I hesitate. I make excuses. I worry. I wait. I procrastinate.

Sometimes this is because of fear. But other times, something else is going on. And that's where this gets tricky.

Creative Blocks
Image credit: The talented Stephen Brewster

When I was leading a creative team with a strong bias to action, we sometimes hesitated. We had our ideas, but we weren't making decisions. Not because we felt blocked, but because we had too many choices. Too many possibilities.

While some say that the solution to this kind of paralysis is to simply choose something, I don't believe that's wise. Nor do I believe that creative blocks are always our enemies.

In fact, sometimes, they're our allies.

As a team, we learned to embraced the gift of these blocks. We learned that, sometimes, creative blocks be good. Here's how:

Creative blocks remind us we're unique

That fact that we creatives experience blocks means that we also experience epiphanies, that we are tapped into an otherworldly source of inspiration.

Face it: not everyone is like you. Some people struggle with creativity. Few have ideas flooding into their minds to the extent that they are constantly overwhelmed.

This means you are special.

What you call a “creative block” is what many simply call life.

Allow these moments of emptiness to remind you that you are unique.

This calling to create is a gift that deserves your diligence.

Don't take it for granted.

Creative blocks help us do our best work

Most creatives are perfectionists. Boldly believing that art can change the world, they rarely settle for “good enough.”

When you feel “blocked,” this is sometimes just your inner self is telling you that you could do better.

So you do. You stay up late, painfully deliberating over a single line of prose or a certain piece of a website, trying to get it just right.

And no one understands why. No one but you.

When you're done, you know that the extra work has made all the difference.

Creative blocks help us discern the right timing

Sometimes when we feel “blocked” what we're really experiencing is the call to wait.

We have a killer idea, but something tells us that it's not right. Not yet.

Maybe the world isn't ready. Maybe we're not ready.

These are the tough but enriching times of being an artist.

It's hard to say what's happening on the inside as we're seemingly doing nothing on the outside. Sometimes, we're being humbled. Others, we're simply being prepared.

It feels like a waste, but in fact, it's not. It's an investment — a time of sowing. As we wait, something magnificent is beginning to stew within us.

Pushing through these times is the wrong decision. We need to stop and listen to our work.

There is a proper time for all creative endeavors, and there is no other way to determine when to begin a project than to close our eyes and open our ears.

So what does this all mean?

It means that when you've felt blocked, sometimes you weren't. There is more to creating art than just thrashing around and working an assembly line. Being creative means learning to listen.

It means that being blocked isn't always bad — not when it causes us to reconsider our ideas and the difference they may make in the world. Not when it reminds us that we are special or helps us create our best work possible.

And definitely not when it leads us into a deeper maturity and obedience to the calling of an artist, guiding us to wait for just the right moment to move forward with our work.

What do you think? Are creative blocks always bad? Join the discussion in the comments or on Twitter using the hash tag #creativeblocks.

This was a “blog carnival” on creative blocks. Below is the list of all contributors. Read some of the articles below by clicking the links. Feel free to copy and share this list on your own blog: