10 Ways to Overcome Mental Blocks & Boost Creativity

The need to create is a shared desire among artists, writers, musicians and even bloggers. But, sometimes we creatives hit a mental block and often find ourselves stressed, overwhelmed and unable to produce original ideas.

This happens to me from time to time, so I compiled a list of my proven ways to overcome mental blocks & boost creativity.

1. Set Aside a Time & Place to Create:

This may seem obvious, but many creative people have busy lives and find themselves frustrated with little or no time to create. In order to develop your own creative talents you will have to set aside some time and space to create. Just like with exercise, you must commit to it.

So what if you don’t have a studio or office space?…Try and find a small corner of the living room, kitchen or bedroom to work. When I first began my art career, I worked at my kitchen table for years. I even know a professional artist who paints in her bathroom, and she is happy! Just stay organized.

creative quote about life

2. Change or Clean Your Environment:

If you already have a workspace, realize it is not just an office or studio - it is a creative environment. We are a product of our environment. Therefore, if your environment is dark, cluttered, dusty, cramped or messy, how can you create at your best? You cannot perform and create when you are uncomfortable and ill at-ease.

Boost your creativity by clearing your desk, cleaning your paintbrushes; organize loose papers, books and other materials. This goes a long way toward enhancing your creativity and efficiency.

Make sure you are happy with the colors that surround you. Research shows that color can play a major role in our overall state of well-being. The colors we surround ourselves with directly influence the way we feel, relax and create. To learn more about color, an interesting ‘must’ read: Use the Hidden Meaning of Color in Your Art.

Surround yourself with comfortable, favorite things that make you want to stay and work within your creative work environment!

creative workspace office

 

3. Keep a Whiteboard or Bulletin Board:

No creative studio or office is complete without a whiteboard or bulletin board. Much like a giant sketchbook, these boards facilitate creativity and productivity. Easy to use, they provide an endless canvas for brainstorming and organizing.

Open up your imagination and visualize how you want your life to be. The more you use your imagination the more creative you will become.

4. Give Yourself a Break from Technology:

Oh no, say it ain’t so! This is a particularly important point that I need to remember and it is easier said than done now that most of us are immersed in the digital age. Recent research shows that our brains need downtime from technology! Believe it or not, listening to music, watching TV or talking on your cell phone is NOT downtime. Neither is your computer, Twitter or Facebook!

In fact, technology is known to increase levels of stress which makes it difficult to concentrate. Too much technology blocks creativity.

Downtime is important and necessary, because it allows our minds to process information and remember it. When the brain was constantly stimulated, “you prevent this learning process” if your brain is constantly plugged in, assistant professor Loren Frank of the department of physiology at the University of California in San Francisco told The Times.

5. Get Back to Nature:

Getting outside and into nature is a very important part of my personal creative process and apparently this strategy works well for many others. A recent study found that people learned significantly, retained knowledge and de-stressed better after a walk in nature than after a walk in a dense urban environment. Constantly processing a barrage of information leaves people fatigued. It is important to escape from it.

Try and set aside some time each day to ‘get back to nature’…even a walk around the block is often enough to help you unwind. If you are unable to actually get away from the chaos or city life, try spending time staring at fish swimming in a fish-tank, enjoy arranging some flowers or re-potting a plant. If you can…take a vacation!

Get in touch with the ‘child within’…allow yourself time to think, explore and wander aimlessly through a garden, on a nature walk, or even a shopping mall! Children are the best creators of all, become one again.

nature walk woman in field

6. Try Something New:

If you find you are stuck-in-a-rut, it might help to try something new. Read a book on a new subject, watch an instructional DVD or Youtube video, take a workshop or try using a different medium to create. If you are a realistic painter, try abstract painting. Also, if you paint, try writing…or…if you write, try painting!  Flip through a magazine, randomly surf the Internet (once you’ve had that ‘downtime’).

Overcoming creative minds blocks is one of the reasons why I started blogging – blogging/writing is another way for me to create and express myself which always leads me to new painting ideas!

7. Be Kind to Yourself:

Again, this should be obvious! However, give yourself permission to exercise, meditate, laugh, do something enjoyable. Eat right and get plenty of sleep. Take a long, warm, relaxing bath. Just close your eyes and let the ideas begin to flow or take a power nap! And get plenty of oxygen to that overworked brain…don’t forget to b-r-e-a-t-h-e!!!

8. Listen to Music:

In my research for this post, I have learned some interesting facts about music. Music is found to affect our process of learning and thinking. Listening to pleasing music can make the task seem easier. Music can be used to stimulate and relax the body and mind. More and more businesses are using music which helps the listener think, analyze and work faster in a more efficient manner.

Music helps develop a positive attitude and provides the listener with motivation. Soothing musical notes help increase the Serotonin levels of the brain which helps to alleviate mental depression. Doctors and dentists have always known that music calms and soothes one’s nerves. But did you know that flat musical notes induce sleep, while natural notes provide the mind with alertness?

I often listen to classical music while I paint – it helps me concentrate on the NOW.

piano keys

9. Create a Deadline:

Some professionals love deadlines, targets and thrive within those structured environments, while for others, a deadline seems restrictive.

To some creatives, the deadline approach might seem a bit contradictory and somewhat stressful. However, I find that a self induced deadline is often the kick-in-the-pants my blocked creative  mind needs. A deadline gets my creative juices flowing and activates my brain with new thoughts and ideas which help me reach my goal.

A target achievement seems to work really well. For example: writing a guest post for another blog (I am doing this right now!), entering an art competition, completing works for an exhibition….

10. Keep a Sketchbook or Journal:

It is a good idea to carry a small notebook and a pen or pencil around (and even a mini watercolor set) with you so you can take notes when inspiration hits.  Take time to doodle and write down ideas. This helps to unlock mind blocks. A creative sketchbook or journal is a great way to track your personal progress. It also records random ideas that can be used for future inspiration.

*****

There are many other ways to boost your creativity. The above suggestions work for me. I hope some of you will share ways to boost your creativity in the comment section. We all learn from each other.

Happy Creating! ~Lori

You might find these related articles helpful:

How to Find Your Own Artistic Voice

How to ‘Jump-Start’ Your Art Career

6 Tips for a Stress-free Sketchbook

The Healthy Artist: Tips to Help You Stay that Way

10 Helpful Ways to Overcome Spring Fever in the Art Studio

Artistic Temperament: What to Do When it Strikes!

How to Jump-Start Your Art Career


PS. Please visit The Top Ten Blog to see a recent guest post I wrote on this same subject. You will enjoy this great blog…

About Lori McNee

Lori McNee is a professional artist who specializes in still life, and landscape oil paintings. She is an exhibiting member of Oil Painters of America, Plein Air Painters of Idaho, serves on the Plein Air Mag Board of Advisors, and is an Artist Ambassador to Arches/Canson/Royal Talens. As the owner of FineArtTips.com, Lori blogs about fine art tips, marketing, and social media advice for the aspiring and professional artist. As a social media influencer, Lori ranks as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter, has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and named a #TwitterPowerhouse by The Huffington Post. She is a keynote speaker, has been a talk show host for Plum TV, writes for F+W Media publications including Artist’s Magazine, Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, Photographer’s Market. Also, Zero to 100,000: Social Media Tips & Tricks for Small Businesses. Lori is also a member of the CBS Entertainment Tonight & The Insider Tweet Team.

Comments

  1. Hi Lori, I really enjoyed your article and especially like the tip of getting back to nature. Was out hiking this morning and it is amazing what a little fresh in the mountains away from the phone and lap top can do to boost your creativity. Now, I just need to carve out some time to write my next article.

    Thanks,
    Chris

    • Hi Chris,
      Thanks for stopping by for a comment. I am glad you related to this post and found it useful. Getting outside is a daily ‘must-do’ for me!
      Best-
      Lori

  2. Hi Lori, I was so pleasantly surprised when I read your post. I’ve reached the same conclusions for the moments when I felt depressed or my creativity disappears. But I never did non of these things :( Now, when I read your post (second opinion) I’m going to do it. Thank you, you gave me the confidence that I needed :)

    Krasi

    • Hi Krasi, I am glad these suggestions helped you! Sometimes a little ‘moral support’ is all it takes! ;-) These days, my biggest challenge is trying to ‘un-plug’ myself from technology. Look at me right now…I am on the computer instead of painting!
      Best-
      Lori

  3. Hi Lori,
    The ideas you’ve put forth allow for inspiration to bubble up from the heart. When engaged in activities that are enjoyable, one’s heart rhythms smoothen out and send different signals to the brain; signals that don’t trigger the stress response.

    A different brain pathway is taken, one that improves abilities, in all areas.

  4. Great article; I have always enjoyed balance in my life and have taken the time away from my design work to enjoy he outdoors and play sports. Sometimes after winning a tennis match or having a great day on the slopes I have renewed courage to contact a difficult client or the inspiration to start a new collection. Glad you brought this concept to the attention of artists as we do have a tendency to be workoholics!

    Beatrice

    • Beatrice, I have learned how to overcome those stumbling blocks through experience. Taking time for myself is really important. Exercise and fresh air recharges my battery! Thanks for taking time to comment. I really am grateful.
      Lori :-)

  5. Good advice! I find I get quite addicted to being online and that’s the hardest thing to give up.
    Walking in nature is like wiping the slate clean, and filling it with inspiring images.

  6. All superb tips to help boost creativity. In light of #6, #8, and a recent post I made – I would also add “develop a palate” in something. To be creative we have to like creative things. And we should always want to expand our tastes by listening to new genres of music, or watching avant-garde films, or looking at new photography, etc. It doesn’t matter what we develop new tastes in, as long as we are always pursuing new kinds of art.

    Going to tweet this lovely post – thanks Lori!

  7. I can use the “get away from technology” advice. Since I sell my work online, I feel that I’m linked to my computer most of the day. I need to come up with a creative solution to this technology problem. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Thanks Lori. This is very helpful advice. It’s good to take a step back every once in a while and look at your routines, and re-evaluate things.

  9. joann bennett says:

    Absolutely nothing new here. Very trite. I can find this on a gazillion sites.

    • Hello Joan-

      Although this blog is followed by many established artists, I truly am interested in helping the emerging, or struggling artists too. This post is a compilation of ‘proven’ ways for artists to help themselves out of a creative rut. I have used many of these techniques over the years and offered a few that I have not tried personally, but I thought they were helpful. Many artists are self-taught, so sites like this blog are there to help spark ideas and imagination in those who do not have personal instruction. Maybe you are beyond the need for using any of these methods, but I was inspired to share these with my readers and the majority have been grateful. If you have any unusual ideas you would like to add to this list and share, I would welcome them! We all learn from each other.

      Best-
      Lori

  10. Hi Lori,

    wonderful tips and great post! I think a good nights sleep is helpful.Things look better in the morning and sometimes I even dream of painting ideas-those are usually blissful dreams!

  11. Techeyes says:

    Hi, Lori..

    love the article. I think i am too much into technology which is taking me far from my creativity. Actually i feel that i am more confused because i am constantly running towards the best i just want my self to be the best in all my works which makes me reject all my little ideas, maybe i could get the best from these which i always reject. In between this confusion what i come up with is only just few things which i not really that best how i wanted them to be.. i am all far from my creativity, am far from myself i used to be a good creative student in my collage but now i don’t know what has happened to my work..i have not worked since monthss..may be your article will help me boost up again.

    • Oh, it sounds like you are way to hard on yourself. I hope you can try and take off the pressure and just create and enjoy. It is great to have your visit. I hope my post helps you in some small way.
      Happy creating,
      Lori

  12. mental blocking is also a stress.I experienced it before but i never had a medication for this.and i never went into treatment for this.Suddenly i found this product that gives me total relaxation in life.it meditates me,it releases all my illnesses that i feel.within this product,you find yourself,medicated by mind.see it for yourself.Here are the links
    .www.almostsuperhuman.com/jv
    http://www.almostsuperhuman.com/book.php

  13. Hi Lori,
    Thanks much for your new post! It is really encouraging and practical. I find it always very helpful and refreshing to read good help tips how to overcome obstacles to create since I am myself trying to start painting after a long gap. I enjoy your site greatly! Thanks!
    All the best,
    Radka

  14. A big thank you to you Lori, I have been devouring your site which has so many pearls of wisdom. Having focused on career for the last 13 years I have sacrificed my ability to create and the happiness it brings me. After mentally crashing a couple of months ago due to an oppressive micromanager who squashed any creativity, painting is bringing me back to life through bringing art to life. Your tips and tricks and ways of thinking and approaching my crafting are a regular source of inspiration for me.

    • Wow Jake, I am so honored by your words. Comments like yours make all this blogging worth the effort! I truly appreciate your support and for taking time to share your story. Happy creating! Lori

  15. Thanks for the great tips. I was feeling stuck when I saw your link on Twitter and this has given me some inspiration. I hear what you say about a dark environment. My house is so dark and it’s not conducive to creativity at all, especially in the winter. I’m desperate to move.

    • So happy to hear this post inspired you! Have you tried daylight corrective lighting? You can find some inexpensive fixtures at HomeDepot. It is cheaper than moving! Good luck.

  16. Excellent tips! You always have such helpful and practical advice. It’s a great reminder that I need to drag out my sketchbook so I can spend my downtime sketching instead of wasting time on the Internet. I also need to buckle down and reorganize my work space. Thanks for the ideas and motivation!

  17. Excellent article Lori, it was shared by Michelle Andres, and I agree with those tips and would like to add one (it’s actually more of a philosophy) that has helped me become eager and joyous to take on difficult/daunting tasks in an effort to breakthrough, achieve a goal, excel, or reach new heights. That is to recognize when attempting to elevate your status in any way, most processes are met with some measurable degree of resistance, sometimes it is just the law of nature. I use a little reverse psychology, and am now able to overcome those places and moments of resistance and eagerly dig in, due to one simple mind shift; I rejoice whenever I feel the resistance because it is an affirmation that I am on the right track and moving towards a higher plateau of thinking, doing and achieving. so now I meet those moments of resistance or challenging tasks with a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm. Please let me know what you think? You can learn more about this philosophy during an interview with Steven Pressfield on Finding Your Calling: “Put Your A** Where Your Heart Wants to Be” Read more: http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/Steven-Pressfield-Put-Your-A-Where-Your-Heart-Wants-to-Be-Video#ixzz2humdxcHx
    Furthermore I recognize that your tips fully apply themselves towards anyone not just creatives. The reason why I know this is because I created a workshop course called Creative to the core; peeling back the layers’ @ https://www.facebook.com/groups/CreativeToTheCore/, which was originally developed to help artists harness and confidently traverse the sometimes difficult journey towards developing and realizing their deepest place of creative expression. It simply was not long into the program that the process was highly beneficial for everyone no matter what level there at or what they hope to succeed at work pursue. I really appreciate your perspective and would love to know what you think about this mind shift. Thank You!

    • Hello Deidre, thanks for the helpful and insightful comment. Yes, these tips can help anyone from any niche. I am always looking for new ways in which to inspire and I will look forward to checking out the links you suggested.

  18. such a great article. Whether we want to admit it or not, it happens to all of us. Thanks for the tips. Happy creating

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