Ben The Illustrator on Creative Block, and Not Believing In It

July 22, 2018

By Ben The Illustrator - Illustator

I don’t believe in creative block.

I don’t think I ever have. It’s such a relief to say it to be honest. It gets talked about so much, like it somehow joins us all together, something we all have to put up with together, like delayed trains and shitty governments. I’ve contributed to those articles too that are supposed to help… ‘Twenty top tips from professionals! How to combat creative block!’ and we all suggest going for a walk to clear the block or creating something for fun until you suddenly get an idea and you’ve cured the block, for now. I’m sorry, I joined in those articles because it’s nice to feel part of a big community that supports each other. I do believe that going for walks and creating something different will help you, in many ways, but I always figured it might offend someone if I started saying that I don’t actually believe in that problem they suffer with, the infamous Creative Block™.

So here it is, I don’t believe in creative block, if you believe in it, then you’re open to falling for it, if you don’t believe in it, then it can have no effect on you. I don’t believe in werewolves, and so I spend zero time worrying about them, the same applies to creative block. For the block believers however, there’s a process you can fall into… you need an idea, then you’ll have a few minutes without thinking of one and suddenly you’re burdened with not only a lack of ideas, but also the worry of now having creative block, and next thing you know you’re panicking about how long this creative block is going to last, how long this particular non-illness is going to stick around and delay you making something awesome. So, enough said, we all have to stop believing in it. Even if scientists say it’s a real thing, let’s do ourselves a favour and stop believing that it’s a thing, this is step one to a life in Ideasville. Creative block is not a thing anymore, we don’t believe in it anymore.

Moving on, what was creative block? Back in the days when people suffered from creative block (now a thing of the past) what exactly was it? Creative block was simply an extended period of time before you finally had the idea you needed. Solutions and ideas don’t always come immediately, so there’s a period of time before the idea forms, that period of time could often be misconstrued as ‘creative block’. Some days you’re given a brief or presented with a problem, and within minutes you’ve got a fully conceived perfect solution. Man, what an idea, it just came to me in a moment, it ticked every box and everyone thought it was incredible! But some days it doesn’t come, no magic, no natural thought progression, nothing, but that doesn’t have to mean you have creative block, you just haven’t had the idea yet. It’s cool, we’ve got time to let ideas come together, if you’re creative then the idea will come, the art will flow and the story will form. You’ve spent your whole life gathering experiences, information and images to get you to this point, and trust me they will deliver an idea in your brilliant mind some time soon. This period is not a bad thing, it’s not a problem, it’s not creative block, it’s just time to wait and ponder, or to get some other stuff done. During the idea generation period (formally known as creative block) you really could go create something else or go out for a walk (like we suggested in all those articles) or you could make a plate of nachos, go running outside until you see a yellow car then dance home again, meditate, take a bath, do the laundry, learn the recorder, google the word ‘petrichor’ (my favourite word). But whatever you do, don’t waste your time worrying or overthinking. A relaxed, enthusiastic mind will usually come up with the best idea, don’t ever waste your time.

I’ve held this disbelief in creative block for perhaps a decade now, having worked in the creative industry for almost 2 decades it’s a disbelief that’s done me a real favour. I never shared it with anyone, because so many people seemed to talk about creative block as a real thing, but I’m tired of seeing so many people holding themselves back because they’re waiting on an idea to form, or waiting for the creative mood to hit, and negatively labelling it as a block. Don’t do it to yourself, there is no block, just a bit of waiting time, enjoy it. Last year I discovered that there are other non-believers, we could form a club, my favourites are Tina Bernstein and Robbie Dale who I worked with to put onto paper our thoughts about how to generate the best ideas, you can check this out in our Mapology Guide.

If you’re still concerned that you’re going to get creative block (please stop believing in it for a start, we’ve been through this), then there is one very cliché thing you can do (sorry about this upcoming Pinterest quote, it’s the simplest way to say it)… “Live your life to the fullest right now and forever!” *Reposts to Tumblr and orders the mini-print for the kitchen wall* I’m serious though, the more you experience right now, the more ideas you’ll have in the future. Prepare yourself to never have a block or a slump in the future by constantly filling your mind with new things; great creations, new places, weird experiences, super fun interactions, songs, poems, whatever the hell takes your fancy. That way you will always have some glimmer of inspiration to call on when you need it.

I don’t believe in creative block, and I think it’s helped me, it’s time we all buried that particular worry and just gave ourselves some time to grow our brilliant ideas and make great art. That’s it, we’re done, disbelief is the way forward on this one, rest easy, feel positive, throw a block party, stay creative.

Bonus Tip :

Do you only have one creative outlet or release? If so, you need to double-up my friend, you need more than one thing, you don’t have to paint, write novels and be shooting movies all at once, but you might want to give yourself a handful of creative outlets. I have my graphic vector illustration, that’s my main thing, but I also like to draw in pencil, I paint by smearing neon acrylics into city scenes, I always have a couple of personal illustration projects on the side too. Having these other options (all of which are just for fun, no deadlines, no obligations) means I always have something else to play around with. If I ever feel a bit of a slump in my normal illustration work, but still know I should be making something, then I can go over there *points at the floor* and push some paint around, or I can leave my studio and go down there *imagines the couch* and do some pencil drawing. That way the distractions are still contributing to my creative output in some way, I believe they’re also helping to ignite different little sensory bugs in my brain which will pull me out of the slump.