When I got back from a short vacation, sat in front of my computer to compose some music and stared at the screen for four hours with barely any progress I didn’t erase, I knew it was back; the block. I never know if it will be here for a few days or a few weeks. I know it will eventually leave, but I don’t know when, and sometimes, when you’re in it, it feels absolutely hopeless. When I’m dating someone, I usually give them the heads-up that I am not going to want to do anything and will just be the lamest for a while. What’s worse is that it’s not just my own projects anymore–I’ve got obligations to others creeping up on me, and I’m going to have to explain it somehow.
I was expecting to find a thread about this already, actually, but now that there is one, does anyone else suffer from creative block? Not really talking about the inability to start ANYTHING creatively and get any projects off the ground–that’s different and is for a different thread, I think. Talking about that dead stop that suddenly happens when you feel like you’re doing fine. Does anyone else have it unfortunately connected to employment, deadlines, obligations to others? What do you do to try and get rid of it, and do you find anything that consistently works?
Yep I definitely get it. I’ve been having it a lot right now for writing with an RP forum I go onto. I get it after usually a few months of working on a project and also had it for some old LP’s I made which are on hiatus. I wish it didn’t happen but generally for me its either depression or OCD related. OCD when my perfectionist streak overwhelms me and the anxiety just endlessly builds as I reflect on what is wrong with the already worked on portion. A lot of times I’m also just too grand into an idea that is way too much for me to finish and only realize halfway through. I’m currently trying to get over the creative block and work on my writing again, LP’s I’ve started back up with something new and then I wanna go back and finish the others.
Reading and strongly nodding “yep, yep, yep” to your bit about turning on the part that does exist and critically ripping it apart. In fact, I had been listening to some other game soundtracks recently and kind of beating myself down for not achieving a certain sound. That may be the cause this time. Maybe I can sit down with the same tracks and think about what is really troubling me about my own, because I don’t really have the “why don’t I sound like this” problem so much as the “why don’t I sound like MY version of this right now”.
I wish you luck with tying up all the writing projects.
Yup. As far as music composition goes, I have good periods and bad periods. Lately, it’s been all bad periods. I get up in front of the piano with the sheet music in front of me and… nothing. Or worse, sometimes I get something on paper and then I second-guess myself and decide that it sounds too much like something else I’ve written.
Tonight was frustrating because I was at a recital some friends were putting on and all of them asked me if I’d finished writing a song I’ve been working on. I just had to put on the big smile and say “nope. Writers block.” Haha.
Lately, my block manifests in this new way where I can write a middle of a song, but not a beginning segment or a bridge into that middle, and don’t even ask me about the end. It’s somehow a little more frustrating than not being able to come up with anything was.
I tend to write out of order as well, which can cause structural problems later on. Often, the ending is first and then when I finally make it to that point, I decide what I wrote was inappropriate and I do a second take on it.
One thing I always have to remind myself: make time to consume media! (preferably out of your house, in a place like a theater or an art museum or the like). You are what you eat, creatively, and if you’re stuck, consuming other work isn’t only not a waste of time, it’s CRUCIAL to the process. Even if you’re not stuck, still do it - having regular work output isn’t the same as having GOOD work output.
I find I can’t really force it, until I actually try to force it because I want to, at which point it ceases to be a case of me really forcing it at all. I tend to think to the fact that I really thought I was musically finished a few years ago, and since then I’ve made the stuff I’d say I’m really most proud of.
I still occasionally get quite anxious about it, though. It’s a strange feeling, and one that doesn’t really go anywhere helpful because the pressure builds to the point that the idea of just playing around to figure out new ideas becomes some hugely important thing.
My only tip would be to put yourself in situations where you can end up with creative accidents. I was working on the soundtrack to a friend’s film and through frustratedly trying to work stuff out, I remembered a four or so second long recording I made of a broken projector that sounded weird, and ended up coming up with the rest of it from that weird little jumping off point.
So, the New Yorker has an amazing article on what writer’s block is and scientifically sound/proven ways of beating it that I think apply to other creative disciplines. Here’s the link, but if you don’t want to read all that here are the main points:
There are four general types of writer’s block: Anxiety/Stress dominant, Anger/Irritation at yourself and others, Apathy, and Severe Negativity.
In general terms, Anxious writers suffer from excessive self-criticism. Angry/irritated writers don’t want to be compared to others. Unlike writers in the first two groups, the Apathy block is actually correlated with a decrease in artistic/imaginative capability. Finally the fourth group looks for external validation, and are often more narcissistic.
The best thing you can do for all types is to remind yourself that you can do creative work, by exercising your imagination in a low stakes environment. My favorite solution is dream journaling–zero stakes, and you’ve already done the imaginative work while you dreamed, so all that’s left is to get it onto paper. Learning to do a new creative activity is another possibility. Basically, find something that lets your imagination wander, and just focus on that for a little bit. It isn’t an instant cure, but ti will help, and the unblocking actually serves as its own form of therapy for the underlying issues.
I mentioned this on the Discord, but I’m getting back into GameMaker. I’ve been watching some tutorials and just focusing on small simple games. I have a story idea, but I’m stumped on what the mechanics are. I have somewhat of an idea, but I can’t fully visualize it, which is frustrating because I really like this story idea I got.
I’ve been working through an artists block on and off since mid-October. Trying to make personal work hasn’t quite come to a standstill, but nothing seems to come out right. That first type of block the article lists, the anxious, self critical variant, sounds extremely familiar. That one line is particularly on the nose– “… although they could still generate images, they tended to ruminate, replaying scenes over and over, unable to move on to something new.”
It’s been tough trying to figure out what would even be helpful for getting out of this rut, but this seems like a great lead, so thank you!
I’m a games researcher and designer creative block is definitely a huge problem. First step for me is to just get something down on paper when writing. If it’s bad I can delete it later but at the very least there’ll be a sentence or two I can be happy with. The biggest way I overcome it is to just work on another type of project. Swapping between different creative mediums at least means that I’ll have something accomplished and can feel good.
Also if the weather permits a good walk usually clears my mind and straightens things out. A lot of my creative block comes from being overwhelmed at the work and feeling like a deer in headlights.
I haven’t been able to produce anything I’m happy with in a few months, (maybe since last August?) started some bigger zine/comic projects but never really got those off the ground in a serious way (all the works still there, just gotta actually commit to something). Most of the time I stop before I even start.
This isn’t the first time I’ve felt like I’m in a creative rut, but hell if it isn’t one of the worst. It’s rare that I just feel completely tapped.
I have tried to delve into different kinds of creative pursuits to maybe like, reset myself. Tried to do more writing. Trying to run more table-top RPGs as thats always been a really great collaborative exercise in creativity for me, but it’s so hard to get working adults together for several hours at a time. In that vein, I even tried to start working on a hack of Apocalypse World in the Star Wars universe because I was so fed up with the lack of table-top RPGs in that universe that my tabletop group and I find appealing, and thought that maybe working with pre-made parts may allow me to think in a new, different way regarding design. None of that stuff really got anywhere. I just feel creatively dead.
Maybe I should just try and take a break for a while, but it feels bad to not be creating something. Maybe it’s that I’m not creating enough and I just need to increase my output, but I already feel like I do a lot to no avail.
I don’t exactly have any solutions for this yet. The way I’m thinking about it is: “hey I’m young, this is gonna happen and this is how I’m going to learn how to deal with it”, but damn if it isn’t a depressing time right now.
What really helps me when I have writers block is to read essays of my favourite writers on writing to remind myself of why I love it. Daniel Jose Older has this great one that is specifically about writers block called Writing Begins With Forgiveness:
Another piece of advice I have is to meet up with people you enjoy being around more regularly, since they can remind you of your own worth, especially if you’re in that headspace where your inner perfectionist has taken over.
Also try to keep a list of the personal milestones you achieved and talk to people about how you felt before and after you achieved them.