We’ve all been there: you’ve sat down to do your assignment, write an essay, start painting a piece, etc. but you can’t find it in you to just start. Creative block is a bitch, but to give it a proper definition, creative block can be described as an “inability to access one’s internal creativity” and it can affect any creative or academic endeavour and can last for days, weeks or even months.
But what causes creative blocks? There exists a myriad of factors that contribute to a person feeling stuck. Being a perfectionist is the biggest cause of creative blocks, we want our work to be perfect on the first draft and the possibility that it may not can make people freeze in fear. The best advice I ever received for this was “Take your first idea and discard it”, nothing is going to be perfect on the first draft, stop pressuring yourself. Students reported that another reason they felt stuck when facing tasks was that they either had too many or too few ideas, not being able to make heads or tails of your ideas can leave you dead on arrival. The next biggest cause of a block is the inability to time things properly, more than half of all students have rushed a project because they left it too late or planned and then completely forgot about it until the very last night, and I don’t think I need to remind anyone that pulling all-nighters is a horrible idea in the long run.
So, what is to be done about creative blocks? Most of the advice on what to do is usually written by authors relating to author’s block but the concepts and practices can be applied to any creative discipline. The most recurring piece of advice is always ‘Stop procrastinating!’, it doesn’t have to be perfect! Force yourself to be creative if you must because the longer you leave it, the harder it will be to get into a creative flow, if you can, develop a routine that works for you where you give yourself an hour or two a day just to be creative. Consuming media relating to your project is also a great idea that will reignite your passion; read a book, watch a movie or documentary, go for a stroll through an art gallery, etc.
A major help when undertaking creative projects is mapping out what you want to do whenever you’re stuck, as the author Rick Riordan said “just having a road map that shows the beginning, middle and end is hugely helpful”. Being physically active has been proven to be of great benefit, if you are able to it is a good idea to do something to get your blood flowing, like some light exercise or a walk. Being too self-critical is also a major pitfall for students, academia puts a lot of pressure on students to constantly be giving 100% of their abilities to any given project but this is extremely unrealistic. Know your limits and don’t overwork yourself or you will burn out and end up causing more creative blocks for yourself.
It is also important to remember that there are always supports available for students, both on and off campus. Your peers are your greatest help, if you feel stuck the odds are someone else feels the same so you will be able to help each other out; and if all else fails, students can try to ask their professors/lecturers for advice. Another practical aide to students are apps to help with concentration, the application most students recommend is called ‘Forest’. Available on IOS and Android, ‘Forest’ helps you stay focused and off your phone by planting little digital trees to make up a forest and because humans will pack-bond with literally anything it is a super effective tool!