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5 Ways to Overcome Blank Page Syndrome

Creativity coach Louise Warren provides her top tips on the creative life.

Eric Maisel
Creativity Coaches on Creativity
Source: Eric Maisel

Some creatives find a blank space obsessively magnetic. Picasso, for one, could hardly pass a blank canvas in his studio without compulsively needing to stop and fill it. Other creatives find the blank page or blank canvas the exact opposite of magnetic. It daunts them; it even terrorizes them. In today’s post, creativity coach Louise Warren explores this theme.

Louise explained:

If you have ever endeavored to create something, then you have probably encountered the dreaded blank page. It can be the stuff of nightmares for ambitious artists who long to bring their big visions to life. Though it can trigger an immediate sense of anxiety and frustration, part of our work as artists is to learn how to coax ourselves through these kinds of blocks. Here are a few easy tips to get you started.

1. Give yourself permission to do imperfect work

Oftentimes, we have an expectation that our art should come out of us fully formed. We don’t consider that all the art we admire had to have practice sessions or multiple edits before we got to experience it. In creating, we learn by doing. It’s a numbers game. We deserve to give ourselves as many chances to manifest our vision as possible. Pretend you are playing two roles as an artist. There is the creator whose goal is just to fill the page. Then there is the editor, who will go back and craft and strategize about how to improve it. Set a 10-minute timer and let the creator take charge.

2. Move your body

When I feel mentally stuck on an idea, sometimes the easiest way to combat it is to literally move. Our minds and our bodies are connected; when we move our bodies, we can energize our minds as well. Throw on your favorite song and dance, go for a walk, or even just get out of the house by going for a drive. Physically shifting our perspective can help us clean out the inner cobwebs.

3. Talk about your idea with a friend

This can be a scary concept if you like to work on an idea for some time alone before sharing it, but it can also help you gain powerful insights. Having to explain your idea to a friend can help you see blind spots that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. It can peel away the complicated layering and force us to get down to the basic concept that we are working on. Being disconnected from this root concept may be the very thing keeping us in blank page syndrome. Not to mention that a good conversation with a friend can go a long way in offering much-needed support!

4. Move on to a different section or a new piece

As a songwriter, I often use this trick. If I get stuck on a verse, I will work on the chorus. If I’m working on a melody that is just stalling, I will record and save my work, and then take a break from it altogether. Many times, I will figure out just what it needs as I’m pouring my cup of coffee the next morning. No matter what your medium is, sometimes we just need to take the pressure off and come back to it later. It’s amazing how many more ideas we can call in this way.

5. Use all of your available resources

It is truly an amazing time to be an artist. We have more supportive resources at our fingertips now than ever before. We can research at our local library or from the comfort of home. We have endless ideas available on Pinterest. There are rhyming dictionaries, masterclasses from our favorite artists, and free software online that we can use for inspiration. If you find yourself stuck, make sure you are taking a survey of all of your available tools and putting them to good use.

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