How To Beat Creative Block Forever

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And That Tool Is Your Brain.

Yes, you read that right. Your brain. You’re probably going like, “But my brain’s the problem here in the first place! I can’t come up with new ideas for my next work! How is my brain going to help me get out of this creative block!”

Trust me, I’ve been where you are.  Yes your mind is the reason why you’re in that situation and your mind is gonna help you get out of it cos ‘Gosh darn it Brain, it’s your fault why we’re here!”

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Before I share how you can use your tool, let’s look at why we get into creative blocks in the first place.

Do these sound familiar to you?

  • “I’m so scared that I’m just gonna be wasting my very expensive paints and 100% Cotton paper, or I’m going to ruin my brand new sketchbook with a bad sketch”

  • “I want to make something original! I don’t want to make another misty mountain scene or galaxy painting.“

  • “Gosh, Janessa makes such amazing pieces! Where does she get her ideas from?” (Heh, I am shameless)

Let’s go through each point one by one.

“I’m so scared that I’m just gonna be wasting my very expensive paints and 100% Cotton paper, or I’m going to ruin my brand new sketchbook with a bad sketch”

They are nothing but TOOLS. What are tools? Tools are things you use to help you create. Yes, they’re pricey but you got them in the first place cos you want quality and only the best will do.

And if you’re not using it now, when are you going to use those great tools you’ve invested in?

Don’t tell me. Are you actually waiting for that great idea, that amazing masterpiece you’re going to create, and then,  only then you’ll use them?

Girl (or Bro), stop.

When I paint, I make sure that I put in my best work no matter what and use my best tools because even if my ideas are dumb or freaking Picasso-like genius, I put in my all because consistency is key to getting good and your best tools will help you get good faster. So throw away that thought, squeeze out those paint and be generous to yourself.

“I want to make something original! I don’t want to make another misty mountain scene or galaxy paintings”

I’m sorry to say that nothing is Original. NOTHING.

Picasso stole from Millet, Andy Warhol from Kasuma, Matisse and many other artists but we consider their works original even though, in Van Gogh’s case it was so blatant.

But that’s the thing, it's what made them good. Copying allowed them to develop their skills and helped them evolve into their distinctive styles we recognize. They also didn't just copy from one artist, they stole a bit from here and there to build their style.

But yes I hear you. I’m tired of seeing galaxy watercolors and foggy mountain scenes as well. My question is, did you ever try to create those types of paintings?

I co-hosted a challenge not too long ago and I created a piece that was a typical foggy pine tree landscape. And oh my gosh, it’s a lot harder than it looked and I was humbled. But I also created something a little different than the usual generic foggy mountain landscape because of a simple and fun formula but that’s for later.

 
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“Gosh, Janessa makes such amazing work! Where does she get her ideas from?”

Easy. I got it from my brain. My brain is the dream bank where we wish we can withdraw all the cash we want without ever running out of it. But instead of cash, I draw out ideas and I’ve never run out of ideas since.

But let’s look at the underlying issue here.

When you think that thought, were you looking at your favorite artist’s Instagram or Pinterest?

Because that’s usually when this pesky thought pops up in my brain.

I get so obsessed over an artist, that I’d stalk them just to find out how they get their ideas and what their process is like so I could try and copy them. And then I’d get so upset over why I can’t come up with amazing work like theirs despite copying their process, using the same tools that they have and using the same techniques.

And it crippled me. It crippled my creativity, my self-worth and I ended up being in a bad place in my mind.

I failed to realize then, that the reasons why their works are so amazing because it’s their ideas.  Not mine. I was copying them for the wrong reasons. When I finally did realize this, I took a friend’s advice and I stopped looking at their art for a while so I could reset and get back to a place that was healthy.

And it was during those times that I made my best work because I was drawing ideas from my own bank.

Eventually, I started looking at their works again but this time with an eye to copying what appealed to me in terms of their technique and style so I could adapt it into my own ideas and arsenal of techniques that I hope would one day evolve into a style that was is my own.

And I hope that you stop comparing yourself to others and start trusting in yourself that you can create great work as well.

So, let’s get started on getting you out of that creative block. I’ve created a workbook, which you can grab below, to help you with this process or you can just grab a pen and paper.

Your Idea Bank

I hear people tell me all the time, ‘go for walks’ or ‘visit a museum’ to get inspired when you’re in a creative block but it’s so vague.

How is it going to inspire me? Well yes, you can get inspired when you do those but only when you know what to look for and that only comes in the later stages of creating ideas.

Specifically the 2nd exercise that I’m gonna share later.

But the first thing you’re going to do is you’re gonna open an account with your Idea Bank and make a deposit.

Yes, you need to make a deposit before you make any returns. And I know it sounds like a Ponzi scheme, using your brain to make a deposit into your brain. Well, it’s a Magic Bank ok, and that’s not the point.

Here’s what I mean by making a deposit. Print out your worksheet (think of it as your bank book), grab a pen, put away your phone and start writing down all the things that you love, things that interest you and your beliefs.

It doesn’t matter if it’s things that won’t translate into your work. Just write it all down.

Here’s what my Idea Bank looks like.

 
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You can write as much as you want and there’s no time limit, take as long as you need. And even if you don’t fill up the whole space, it’s ok, you can always come back to it and add on.

Done? Congratulations!

You’re now never going to run out of ideas ever again and the most beautiful part is, they’re your own ideas. It’s personal to you. It’s your interests and your beliefs. Doesn’t matter if some of those interests and beliefs are things other people also like and believe in as well. The most important thing is it matters to you and it gets you excited.

So let’s move on to how you can draw out more from your ideas with 3 easy and fun exercises.

Exercise 1: Dive Deep into one Topic

Pick an item on your list. Write down why you love that particular item. So for me, I love Doors. And the reasons why I love them is because:

  • To me they symbolize opportunities

  • The act of opening a door to a room or a place I’ve never been is exciting cos I’m going to discover something new

  • Doors are cool AF. They come in all sorts of sizes, color, design and the best part is they’re functional.

  • I also love doors because, on the other hand, they symbolize control. For days when I just want to be by myself, I can always close the door. I can decide who I want to let into my life.

Okay I went deep there but your reasons doesn’t have to be deep, it can be as fluffy and ridiculous as, because I want to work for Monster Inc so that I could secretly travel the world by just opening doors. Or you love leaves, simply because the patterns of their veins are mesmerizing and you can spend a whole day just studying the patterns.

And this exercise, again personal to you. You can take one of those reasons and create a painting. Here’s a painting that I created during that “dark time” I shared earlier on.

 
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You can continue on the exercise with other topics but I bet you right now, with that just one topic, you’re already brimming with ideas and itching to create something.

Exercise 2: Build Your Visual Library

You’re going to love this phase. You’re gonna go on to Pinterest and create a board and then you’re going to search for your topic and go crazy pinning. BOOM.  You have just created your visual library. And right here are is an example of a Visual Library board I created in Pinterest.

Also now is the time you go out and take a walk or visit the museum and take photos to add on to your visual library. That’s how you can get inspired by going out because you know what to look for now thanks to your Idea Bank.

A visual library is another great tool for you, because firstly, you now have references of your topic and it’s going to create more ideas from the visual stimulation you get by just looking at the images. It’s also a great way to develop your skills because preliminary sketches and studies are NEVER going to be a chore again since it’s a topic that you love.

Exercise 3: Create a Mash Up!

Another fun exercise! This is the formula I use to come up with even more ideas and here’s how I do it.

Topic 1 + Topic 2 + Art Technique/Tool/Style/Medium

So remember the foggy pine tree landscape painting? That’s what I did:

Topic 1: Geometric Shape + Topic 2: Complimentary Colors + Generic Watercolor Landscape

Here’s another artwork that I did that used that same formula.

 
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Pretty cool right? You can just do two topics and not bother about style, you can also try and do a mash up of 4 or 5 topics although personally, that gets messy fast. I once came up with, Travelling Feminist Door Empowering Rocks. Laughed my ass off with that one.

And that leads to my next point, some ideas won’t work but you’re going to have fun coming up with ideas. Ideas that came from you and is personal to you.

Your Idea Bank, together with the 3 exercises that I’ve equipped you with, it’s going to help you generate even more ideas.

So I want you right now, grab copy of the workbook now, open an account and make a deposit and destroy that creative block.

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Don’t forget to pin this if you love it!

I told a client no.

I do a quite a bit of freelance work in online marketing and copywriting. I get clients that aren’t really the best people to work with. I’m sure you know what’s that like And I won’t get poetic about it (unless you really want me to).

Well for this client, their request was bordering on shady AF.

What they essentially want me to do is grab a list of information about people from another site that seems to be dead, put it on theirs and ask me to reach out to them after the fact and tell them,

“Yoohoo, we’re xxx and we put your info on our site, let us know if you need us to update the information and here’s your affiliate code.”

Nope, nope, nope-ity, nope. Just nope.

Meet my new buddy the No Whale.

Meet my new buddy the No Whale.

I told them that I won’t do it and I was quite adamant about it.

If you’re asking why? Well that’s not the point. But the reason why is, firstly, they didn’t get permission from those people even though their information are in the public, secondly not everyone will want to be associated with the business.

They made lots of whiney noises and excuses but I held my ground. And just said, I can’t do it cos it’s wrong and its bad for you.

And if you’re wonder, but Janessa, that’s a terrible way to treat your client.

Well, did you think about the consequences that might happen if I caved in?

Eventually someone on that list will go,

”Who dis? How’d you get my info, my lawyer will be contacting you.”

Or,

“Boycott @xxx. They’re shady AF, they put my info on their site without my permission and expect me to promote them.”

Now that’s a terrible way to treat your client.

I used to be so afraid to say no and it’s taken me so long to get to this point.

My stupid weak-ass justification then was, “I should yes, so that the client is happy.”

Well, here’s where saying yes led to:

  1. It made my job difficult. I was doing things that weren’t productive and often times against what I know is right.

  2. When shit hit the fan, it was ugly and the clean up will make you cry.

  3. And not surprisingly, we lost the client at the end of the project.

And here’s what saying ‘No’ gives you:

  1. You’re more empowered in your work because you’re saying no to things that isn’t going to help you in your career and reputation.

  2. You gain the respect of the client because you are establishing and showcasing your expertise and knowledge. I mean that’s why they hired you right?.

  3. You get clients that matters because if saying no means losing a client then they weren’t the right people you should work with in the first place.

At the end of the day when you say no to a client, you say it because you have their best interest in mind.

So I want to hear from you. Tell me in the comments the times you’ve said yes, when you should have said no and what happened?

P.S. If you enjoy this content and would like to get updates when I post new ones, sign up for the mailing list

P.P.S I say client in my post but this could easily be replaced with the words ‘boss’ , ‘mum’, ‘dad’, ‘annoying younger sibling’ or ‘friend who’s always borrowing cash and promising they’ll pay you back really soon’

P.P.P.S. (I swear it’s the last one) If you loved No Whale, and you absolutely must have it, it’s available as an art print in my Society6 Shop.