So, You’re a Blocked, Aspiring Artist?
Join the club ;)
There are a lot of people out there who have a special creative talent but have difficulty unlocking its full potential. Maybe you just do it for fun, and that’s enough for you. But I’m willing to bet that the majority of us wish we could break out of whatever we’re doing and make a full-time living doing that creative thing we love so much.
For many, getting started on that journey is the hard part. Others have gotten over that hump and are already on the right path, but haven’t necessarily achieved what they want yet. They desperately want to get to the next level but don’t know how. They are blocked in some way.
As TV and film writer Hank Steinberg (Without a Trace, The Last Ship) said on The Moment with Brian Koppelman podcast:
“…there were plenty of times where I wondered if I had the talent. Actually, I think I felt that I had the talent somewhere inside of me and something to say, but I did wonder at times why I didn’t have the ability to access it.”
I love this quote because I am literally living Hank’s thoughts and feelings as an aspiring professional writer. Writing is my thing; it’s what makes me come alive. I’ve been writing rather consistently for almost a year and a half now and am starting to understand what it is I stand for and want to communicate to the world.
Having said that, sometimes I wonder if I will ever figure out how to turn my ability to write into a unique message or idea that resonates with a larger audience. It’s like this weird in between state that I can’t see the other side of unless I keep going. I have to believe in myself and have blind faith that it will all work out.
This is a tough spot to be in, but it’s a reality for all artists. Even those who are successful are always striving for more.
If you’re frustrated with your current state as an aspiring artist, you’re not alone. Many of us are trying to break through; it’s a daily battle. If you really care about turning your dreams into reality, you won’t give up.
Here are some actionable steps you can take to overcome your creative blocks as an aspiring artist:
1. Keep doing the work anyway.
You’re not going to get better if you stop working on your art, so don’t. Try to show up every day and make something, no matter how small. Progress is always greater than inaction.
The quality of your work may not be up to your standards when you feel blocked, and that’s okay. You will improve over time. The important thing is that you’re spending time on your craft and facing the resistance day in and day out. Remember what they say, “Hard work pays off.”
Don’t forget to share your work along the way, too. Stay relevant among your fans and potential fans, and show them what the journey is all about.
2. Work on a project you’re passionate about.
If you feel like you don’t know what you should be working on right now, take a page out of Hank Steinberg’s book and focus on something you’re passionate about. Forget creating something for the current market. Create art around a subject or idea you’re obsessed with. You’re naturally going to want to work harder to make it successful, and that should hopefully translate to the final product.
If you’re not sure what you’re passionate about, audit the content you consume (e.g. podcasts, TV shows, books, music, YouTube videos, etc.). Since humans are multi-faceted, you’re probably passionate about many things. Do your best to prioritize them and pick the one you love the most to start with. If it doesn’t go anywhere, move to the next one on the list.
3. Change up your routine.
Maybe your current routine, which led to productive work in the past, needs some adjustments. Try doing the different elements of your routine in a new order. Or substituting certain habits with new ones. The possibilities are endless here. Your creative battery might just need a recharge, and tinkering with your routine could just provide the spark you need.
4. Talk to your fans.
While I don’t necessarily think your fans should dictate exactly the work you’re going to do next, their input is still valuable. These are the people who care enough to pay attention to what you’re doing and are rooting for you to succeed. Ask them what their favorite parts of your work have been or what they’d love to see you explore next. Use that as inspiration.
5. Talk to other artists you admire who are at that next level.
You can start by looking at your network within your craft. What other artists do you know who do the same thing / something similar to you and are succeeding more at it? There’s got to be a short list that comes to mind.
If not, you need to reach out to some of those people and ask them for help. While it might be intimidating to do so, you need to remember that they were once in your shoes. If they got to the next level, why can’t you do the same? Consider asking them to do an interview or shooting them a genuine email that delivers value in some way, yet asks a specific question geared towards helping you break through.
You can also try connecting with artists outside your craft who are doing interesting work. Sure, they may not have tactical advice tailored to your craft, but an artist is an artist is an artist. He or she might have some practical exercises that help feed your internal desires and mind the fuel it needs to get through this creative block. Ask them about their routines and how they manage to get their work done each and every day. Their answers might just be what you need to get the creative juices flowing again.
6. Consume inspiring content.
What inspires you most? Whatever your answer to that question is, dive deeper into it. Double down on the amount of that content you consume. Immerse yourself in it. Let it get you fired up. Surround yourself with so much positivity and motivation that the only you can do as a result is take action and begin working on something that ignites your creativity.
Books and podcast interviews typically do the trick for me. There’s nothing like hearing someone else’s story who was facing the same demons as you and was able to overcome them and do something great. You can, too.
If you’re down on your luck creatively, snap out of it. Be the person who does something about it, not the one who hides in fear and lets it get the best of him. You’ve got to keep pushing, each and every day. Pick 1 of the 6 steps above, and give it a shot. It might just be the little nudge you need to get back on the horse. The world needs your creativity, and your best work is yet to come. Let’s see it!