I sat at my piano last week in the glow of the afternoon composing the second half of another ragtime tune. I felt like I was fully alive, soaring in the wind. I could see the lives of imaginary characters coming to life under the backdrop of my song, and was completely immersed in my fictional ragtime world. You see, regardless of whether I’m composing, performing, or listening to music, it sweeps me off into another world where I watch a unique story unfold.
Music makes me feel whole. At peace in the world. And last week at the piano, I experienced that unmistakably beautiful feeling again as I worked through a new section of my ragtime piece, putting an end to a season of creativity obstacles and unproductivity.
For a while it felt like my creativity was gone, like maybe I had used up my creativity allotment in life. I would sit down at the piano and try to compose, but nothing would come. I was uninspired. I started doubting myself and my abilities, slowly building up pressure and stress to the point of being frozen by fear.
After rediscovering my creativity during last week’s ragtime escape, I’ve been reflecting on my creativity roadblocks, trying to figure out where they originate from and how I can get past them in the future.
Why does a once-enjoyable act of creating art turn into a burden?
Most of my creativity roadblocks can be traced to my tendency to strive for perfection. While perfectionism can be helpful in small doses, too much can quash any artist’s creative endeavors. Even though I don’t compose to make money or to get famous, I still feel the desire to make all my work really good (at least to my ears), so when I don’t think I’m living up to that goal I get frustrated. The frustration just reinforces the roadblock by keeping me from even trying to be creative.
How can we get past our creativity roadblocks?
- One way is to make ourselves vulnerable as artists. Sometimes we need to grow as an individual before we are ready to create again. There may be certain lessons we need to learn first to better understand our self and our world and to bring us to a state of vulnerability in which we are open to inspiration.
- Create. Just give it a try. We can do ourselves a big favor too by not worrying about whether we’ll be able to write or paint again. Don’t beat yourself up if everything you create isn’t great or your favorite—that’s setting the stakes too high. Great artists create lots of not-so-good works amidst their really great works (they just usually don’t tell you about the not-so-good works).
- Be patient as you learn and grow as an artist. Many authors of bestsellers admit they experience creativity roadblocks when they set out to write their next book, fearing it could be a total flop and ruin their career. Growing means change, and so as you grow in your art some of the changes will be not-so-good, but some changes will be great and worth the wait.
Have you ever experienced your own creativity roadblocks? How do you get past them?