Saturday , 25 October 2014
Creative Block can be nasty. You're sitting in front of a blank page/blank canvas/blank beading board with a blank look on your face. Then begins a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach accompanied by self-doubt, then the "I-feel-a-headache-coming-on" feeling followed by a mad dash for potato chips or ice cream or Twitter.

Overcoming Creative Blocks

Overcoming Creative Block – All of these beaded wooden necklaces
began with one idea: “wood” And one technique: brainstorming.

Creative Block can be nasty.  You’re sitting in front of a blank page/blank canvas/blank beading board with a blank look on your face.  Then begins a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach accompanied by self-doubt, then the “I-feel-a-headache-coming-on” feeling followed by a mad dash for potato chips or ice cream or Twitter.  Luckily, working through it is easier than it feels like it will be.  Like with so many things, the hardest step is the first one, but once you get rolling, the creative rollercoaster will take over!

That’s what I’m here for today, to help you overcome creative blocks and get the rollercoaster rolling again!  One of my favorite strategies for overcoming creative blocks is one I learned in my college ceramics class.  Make 100 Things. No matter what creative pursuit of your’s has become blocked, this will help you.  Write 100 poems, sculpt 100 sculptures, bead 100 necklaces, draw 100 cartoons.  Seems impossible when you feel like you can’t even make one, right?  Well, here’s where the playfulness comes in.  This creative exercise isn’t about achieving something, it’s about letting go of something. You don’t have to make 100 award winning paintings, you just have to go go go as fast as you can and make 100 quick, seat-of-the-pants, anything-goes paintings!  They can all be awful, it doesn’t matter!!  Don’t try to imbue them with meaning, don’t try to do anything with them except to get them done.
I was introduced to this technique when I was beginning a new semester in my undergraduate study and was left to strike out on my own and see what art I could come up with.  *eeek!*  My art professor gave me the task of making 100 ceramic sculptures after our first critique.  She wanted me to make 100 sculptures by next week.  By next week?!  Well, I didn’t get 100 out.  I think I managed to make 80 or 90.  They averaged about twice the size of my fist.  When we had our next critique and they were all laid out together, we could see patterns, a direction.  Ocean creatures.  Funny, I wasn’t expecting that!  Well, from there I went on to create a whole semester’s worth of 4 foot tall ceramic ocean creatures.  Colorful, fun to make, they filled me with wonder.  The roller-coaster was rolling again!
After college, I had another period of creative block that lasted until I began making my natural stone, gemstone, wood and pearl jewelry. The roller coaster was kicked back into high gear when I just started playing at creating as many different jewelry designs I could come up with using the few materials I had on hand, including my own, home grown job’s tears beads which started the whole adventure for me.  I’ve been asked by so many people if I’m ever afraid that I’ll run out of ideas for my handmade beaded jewelryand my answer is always a moment of surprise followed by an emphatic “Never!”  (Ask if I’m ever afraid of being able to find time to make everything I want to or of being able to get it all sold in a timely manner and the answer would be less self-assured, but I’m getting better at those things, too!)

Just now, I’m working on creating a proliferation of wooden jewelry designs.  Here, over the span of a weekend, is what I’ve come up with using my “Make 100 Things” technique.  I’ve gotten up to 66 (if I count correctly!) and I’ll admit, they aren’t all winners.  But I see at least 20 that I’m going to make right away!  The simple act of sitting down and playing with all the wooden beads I have on hand has given me a familiarity with the new materials.  I “know” them in a deeper way now and coming up with creative and beautiful ways to combine them will be a lot easier now!

I hope this technique for overcoming creative block will be as helpful for all of you as it has been for me!  Until next time, happy creating :)
Guest Post by: Jenny Hoople

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23 comments

  1. Amazing! thanks for the great tips! I’m going to have to try this too! Just keep going! ;)

    Pei Li

  2. Thank you! This post is exactly what I needed. Ironically, my fb status today is about staying open and in the moment because you just never know where inspiration may come from! Feeling a bit of a creative block lately so I needed to reconnect with myself and be open to new things/sites/experiences in hopes of finding my next great idea….thank you for reminding me that I am not alone is this!

    • You’re welcome! Another art professor of mine always said: “You’ll start making art again when not making art becomes more painful than making it.” Hang in there, it’ll start up again!

  3. Handmade Treasures

    Best tip I have heard in such a long time!!! I am going to take your advice and try this with my mom and sister. Ready to see what we come up with!!!

  4. Excellent advice! Excuse me, gotta go make 100 things now!

  5. I sat yesterday, in a studio overflowing with supplies, and peeled paint with my fingernails off my studio table. To say I need a kick in the pants would be an understatement. I need to go home and start making 100 of “something” thanks!

    • I hear ya! You finally get a big block of free time for creating and you just aren’t feeling it. I know that for exercise they decided that “feel the burn” was the wrong attitude, but for making art, sometimes it’s necessary!

      (Taking product shots is the thing I have to push myself through to get it done!)

  6. Great advice! I have found just opening my Etsy shop, has been a great catalyst to creative energy. It kind of follows what your saying about just doing it. It’s been great to realize the more I create the less blocks I have.
    Course that doesn’t mean I never have them, going thru a bit of one right now on a necklace I started. :)

  7. Very nice, I posted this to my Facebook wall. I’m not currently experiencing a block, but I still think this is a fun experiment that will help me flow more. Thanks!

  8. Wow! Interesting article. Thanks for sharing. The idea of creating 100 of something sounds daunting, but I will give it a go.

  9. All of the necklaces came out outstanding I’m sure. I like what I see here :-) Keep up the great work and sharing your knowledge. THx

  10. Hi Jenny,

    I’ll try anything. So far,nothing is working
    and my creative block, which I’ve experienced before, but never this bad, has lasted over a year. I have half heartedly continued to pursue my craft, however, I have been on etsy for over 2 yrs and have only sold 3 pieces. I don’t believe I am still having a creative block as much as “creative depression”.
    Sorry, just had to get that out. Thanks for the info and I will work on 100 designs starting this weekend. peace, elizabeth

  11. Funny….I was just looking at my pictures that I put up on my shop, they all kind a looked the same. Of course,the colors and descriptions were the same. I was just wondering whats going on with my mind and then I read this post.
    Yea…I will go and make some more necklaces.My aim was to add 20 more pieces this month…but I have managed to make 11 pieces. Well, almost there. Thanks for that nudge. Gotta go

  12. This is just what I needed, Jenny! I keep spreading out materials and staring at them. I think I know the root cause and your techique might help me get over it. I think I’m afraid that everything I design won’t be perfect, so I get stuck trying, discarding, trying, discarding. I can’t wait to get started on my 100 new designs. :) Thank you!

    FYI to Elizabeth, I had the same problem with little selling off my ETSY site. What recently gave me a kickstart is the exact advice I keep reading…post, post more, then post even more! I went on a spree recently and posted dozens of items and 3 new orders just rolled in! I have a long way to go, but it is energizing.

  13. Thank you so very much! I make beaded jewlery and I have this problem all the time! It’s late tonight but I’m gonna try this tomorrow. I’ve had the block for awhile and I will let you know if this works for me……..stay tuned!

  14. Wow, this is so me right now. I have no choice but to try this 100 things technique.

  15. Hmm I think I have creative ‘overload’….. Too many ideas, too many projects on the go, too many designs I want to follow through. Mind you at the end of the day the result is pretty much the same in the sense that i don’t get anything/enough done. It is ‘easier’ to escape to twitter than focus and condense :-)

  16. Great idea! Just the kickstart I need.

  17. Thanks for reminding me of this! I too was given a similar directive in art school! I had forgotten all about it. I have been stuck lately and you have just made me wake up and get going!
    Thank you!!!

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