A while before I originally prepared this article, I’d tried and failed to write two other articles. I felt an overwhelming sense of “it’s not good enough” about creating things, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to write about things like writer’s block and artist’s block. In particular, about self-critical writer’s block/artist’s block.
This can happen when you either feel overwhelmed by the idea of “I should be creating things” or the idea of “everything I create seems to be terrible“. Typically, it tends to happen directly after both highly inspired projects and/or failed attempts at creative projects. But, it can also happen if you aren’t in a particularly great mood or are feeling overwhelmed in some way or another.
So, how do you deal with it?
Well, if you’ve been creating things for a while, then you’ll probably know that there’s a good chance that this is just a passing phase. Something annoying that happens to all creative people every now and then. Usually, the best way to deal with it is just to keep creating things – even if they’re “terrible” – until you start making good stuff again. After all, a “terrible” finished painting or story is always better than a “good” unfinished one.
But, there are lots of sneakier ways to get around it too. One obvious way is simply to look for another inspiration – yes, this depends on time and budget – but, if you can find something that absolutely knocks your socks off (eg: a film in your favourite genre that you haven’t seen before, an awesome indie game that leaves a lot to the imagination, an amazing webcomic that you’ve never heard of before etc.) then not only will this give you something to take inspiration from, but it will also fill you with the feeling of being in awe of a creative work.
If you aren’t careful, this feeling of awe can actually make your uninspiration worse. But, if you’re very careful about how you think about this, then you can turn it into a brilliant source of creative motivation here. The trick is, of course, NOT to think “This film/game/comic is brilliant, I’ll never be able to make something that good!“. Instead, try to think something like “How can I make something different that is as cool as the thing I just saw? I’ve got to try.”
The difference is subtle, but one attitude will leave you feeling defeated before you even start and the other one will make you want to try creating something.
Another way to deal with creative self-criticism is simply to see it as part of the process. All of your favourite writers and artists weren’t born talented. They all had to learn, practice and make mistakes. They all went through phases where they felt that they couldn’t produce anything good. The fact that you are experiencing something like this means that you are taking art and/or writing seriously. If you weren’t, not feeling like you can make great things wouldn’t hurt at all.
So, when you find yourself in one of these moods, see it as a challenge. See it as something that all of the people you admire have had to deal with before (which means that you are on the right track). See it as a chance to work out all sorts of sneaky ways to get out of this mood.
And, yes, keeping a regular practice schedule will teach you a lot of these tricks. Whether it’s making “silly” private projects that you never show anyone, whether it’s remaking some of your old stuff, whether it’s making fan art/ writing fan fiction, whether it’s trying to create something in one of your favourite genres, whether it’s descriptive writing/still life painting etc.. there are loads of sneaky ways out of the mood that you’re in at the moment.
So, instead of feeling terrible about “not being able to create good stuff”, try looking for sneaky ways to get around this mood. Even if you don’t succeed at first, the shift in focus from feeling sorry for yourself to trying to figure out strange and unconventional ways around the problem will gradually help you to have a better frame of mind.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂