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Creative Block Part 1: Transforming a State of ‘Stuck’

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

Whether it’s drawing, picking up an instrument, writing or dancing, ‘creative block’ is the phenomenon of experiencing a blockage in creativity and forward movement in one's work. This can be due to many factors, such as lack of inspiration, fear of failure, self-doubt, or simply not knowing where to start. When we believe that we are uninspired or empty of ideas to create, it can be difficult to motivate ourselves to engage in the activity which we are struggling to relate with. In this blog post, we will explore this idea of being ‘stuck’ from a therapeutic perspective as a way to catalyze the forward movement needed from a creative breakthrough and sustained ‘flow’.

When we think about a blockage, we might consider its meaning and purpose. For instance, to block is to prevent one side/space/element/material from connecting to another. A blockage may cause damage through an unhealthy or overwhelming build up, and therefore, communicates a need for assistance, intervention and attention. A blockage could also be an effective way to prevent something from interfering, overflowing or contaminating something else. When I think of a positive blockage, I think of a literal dam for water and how it serves a functional purpose as a method of containment.

Applying these ideas in a therapeutic way, we can begin to work with our own artist or creative block as a source of our own inspiration and originating point for creating. If we were to take a moment and intentionally sit with this theme in mind, “creative block”, we could very simply ask ourselves to respond intuitively to the concept. We could ask ourselves “If this block were in our bodies where would it be? What would this blockage look like? What purpose is it serving? What is the blockage made up of? (allow yourself to be imaginative and refrain from judging what surfaces in your mind as you answer these questions.) How long has this blockage been here? Do you see what is being separated or what parts are unable to touch or interact? What is the size of the blockage and is it fully visible? Does the blockage have any distinguishable features, such as a hole, a tunnel, leak, etc? Really allow yourself to play into this idea of exploring the blockage internally and allowing yourself to build a relationship with it. Visualize yourself encountering the blockage and noticing the feelings that surface as you experience it in your mind.

At this point, it may be helpful to write down your thoughts and responses to these questions in a journal and sit with the answers that came up for you. It is in these spaces that you are able to make small shifts towards transformation by acting. To decide that it is worth writing about and taking the time and energy to perform, you are also solidifying in your mind and body that creativity is valuable. And the hope is that what we value, we make space for and what we make space for, we feel driven towards. It may also be helpful to consider your expectations at this point. What is it that you are believing about what it means to be ‘stuck’. Is this assessment based on a comparison of your creative self a few years ago when you were performing at a different level and engaged in a different period in your life? Allow yourself to see this time of writing and intentionally focusing on this theme as purposeful and foundational for the change you are seeking.

It is also in this meditative and introspective process that we can begin to discover our own individual needs and beliefs about how we can overcome these blocks. Once we have a visualization, we can then work with the image to literally plan how to shift the blockage, work with the blockage, add to it or even appreciate it. It is in this interplay that we are beginning to alter our awareness and relationship with something that once felt ambiguous or purely conceptual. We are being asked to use our creativity throughout this visualization process and that is the key to getting unstuck.

If this topic interests you, please look out for our next blog post where we will delve deeper into ways of nurturing and promoting states of ‘flow’ as we work with our creative blocks.

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