Understanding Creative Blocks and How to Overcome Them.

You have heard of writer’s block, when a writer struggles with getting his or her ideas down on paper. Every type of creative person goes though different cycles of creativity including times of great frustration where their creative juices do not flow at all or just barely trickles out. For visual creatives the term is more generic than it is for writers, it is called “creative block”.

The first time you experience a creative block can be quite unnerving. For most creative people, being creative is easy and as natural as breathing. So imagine having to think about every breath, every single breath is laboured, and it is a struggle to even just breathe. It may not be as life threatening as that, but it can seem like the end of the world to a creative, especially if it is a particularly long dry spell and/or you have never been though a creative block before.

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I can assure you that creative blocks go away, they always do. Knowing that is key to making through a block as unscathed as possible. It is important to not be hard on yourself while you are dealing with a creative block. Beating yourself up will not make it go away faster and in fact may prolong the time it takes to recover from a block. There are productive things you can do that may work to help you get the creative juices flowing again. These are some ideas that may help you recharge your batteries and regain your creativity.

Try something new

If you always shoot outside, then do a studio shoot. Maybe you only photograph people, then change it up, go outside and photograph some landscapes. You work only in colour, then make some black and white photographs. Doing the same thing over and over again can become stale and stagnate, which could have lead you to have the creative block in the first place. Mixing it up and going outside of your comfort zone can be one of the best ways to break a creative block. Doing something different makes you think differently, and perhaps it will make you approach problems from another angle.


Mood board

This is something I learned a long time ago from my friend Robert Inestroza. Robert is a very talented fashion designer I met in Milan. When I went to Robert’s studio to visit him and look at his work I noticed he had a board hanging near his desk. For every collection he did he created a ” mood board ” which had assorted items attached to the board. He would stick pieces of fabric to it for the colour or the texture of the fabric that he found interesting. He also had photographs on the board that he found in magazines that had certain feeling, colour, style to it that he felt fit into feeling for that mood board. Generally mood boards have a direction to them, like a colour scheme, a certain feeling to them, or both. You could just make a inspiration board instead, if you want to have a board that is not quite as linear as a mood board, that way you can just place items on your board that inspires you instead of inspiring a certain feeling.

Collect images

I have many folders on my computer with thousands of images that I love, and have collected over the years. Whenever I am in need of a quick fix of inspiration I sift though these images to find the image that will give me the direction I need to move forward with what I am working on. Sometimes it is something as simple as the pose of a model or how the hair and/or make-up is done. Most of the time it is the light in a photograph that inspires me. I rarely save images that are poorly lit unless the subject matter is so wonderful that it not effected by the bad light.

If I have a favourite model ( photographer, actor, musician ) with a large amount of images of that person, then I create sub-folders just for them, models like Linda Evangelista, Milla Jovovich, Bettie Page, et cetera. You could always do a Google search, but if you have already built up a library of inspiring images to look at it is much easier to get that quick fix of inspiration, which may rid you of a creative block. The advantage to having a folder of pre-edited images that you love is all the images will already be great and you won’t have to look at any mediocre photographs, like you would have to do when looking at a image search.


Visit websites of photographers you admire

Viewing other photographer’s websites is always a great way to become inspired. Their is no lack of talented people out there with wonderful websites full of content that may give you a idea for your next production. You could also find websites that showcase the kind of photography you like, that way you will be introduced to many photographers you may not of known of before.


Do something that has nothing to do with photography

Sometimes you just need to do something that just recharges your batteries. You have to do something that is fun or interesting that has nothing to do with you picking up a camera. Go see a film, go for a walk, visit some art galleries. Find some new music you like, read a book, or go to the gym. These are only suggestions and the idea here is to find something you like to do, other than photography.

Personal problems

If you are going though a period in your life that is difficult and are having a creative block, then most likely it is this personal issue that are causing the creative block. You may be able to overcome the block while still in the mist of your personal problems, but dealing with those problems may be the only way to end the creative block. If it is problem you know you can handle then great, you should be able to lift you block quite easily once you have dealt with the issue, but if it is something you are having great difficultly with ( death in your family, depression, financial, relationship ), you may need to seek out professional help, so I would suggest you find someone with whom you can talk to about your problems. It is very difficult to be creative with life weighing heavily upon you.


Creative blocks are normal and everyone goes though them. I have always looked at creative blocks as stepping stones to a higher level of creativity. They force you to think in a more lateral way instead of a linear way, which is the more natural way for creative people to think anyways. The key is to realize what is happening , why it is happening, and to not be hard on yourself.

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