To a creative person, not being able to produce can be a terrifying feeling. Those in creative professions – writers, musicians, performers, artists, will report periods of stalled creativity at some point in their lives. “Creative blocks” or “writer’s blocks” are barriers to inspiration, and can be described as the inability to access one’s internal creativity.
The common misconception is that a creative block is the inability to create or produce work, but the inability to create or produce work may be a symptom of an underlying emotional and psychological issue.
Identifying the root cause of the block will help you understand how and why a block develops in order to prevent it from returning.
Common causes of creative blocks include:
• A strong inner critic
• Negative self-talk, criticism, or self-doubt
• Fear of rejection or failure
• Anxiety related to the outcome of the work
• The death of a loved one or the end of a relationship
• Financial strain
• The depletion of creative energy after an intense period of creating
• Repeated rejection of one’s work
• Substance abuse/dependence
• Medical illness
• A sudden loss of meaning and purpose in one’s work
• Major changes or life events
Therapy to Cope with Creative Blocks
Because creative individuals rely heavily on creative construction to make a living, a creative block can cause significant distress on the individual’s mental and emotional state of mind. The construction of one’s work is also tied into the creative individual’s identity, which can have an adverse effect on self-esteem and sense of self. A mental health professional with experience working with those in creative fields can help the individual explore the underlying emotional and psychological causes of the creative block and help find solutions to overcome it.
Creative blocks are typically a natural part of the creative process and normalizing the experience of the creative block can help ease the individual’s perception associated with it. Refraining from using the term “creative block” or “writer’s block” and reframing the block as a natural process can help the individual regain control, alleviate stress and help shift negative distortions associated with the block.
Therapists who express understanding of the creative process may be able to assist with developing coping strategies through periods of stalled creativity. Exploring a variety of strategies such as eliminating distractions, changing habits and routines, changing perfectionist attitudes, and softening the inner critic can support a renewed sense of creativity. In addition to developing coping strategies, specific modalities of therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based approaches, and art therapy can be effective in working through the psychological components associated with the creative block.
-Anahita Kashefi, M.S. is a Los Angeles-based Associate Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in relationships and creative issues.