A Different Approach to Art Block

Art Block Illustration

There are various names for this phenomenon — writer’s block, creative block, or art block. I made a list a while back with some suggestions if you have this problem. Today I’ll show you a different approach with an exercise.

This exercise includes a) different steps you do in a relaxed body position, b) mental imagery exercises, and c) a visualization of your art block.

It can also help you solve daily creative problems in your work. For example, if you get stuck on a project and don’t know what to do. That’s why I will test and do this exercise myself too.

I have adapted this exercise so you can do it alone, as it is usually done with a therapist who guides you. This means that I will change this exercise over time with feedback.

What can help with an art block?

There is evidence that vivid daydreaming helps with a creative block. That’s why we do an exercise that enhances this.

We all know when we go for a walk with a problem in our mind, we find the solution before we even come back from the walk. In this sense, I believe that daydreaming can help us when we have this issue.

But how can we deliberately start this daydreaming? Of course, we can encourage it by doing nothing and letting our thoughts run free. By doing something other than our creative work and thus letting daydreaming take its course. Or just do something else, like Kness did, when she had art block. Or we can apply this solution with an exercise, which encourages daydreaming. As a result, it helps with our creative block.

One part of the exercise is a series of mental imagery exercises that form the basis of the Creative Imagination Scale. I’ll give you this part of the exercise in short, there is a link below for more details.

Mental imagery exercises

  1. Arm Heaviness
    • Think about how your arms are getting heavier.
  2. Hand Levitation
    • Think about how your arms are getting lighter.
  3. Finger Anesthesia
    • Imagine your fingers going numb.
  4. Water “Hallucination”
    • Imagine drinking cool refreshing water.
  5. Olfactory-Gustatory “Hallucination”
    • Think about how you perceive the taste and smell of an orange.
  6. Music “Hallucination”
    • Listen to music in your mind that you heard the other day.
  7. Temperature “Hallucination”
    • Imagine your arms getting warm.
  8. Time Distortion
    • Try to slow down time with your thoughts.
  9. Age Regression
    • Imagine going back in time, e.g. childhood.
  10. Mind-Body Relaxation
    • Try to relax your mind and body.

The problem with this exercise

And what’s the problem? A therapist should guide you through this whole exercise, while you are in a relaxed state. Quite difficult to do if no therapist is around. Hence, we’re going to change it up a bit and do it ourselves!

Go through the mental imagery exercise, preferably writing it down, and try to imagine how you do every point of this. Look for personal examples such as point 8 “Time Distortion”. When is the moment in time you will imagine? Then try to remember these points as best as you can.

When you have done that, go to the whole exercise below, which contains a few more points that are easy to remember. If you do the exercise and forget a few things, don’t worry! It’s not a problem at all. If you do the exercise over and over again, you will memorize everything and incorporate the forgotten things.

The exercise against art block

Are you ready? Then let’s do this!

  1. Sit in a dark room with your eyes closed and focused on making yourself relaxed.
  2. Now describe to yourself the contents of your ongoing thoughts and fantasies.
  3. Do the mental image exercises as mentioned. No more than 1.5 minutes for each exercise.
    1. Arm Heaviness
    2. Hand Levitation
    3. Finger Anesthesia
    4. Water “Hallucination”
    5. Olfactory-Gustatory “Hallucination”
    6. Music “Hallucination”
    7. Temperature “Hallucination”
    8. Time Distortion
    9. Age Regression
    10. Mind-Body Relaxation
  4. Now visualize or otherwise experience the elements of your current creative work. Imagine your creative block. What do you want to work on right now? What is the problem? How do you move on?
  5. Come back to reality. Stretch your limbs. Breathe deeply. Open your eyes.

Repeat this daily for two weeks or more. You can try doing this as a ritual before you do any creative work.

Because this is a work in progress and I’ll continue to adjust the exercise after feedback. So, if you do the exercise for a while, it would be cool if you can send me your feedback! I will adapt and improve the exercise so that it is even more applicable and can help you.


Mental imaginary exercises from the Creative Imagination Scale:

Singer, J. L., & Barrios, M. V. (2009). Writer’s block and blocked writers: Using natural imagery to enhance creativity. In S. B. Kaufman & J. C. Kaufman (Eds.), The psychology of creative writing  (pp. 225–246). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511627101.016

Barber, T. X., & Wilson, S. C. (1978). The Barber Suggestibility Scale and the Creative Imagination Scale: Experimental and clinical applications. The American journal of clinical hypnosis21(2-3), 84–108. https://doi.org/10.1080/00029157.1978.10403966

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Creative Work Problems – No. 6 – Creativity in Lockdown

creatvity in lockdown. Try something new

The idea for this Comic came from Siri. Check out her work: https://www.instagram.com/airajoana/

10 ideas for you to try something new and stay creative

  1. Try out new materials and techniques of your favorite way to do art or how you design stuff.
  2. Learn new programs that you can use in your daily work process.
  3. Go into an art shop and buy something you never tried.
  4. If you work in 3D, do something in 2D.
  5. If you work in 2D, do something in 3D.
  6. Do something you always wanted to try.
  7. Animate the stuff that you design or the art you do.
  8. Create new ideas for projects. Try different ways of generating ideas.
  9. Think about how you could work a story into your art or design. Even if it’s an abstract way you work.
  10. What is something you need or want to improve in your artistic repertoire? Learn or improve it!

Creative Work Problems – No. 2 – Creative Block

Creative Block Illustration

Some additional tips for creative block

  1. Try to determine the reason for the block and apply a solution to it. When did it start? What helped you with similar previous problems?
  2. Try to work on a better process in your creative life. How do you work? How can you improve it? 
  3. Get better goal-setting strategies. Why are you doing this? Find your purpose within your work!
  4. People who are more confident with their work are less likely to build a blockade. Try to build confidence. Worst case: Fake it till you make it! Tell yourself, the work you are doing is awesome (and it probably is). Send me something you have done, if you want to get feedback from someone. 🙂
  5. You need to plan but don’t overdo it. Find a middle ground in what you do in a day.
  6. Build habits with your creative work. Try to start at the same time each day.
  7. Exercise and taking a walk is a good way to get over a block. Try to do this daily, even for a few minutes.
  8. Talk about your ideas and work with other people.
  9. Take a break!

Note: If you search this topic try to use the terms writer’s, art, or creative block. 

Source: Ahmed, Sarah J., “An Analysis of Writer’s Block: Causes, Characteristics, and Solutions” (2019). UNF Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 903. https://digitalcommons.unf.edu/etd/903