You’ve been successful as an artist for many years. You’ve always trusted and felt confident in your creativity and ability to make your art. Your art has impacted people and you have an audience that loves and respects your work. You remember those moments when your creative process felt like watching a movie unfold before you. The images, the feelings, the music, characters would simply come alive and become your art.
But now, you feel you lost touch with your creativity. You don’t feel confident in what you create. The story doesn’t flow. The work isn’t filled with the energy of real emotions. You don’t know what has happened to you. You’re afraid you’ve lost something essential. You don’t trust you’ll ever be creative again.
What’s going on? You’ve always been a creative. You’ve always had the gift of creating and making stories and experiences for people. Where are you? Where is the real you, the artist?
At some point in their career, many artists lose touch with their creativity and experience creative blocks. For some, this is a scary experience. Creativity is their name, their identity, their financial safety. It’s the source of their stability, satisfaction, and fulfillment. It’s their life.
You probably recognize that you are most creative when you’re in a certain emotional mindset and in a particular physical place. That is your emotional creative space. In that space, you easily get in touch with your inspiration, creativity, and your passion. Your ideas flow. This emotional creative space is unique to you. It’s part of your fingerprint as an artist. From that place, you make art that is a unique extension of your voice. Artists aren’t always in that creative emotional space, but they need to be there often enough to be able to create.
Sometimes an artist’s emotional creative space can be squeezed by life pressure, stress, loss, depression, anxiety, unhealed emotional trauma, or even transition to a new creative endeavors.
These disruptions can happen to anyone. The trick is understanding these various potential stumbling blocks so you can meet each challenge as it arises.
The arts and entertainment world is tough. Artists can feel pressure from multiple sources. Pressure to perform. Pressure to sell their art and make a living. Pressure to preserve their image. Pressure to please or appease aggressive agents.
Relentless external pressure can become a negative force that robs you of emotional presence and pulls you out of your creative zone.
Life can be stressful regardless of your career, but artists have particular stress factors. An artistic career doesn’t follow the “norm rules.” It’s unpredictable, filled with unknowns and uncertainties. It’s possible to be very skilled as an artist and not be successful. Work opportunities are not consistent. You can have work now but worry because you don’t know what’s next.
Unmanaged stress can lead to burnout and deplete your emotional resources. You may find yourself disconnected from your talents and skills – the very resources you need to create.
Loss is also a part of life, but unfinished or blocked grief can interfere with creativity. A creative’s life moves fast sometimes. If you were in the middle of a loss but you had to perform, create, show up, put yourself and your emotions to the side for the sake of your work, it could have interfered with your grieving process.
Unfinished grief can cause you to get stuck in a creative block. You may feel you’re fine, you have grieved and moved on. But grief is a complex life journey in itself. There are many artists living with unfinished grief that interferes with their career. As unprocessed grief operates out of awareness, it can trick you into saying to feel “I’m fine,” while you’re are actually stuck in some important conflicts around loss.
Old emotional traumas can get triggered by current events and they can make it hard for creatives to find themselves in their work. It doesn’t take much to trigger old, unhealed injuries.
When we’re talking about trauma, it can be something you’d perceive as little, like just being mocked as a child. Or, you may also be dealing with major unhealed emotional trauma from your past. Regardless of its source, unhealthy extreme perfectionism, shame, guilt, self-doubts, and fear of rejection are often markers of unhealed emotional trauma.
Depression and anxiety
Depression and anxiety can block your access to creativity. This can make you to feel more and more anxious and/or depressed, causing you to get stuck in an unfortunate feedback loop that just feeds on itself. Fortunately, this is a cycle that can be stopped. You our difficult feelings can be channeled into a different direction that facilitates healing and enables you to access your creative energy in a new way.
Transition Into a New Creative Stage
Some creatives who have been prolific for many years, come to a place in life where they need a change. Years and years of creating the same stories or style of art for a certain audience causes them to feel stuck and unable to create anymore.
When you reach that stage of being done with a certain chapter in your creative life, you can see it as a chance to become something more or something new as an artist. It’s exciting, but it can bring up all sorts of doubts as you wonder what this new art might be, what it could mean, or whether you’d be successful if you reinvented yourself.
How do you break through a creative block and get back in touch with your creativity?
First, remember you’ve been an artist, and you’ll always be an artist. Creativity is not a commodity. Creativity is a gift and a skill. It comes from all that you are, your passion, your talents, your disciplined efforts, and your life experiences. Creativity is not something you have and then lose. Once you’ve developed it, it’s always a part of who you are. You might lose touch with the creative part of yourself, but you can’t lose your creativity.
If you’re suffering through a creative block right now is it just part of the ebb and flow of creative life or it’s something that you need help with?
To decide whether it’s just your normal creative fluctuations or something more, take a look at your life. Do you see traces of any of the factors listed above in your recent experience?
For some, a combination of loss, stress, and pressure may be at play. For others maybe there’s a transition to a new way of creating combined with external stress. Yet, are those for who problems may arise after a long period of facing demand after demand without any time to breathe, be, and recover emotional resources.
If you’re going through any of the above challenges, you need professional help.
Just keep in mind… As you address any underlying issues affecting your creativity, you may discover new and renewed aspects of your creativity that you can’t see right now.
When you’re stuck in a creative block, it can be hard to imagine how the aperture of your creativity might actually open as you work to heal these underlying issues that may seem unrelated to who you are as an artist, but I’ve seen this happen with countless psychotherapy clients over the years..
You’ve been at this for a long time – wouldn’t it be amazing to surprise yourself and discover all the stories and creative energy that are still inside you, waiting to be found?
If you have any questions please contact me for a free consultation.
I am Mihaela Ivan Holtz, Doctor in Clinical Psychology. I help creatives and performers with emotional trauma, depression, anxiety, performance anxiety, creative blocks, relationships, and addictions – to be and live their own best version. You can read more about Therapy for Creatives and Performers here.