TIPS: getting past a creative block

I just show up in front of the computer. Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too. If she doesn’t show up invited, eventually she just shows up.
— Isabel Allende

If you're a working artist, much of your life revolves around being able to create at will. Whether it's deadlines for exhibitions, commissions or public projects, or just wanting to practice your craft daily. 

So what to do then, when you really need to get started on a piece but you're feel uninspired, not in the mood, or just like your creativity isn't flowing? 

Everyone is different, but here are a few tips and experienced I've found helpful (and maybe you will too):

1.  cultivate inspiration

Maybe inspiration happens at random and miraculously sometimes, but you need to cultivate the right lifestyle, space and conditions that are most welcoming to it. Just sitting around expecting Life to throw a brick of it on your face won't get you very far as a working artist. You need to recognise that, as Isabel Allende said, you need to show up

2. respect the cycle

Spend some time becoming more aware of your own creative cycles, and how other areas of your life influence it. Structure your work to reflect it.

It's important to be able to distinguish if your creative block is procrastination or a sign to take a break. Sometimes, you'll find yourself not doing any art because you're not meant to or you're burnt out. 

I've learnt that I naturally go through cycles of input and output with my creativity. I have phases when I draw lots, and ones when I need to just rest and reflect. I need to respect those down periods if I want to keep making good art sustainably. Also, having a balanced lifestyle is essential to maintaining the quality of my art. 

3. WARM UP to it

Practice warming up to your artwork, instead of trying to get into the final piece straight away. 

My friend Celeste Ramos (an incredible designer and artist) introduced me to the idea of having a warm up routine for art,  just like athletes do for sport.

Since then, I've implemented my own little routine before I get started on any major project. Whenever I'm about to start a piece, I do lots of loose sketches beforehand to get myself in the right flow and build up confidence in my skills. I found this is an effective way to get myself "in the mood" to do any piece any time, specially if I'm doing something a bit out of my comfort zone or if I'm feeling nervous.


Build a collection of inspiring publications and turn to it in times of need.

Most creatives would agree that looking through interesting photos, colour palettes or patterns is a good way to get the juices flowing. I find that the best way to do this is looking through a pile of physical books. Unlike a computer, I can find unexpected things without having to search for a particular term. Over the years we've built up a bit of a studio library full of wildlife photography magazines, and art books, and publications full of images on a huge big variety of topics. 


Seek inspiration in areas other than art. I regularly study things related to biology, astronomy, culture and business, and those are the interests that drive a lot of my work. Go and explore things unrelated to creativity, it might be the breath of fresh air you need to revive it. 

It's important to see other people's artwork and be active in your creative community. However, if you constantly seek inspiration within your own field (visual art) things can become stale and repetitive in your work (or in the entire field for that matter). Maybe you are feeling uninspired because your social media channels are constantly bombarding you with creative work. 

6. dare to make the first mark

If you find yourself procrastinating around starting, make sure that what's holding you back is not the blank page itself. 

Often I find that just pushing myself to get started on a piece is enough to break through the block. Putting pencil to paper and drawing the fist line is all it takes to get things flowing. 

Júlia Palazzo

Júlia is half of Mayfield Palace, a creative partnership based in Melbourne. They collaborate with organisations and events to turn spaces into places of wonder with their art.