Overcoming Mental Blocks: A How To Guide For Beginning Artists

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Written By Sam Davis Ph.D.

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Sometimes, it can be hard to overcome mental blocks. We've all experienced this issue in our creative work: putting it simply, self doubt and mind blocks just prevent us from doing the work we want to do.

Luckily, there are ways to overcome mental blocks and get back to the creative energy that you want. Your own mind doesn't have to hold you hostage. A mental block is a professional's worst nightmare, but it doesn't mean that it's there forever.

With proactive problem solving strategies and a healthy dose of grace and patience, you can find your way through the most common mental blocks. Are you ready to overcome mental blocks? Let's get started.

Identify Mental Blocks Holding You Back

The first step in overcoming mental blocks is to have an honest conversation with yourself. Mental blocks serve as a way that we protect ourselves from things: mental fatigue, emotional trauma, or general lack of self care. Our creative ideas disappear because our bodies have unmet needs. In order to overcome mental blocks, you'll need to address these issues.

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Mental Fatigue and Mental Exhaustion

This world is busy. In some ways, even a beach towel has it better than us. We are constantly connected to each other constantly thinking. This prolonged cognitive activity can really exhaust us from day to day.

Add in most folks' obsession with caffeine and disrupted sleep, and it's easy to see how fatigued you might just be. So if you're busy every day, I encourage you to take a step back. Many mental blocks disappear with just a little bit of rest and relaxation. This can be challenging, especially in the time of COVID, but I promise: rest is going to help you in overcoming mental blocks.

Supporting Your Own Mental Health

There's another dimension to mental exhaustion, and that's mental health. If you're experiencing clinical depression or anxiety, be it seasonal or perpetual, your mental block may be related. Mental blocks feature a complete loss of control, and lack of mental clarity. These are similar to depression and anxiety.

So if your mental block has been stretching on for a while, it might be time to see a doctor. Having a healthy brain will help you gain inspiration.

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Improving Your Creative Process

To prevent mental blocks in the future, you may want to consider improving your creative process. Mental blocks often happen when we're overwhelmed and exhausted from a task. We just don't want to do it anymore!

So take on an artistic project one day at a time. Try not to bite off more than you can chew by setting realistic expectations. Reaching small goals is better than trying to tackle it all at once. For artists, consider just starting the line drawing of a project. Don't worry about colors yes. For writer's block, outlines are your friend. Find the headings and go from there.

Simplify Your Mental Landscape

Another way to improve your creative energy is to simplify your mind's landscape. Are there things that are bugging your as you sit down to create? Fix them. Or make a plan to fix them so that you can set them aside. Many times, we just can't get into our creative flow because we're distracted.

So fixing your mental landscape and simplifying your distractions can really help you open up to creativity. Fixing mental blocks is a process: like the other forms of therapy, it takes time. But there's hope! I've seen many people come through these issues.

Identify Self Limiting Beliefs

Another area that may need improvement is your relationship to yourself. Limiting beliefs, like that you have to do X before you do Y, or that you'll never reach master – can stop you from even trying.

For example, I've known people who were intimidated by art because they didn't think they were good enough to make it. Or that they would never be able to get a pen or pencil in their hand. So adding self limiting beliefs to any list of therapeutic works you need to do means you'll want to address this particular issue head on.

Your Physical Surroundings

Finally, don't forget about your physical surroundings. An organized desk really can help you get over a mental block. So can moving out of your cramped studio apartment and into a shared studio space or coffee shop to do your creative work. Many a writer's block has been destroyed by a good stint at the local Tim Horton's.

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Anticipate Obstacles In The Future

There is no answer buried deep for mental blocks. To remove mental blocks, you really need to be aware of the present moment, and what may be coming in the future. Having a gentle sense of what may hold you back in the near future can help you prepare. Take some time to figure out how to guide your future self. Here are some ideas:

  • Avoid feeling overwhelmed. Do work beforehand, or let some things drop.
  • Accomplishing small wins is fun and an effective way to break through a psychological wall.
  • To Do List: Yay or Nay? If it stresses you out, skip it.
  • Other Factors To Reduce Stress

Bonus Tip: Your Future Self

In the spirit of breaking through mind blocks, I have a tip that can help if nothing else dose. If you're having trouble with self doubt and mental blocks, write yourself a letter from your future self!

This is just what it sounds like: write a letter to yourself addressed from some point in your future. This could be one year, five years, or even ten years in the future. What will you have accomplished? How will your creative perspective shift?

In conclusion…

We hope these tips have helped you break through your mental blocks and appreciate the present moment. Go, get creating!

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