The Best Books for Artist's Block

I am going to start doing regular blog posts on HDA to help out fellow artists. One of my biggest issues as an up and coming artist was artist's/writer's block.

This happened to me severely after I was rejected from many, many jobs and I was going to portfolio reviews all the time. I also was going through personal problems, including a death in the family and a terrible breakup. I began to feel paralyzed in my work. Some artists would tell me x was wrong with my work, but others would say x was perfect and y was wrong. At one review, the artist would tell me to change something, but the next one would tell me to change it back. My art got more and more stiff - which of course, then I was criticized for that. It felt like I couldn't do anything right at all.

I got over it through reading these books. They helped me immensely. I also decided that while reviews and critiques are helpful, they are just suggestions, and in the end, my artwork isn't going to please everyone. I don't care anymore whether you like my work. I just do what I feel like and what I wished I could find. I write what I want to read and draw what I want to see more of.

The biggest personal tip I have to overcome a creative block is to keep a running list of every project you want to create. That way, if you get stuck, you just do the next thing on the list. It's so much easier than trying to come up with something to draw or write about on the spot. My current list (as in, what I wish I could do right this second, not even long-term) has 37 things on it. I add to it every time I feel inspired by a cool project. There is no rush to complete your list either. You have a lifetime to be an artist!

Oh, how I loved this book. The biggest takeaway I got from it is that I am not a machine and I need to fuel my creativity just as much as I use it. I used to work nonstop crazy hours, thinking I was a bottomless pit of inspiration and drive, only to burn out and unable to create for weeks afterwards. Why was I so drained? Because it is just as important to rest as it is to create. Now I stick to a very normal work schedule and when I'm done for the day, even though I usually work remotely, I "clock out" and I'm not allowed to touch my art or writing until tomorrow. The only exception is if I have a crazy deadline, in which I will overwork, but take a few days off after I turn the project in to relax and regroup. This helps me so much, because instead of burning out, I usually want to keep working when I force myself to stop, which only means I am excited and ready when I get to work the next day. I still do Morning Pages (three handwritten journal pages a day) as a way to cleanse my mind before the work day begins. It really does help with my anxiety and I feel much more productive overall.

This book has a great message, although I will warn you that some of the ideas are a bit out there. If you're not very spiritual or religious, some parts may be too much for you. But that aside, the main ideas of the book helped me so much. Big Magic is written by Eat Pray Love bestselling author, Liz Gilbert. I never had any interest in either the book or movie of EPL - it's just not my style. But Liz talks about a very important idea as an artist (or writer, or creative): Whatever makes your work "bestselling" has nothing to do with you. Liz talks about how she wrote many other books, none of which got the success of EPL. Did she get worse? Of course not. Was she just lucky? Sort of. The point is, you cannot control your audience. Work that is blah right now may be genius in 10 years, depending on what is going on in the world or the reader at that time. You cannot take responsibility for the outcome of your work. The artist's only job is to produce work and put it out there. By the time people have opinions about it, you've moved onto the next idea. This also works both ways. If your work is a huge success, you have to remember, it still has very little to do with you. This was so freeing for me. It took off so much pressure to know that I just need to create as much as I can and no matter what people's opinion of it is, is really none of my business.

Can Sarah Knight please follow me around and give me life advice always? I also highly recommend her other books, Get Your Shit Together and You Do You. This book is all about mental decluttering and the ideas really are genius. You only have so much energy and attention to give, so why spend so much on things that don't serve you? In example, I used to spend an insane amount of time obsessing of everyone else's opinions of my work. In turn, I was too exhausted to actually create more work. I decided that I no longer give a fuck about people's opinions of anything I do. Now all of that energy is put into creating things that I like. Creative or not, if you are stuck in any aspect of your life, you need Sarah Knight's books. She is also hilarious and the books left me feeling very inspired. I love the way this book breaks everything into small manageable chunks. Even if your goals are extremely difficult, the key is to stay organized and not to waste time on shit that you don't really need to worry about. 

Let me know your own tips for overcoming artist or writer's block! I hope these books help you.

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