There's a murder rampaging in your mind everyday. It's called the ego. It strangles new ideas. It stomps out new thinking. It shoots down any possibility of being something more than you already are. It breathes down your neck and watches you from behind, whispering lies to you (in gentle and convincing tone): "You're no good...", "So and so will reject this...", "Did I mention that your ideas are no good?". Every person has the potential for creativity, it's a part of being human. Whether you're an artist, scientist, business manager, carpenter, or stay-at-home-mom, this inner critical voice is killing your creative flow.
Time to myself
Last year I was living in Germany and had ALOT of time to myself. I made a conscious decision to not share my work for a while and give it time to develop and see where is goes. Out of this I started an online comic and for the first time in years, I felt a sense of effortless creative flow. I was making work purely for the fun of it and not giving a shit what other people thought. I was really surprised at the work that was coming out of me (since I never considered myself a funny artist). The self-labels dissolved. The inner critic became quieter. I wasn't quite sure where this was leading but, but it felt good.
Good feelings vs. bad feelings
Once you're aware and accept that this ego (AKA inner critic) has permanent residence in your mind, the next clue to the creative puzzle is how you feel. Author/Illustrator Eliza Wheeler summed it up quite well in a recent blog of hers, "Every moment is a slight adjustment towards a feeling of relief. Improvement is a matter of incremental turns in the direction of better feeling marks." The ego elicits stressful feelings like anxiety and self-doubt. Lack of ego elicits a state of peace allowing creative flow.
Opening the gate for creativity
One of the big, fat lies that the egos whispers to you all the freak'n time is that creative ideas come from nothing. All the creativity that you need already exist within your mind. The truth is you need to allow those ideas to flow from your subconscious to your conscious mind. Trust this process. Put yourself in a state of mind that opens the gate between the two realms.
How to achieve creative flow
Solitude. More than anything other element, solitude has helped me achieve creative flow. Solitude helps dissolve the ego. How can we hear our true voice when we have to digest all these noises, distractions, stresses, social media, input of co-workers, friends, peers, spouse, etc.? With our hyper-connected society, solitude can sometimes be equated with loneliness. But solitude can be a wonderful gift if you allow it. Go for a long walk by yourself or sit in your favorite spot (mine is on a big rock along a local trail). I also highly recommend spending time in nature alone. Except for the occasional grumpy squirrel, nature will welcome you without any judgement and serves as a wonderful space to allow creative flow.
I have also found certain types of music helps soothe my mind and unlock the subconscious. I listen to a lot of ambient tunes like Steve Roach or Robert Rich. I feel like I'm transported to another place, a little safe haven where I can write and draw and make whatever I want and no one will criticize me. Ahhh, can you feel it?
A constant balance
Creative block is inevitable, so next time you run into it - be gentle with yourself. When you hear that pesky voice saying that you're no good, take a step away and work on whatever it is that excites you. As adults it's easy to get caught up with everyday stresses. Allow yourself some time to take a break, go for a walk, listen to music, or just go play! Before you know it, new ideas will seep in.