Jewellery making process

Creative block

The nightmarish enemy of creativity. Anyone who is undertaking any kind of creative endeavour will suffer from creative block at some point. When it happens it can be a real devil to get out of and even quite distressing as you can convince yourself that it’s here for good!

First of all – understanding the reasons why it’s arrived and seems to be here to stay can really help you to get over it. So a bit self indulgent, ‘self psychoanalysis’ should be the place to start, when trying to banish your creative block. This in itself can be a tricky exercise for some of us ‘stiff upper lip’ Brits! But a general moan about life to a partner or friend over a coffee will help get you started.

So what are the main culprits?

creative block

A walk in the woods may be all that’s needed

1: Emotional upset.

This can be any number of problems in day to day life. Certainly, extreme emotional disruption like divorce or bereavement will have a huge influence on our day to day function.

2: Stress and anxiety.

This can be an endless list! But a sudden extra change like moving house, a job interview(s), restructuring at work and so on…….can just be that last push to tip you over the edge.

3: Illness.

This should be a fairly obvious reason, but often we try to carry on, ignoring illness and expecting to still function as normal. Even just something minor like a cold can put extra strain on everyday duties and activities.

4: Tiredness.

We have really busy, faster lives. Often trying to fit in a zillion things each day can just wear you out. This can really affect creativity levels.

5: Distractions.

Our everyday distractions from the media, internet, family, work or even an untidy home – can all fill our minds with jumble causing inability to focus.

6: Overkill.

Maybe you are just worn out creatively! Sometimes you can just get burn out. Especially after a frenetic period of making, when ideas seem to have come along quicker than you can make them.

7: Vicious circle. 

Often just the worry that creative block is here to stay can cause upset, stress & anxiety and even tiredness. So you are right back at the top of this list where you started!

Fragile creativity

This list identifies just what a delicate little flower our creativity can be! And although none of the above actually offers a solution, recognising the cause can immediately take the pressure off. I have had creative block due to ALL the above at some point in my life. So what have I done to get out of it? Some solutions can be quite quick, cheap and easy. Others have been Long, expensive and difficult. Either way I’m going to share my top ten tried and tested tips in ‘best first’ order. Here goes with another list!

creative block

mix with other creative individuals

1: Mix with other ‘creatives.’

The all time number one solution. I find that being surrounded by other creative individuals within my subject area is a constant source of inspiration. We are by nature social creatures and working in isolation in itself can be stifling and un-stimulating for creativity. This is not about copying each other’s work; it’s about the sparks of inspiration that start to fly when like minded individuals get together. So get yourself to a class! Even if you can only afford one term, or even one day. I honestly don’t think I would still be making jewellery now if I didn’t have the regular contact that I have with my students. I still need the quiet time alone to actually work through and make my ideas. But I also need the contact with other ‘creatives’ to get the ideas flowing in the first place. 

2: Go on Holiday.

This falls in to the expensive category! A change of scene works wonders. If you can actually go somewhere else – especially a place where there is a significantly different culture to your own then this will really fire up creativity. But just any change of scene will help. A day in a museum or art gallery is good. Or something more soulful like a walk in the woods.

3: Try learning something new.

Most art forms have satellite subjects within their area. Jewellery making is a great example of this. From stone setting to acid etching, jewellery has many different subjects to explore. I have always found that branching out in to a new technique can really kick start creativity, so learn something new. Attending a specialist class to learn a new technique is the easiest solution for this. Additionally a day workshop that is planned for you to make a certain item will give you the opportunity to make something without having to think about it yourself. If it’s out of your price range then buying a book on a new subject area can also be a solution. Just the act of learning can stimulate your brain out of the creative malaise.

4: Try a new material.

Similar to learning a new subject area, a new material incorporated in to your work will get creative possibilities flowing again.

5: Buy a magazine.

There’s nothing like sitting with a cuppa and your favourite jewellery magazine to get your creative juices flowing. It’s a bit of self indulgence that’s well worth a few quid. Sadly, this is actually becoming more difficult with the rise of the internet. Many of my old favourite jewellery making magazines are now online. Let’s face it – this is just not the same. So treating yourself to a jewellery making book may have to become the substitute for this if you are in a real creative desert.

6: Internet research.

Contradictory to the magazine thing above I know! The internet is a necessary evil and we may as well use it. The obvious choice for creative inspiration is Pinterest. If you don’t have an account then signing up is easy and I strongly advise you to do so. There is a Pinterest button on my website and this will take you to my boards. I have put together a collection of different subject areas within the jewellery area and they are well worth a look. I have to say that I do find images trapped in the computer a bit difficult to work with. So, when I’m looking for some ideas I copy pins from Pinterest in to a package like ‘Word’ – I then print these out and stick them into a sketch book. This helps to pick out and create a main focus from within zillions of images and ideas which is too overwhelming. 

7: Set some boundaries.

Jewellery making sometimes offers too many possibilities. If you are struggling to be creative then try writing yourself a brief with some restrictions. Following a project in a book or one of the studio workbooks may help to ‘rein you in’ and focus your attention in one direction.

8: Brainstorm.

Think outside the box!  Try to look at the possibility of approaching ‘how’ you make from a completely different perspective. For instance you could set yourself the task of making something; from a definite selection of materials, for a specific purpose, for a specific person, to match a new dress, an item for a man or for a child, even something that isn’t jewellery, like a box, ornament, wall hanging, mini sculpture……

9: Use a sketch book.

Inspiration can happen at inconvenient times! So keeping a sketch book, even if it doesn’t contain sketches is a great way of storing and working out ideas. Illegible scribbles, notes and pictures from magazines (or anywhere) all count towards ‘sketching’ your ideas. It may also be a good idea to keep it next to your bed as flashes of inspiration can often keep you awake, especially if it is coupled by the excitement of overcoming your creative block!

10: Clean your tool box, work space.

When all else fails – tidy up! This falls in to the cheap category and it sounds silly but it really helps. First of all I always find half made little gems that I started and abandoned. Normally because they became too challenging / boring / something better came along! With fresh eyes to see an abandoned item – fresh possibilities can be seen. Also, a clean and tidy tool box or work space is always more inviting to work with than a muddle.

Stop the bus I want to get off!

If none of the above has helped then my final piece of advice would be to just forget it. When even tidying the tool box doesn’t work it may be just time to walk away. Do something completely different and give yourself a break from trying to make anything. I know this is difficult if you are attending a class but there’s nothing to stop you from coming to class just to have a chat and see your friends! The most important thing to do is accept it and don’t let it get you down.

Trying too hard is the worst thing you can do. Being in a relaxed manner will leave you open to ideas. Then before you know it your creative block will have vanished and you won’t have even noticed.

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