On Lifting Creative Block
by Emily Artz French
Creative block can strike at any time and for any type of creative endeavor. Business-owners are particularly vulnerable since entrepreneurship is one of the most creative endeavors out there. Add to that, many of us are new business-owners, which means we’re voluntarily taking on a massive amount of unknown, untested responsibility. In other words: the perfect recipe for our inner critic to rear it’s ugly head and tell us all the ways we’re unfit for the job.
First thing first: take a deep breath and give yourself a break. Being your own boss isn’t easy — it’s worth it. Secondly: you’re entirely capable of doing this. But first, you need to get out of your own way.
Here, then, are my top 10 Actions To Unblock Yourself from Limiting Beliefs.
1. Write Morning Pages
If you’ve already read my 6-Step Clarity Guide, you’re familiar with my affinity toward Morning Pages. This concept comes straight from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and I list it here again because there is just no alternative to it’s effectiveness.
There’s nothing more distracting than a head cluttered with worries, fear, urgent to-do’s and negative self-talk. Morning Pages is a 30-minute, long-form (by hand, not screen), stream-of-conscious free-write. It’s called Morning Pages because (technically) you’re supposed to do it first thing in the morning, before doing anything else. I encourage you to do it first thing in the morning — and any time you’re feeling stuck, fuzzy, anxious or fearful. Get it out and then forget about it. It’s wonderfully freeing and I often find I have an ‘epiphany’ of some sort whenever I do it. It’s ok if you’re writing so fast that your handwriting is illegible. It’s not meant to be read again. Make it a priority.
2. Eliminate Nay-Sayers and Crazy-makers
Nay-sayers are people who never have a positive word to say about anything; people who reinforce negative beliefs, devalue, belittle and disrespect. They are people who allow their own inner critic to take hold and command the thoughts in their own head, thus forcing them to project their negativity on people close to them.
Crazy-makers (another nod to Cameron) may be charming and charismatic on the surface, but they wreck havoc on those around them. They create drama, hate order, disregard others time and effort — and, most importantly — are often blocked creatives themselves. They discount your reality because they are caught up in their own illusions.
Both Nay-Sayers and Crazy-makers are toxic. They’re a waste of your space. Your job right now is to create space for yourself — space to fall down without someone stepping all over you before you can get back up. Identifying these people (or person) in your life is a huge step toward unblocking… but it can be one of the scariest to implement. After all, your Nay-Sayer or Crazy-maker could be someone very close to you: a spouse, a best friend, a boss.
Once you identify the individual/s, begin taking steps to regain control of the relationship and your sense of self. Set boundaries. Take a physical vacation from them. Find refuge with a supportive friend. And during this time, evaluate whether it’s worth having this person in your life going forward.
3. Have Regular Heart-To-Hearts With Your BFF
You know that one person in your life that you’re comfortable — excited even — to pour your heart out to? You know how buzzed you feel after having an invigorating conversation with her? Call that person and make a date. Right now. This person is the opposite of your Nay-Sayer or Crazy-maker. She’s your Truth-teller, your Spirit-Igniter, your Positive Motivator — and you need her right now. She will listen when you need her to listen. She’ll give advice when you need advice. Most importantly, you can be uninhibited and vulnerable around her — especially when you’re finding it difficult to be uninhibited and vulnerable with yourself.
Think of this Action as your Accountability Check-in. Find that person who can be there for you — and be there for that person in the same way. Chances are, your BFF could use a non-judgemental Truth-Teller and Spirit-Igniter as well. Be accountable to one another. Be in the presence of someone who unabashedly accepts you for who you are. I bet you’ll find yourself pouring your dreams and ambitions out to her. You might even uncover that mysterious message you’ve been searching for.
4. Write a Gratitude List
This is probably the easiest and most immediately rewarding ways to move toward unblock. Gratitude lists remind us how wealthy we truly are — and also of the resources we already have at our fingertips that will help us toward our goal. The best part is, you can write a gratitude list anytime and as often as you want. In fact, I recommend making this practice a daily one. If you’re writing Morning pages regularly, perhaps you end the day with a Gratitude list. I bet you’ll sleep a lot better…
5. Move Your Body
This is it folks. A million people have said it before me, and it bears repeating: move your body. It works. Why? For a few reasons. Our body was made to move. It is natural and life-affirming to move our body. It declares that we are alive and healthy and it is an active state of being. Most importantly: it moves oxygen through our body. And guess what? The brain loves oxygen. The more it gets, the clearer it gets.
There’s just one tiny caveat: for creative unblocking, skip the monotonous trudge on the treadmill at the gym. Instead, swap it for a run/hike on a forest trail. The goal is to move your body in an environment that allows you to enter a state of flow. In other words, do something you enjoy and are even good at. Maybe it’s a solo dance party in your living room. Maybe it’s releasing some aggression on the tennis court, or perhaps it’s breathing through your stress on the yoga mat. Whatever it is, do it because it makes you feel good.
6. Write a Love List or Love Letter to Yourself
Here’s a novel idea: every time you have a negative thought about yourself and your abilities, you must immediately follow it up with something you love about yourself — or even better, an entire list! Make it a priority. Over time, I bet you’ll notice that you naturally move toward that love list, rather than the negative self-talk.
Why does this work? Because it’s a conscious effort to change our beliefs. A belief is simply a pattern or habit of thought. The thoughts we have about ourselves become our beliefs, which is why when we’re filled with negative self-talk, that negativity becomes our reality. When we begin to make space for loving Abundant Beliefs, we adopt a new reality — one that is primed and ready for creative abundance as well.
7. Find Yourself In Nature
Why does a walk in the woods rejuvenate, yet calm at the same time? For one reason: we come from nature. We’re part of it. Surrounding ourselves in that which we have sprung is confirmation that we are alive.
Nature doesn’t judge. Finding yourself in it’s abundance is a gentle reminder to stop judging yourself. Nature doesn’t lie. Reconnecting with it is an affirmation that many of the beliefs in your head are simply illusions. Nature just is. It’s not right or wrong. It is perfectly content on being. In fact, that’s what it does best. Reconnect with that from which you’ve sprung, and borrow it’s energy.
8. Make Art With The Intention Of Throwing It Away
Often, when we set out to create something, we have such great expectations for what it should be, that we miss out on the joy and journey of the process. This expectation can rob us of our sense of wonder and bog us down with what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
When you take away the burden of an end product, you allow yourself to focus on the process and freedom from right and wrong. Failure becomes obsolete; creation becomes a form of meditation.
Splatter paint on a canvas (and yourself), scribble crayons with your 2 year old, stack stones or sticks or leaves and then let the elements take them away. The purpose of this action is to create for the sake of creating and regain a sense of wonder and acceptance.
9. Write a Letter Forgiving Yourself or Someone Else
One of the most insidious forms of limiting beliefs is the inability to forgive. The burden you bear for past wrongs — either done to you, done to yourself, or done to others — can wear you down beyond recognition. It’s time to let them go and stop defining yourself by old injustices. It’s not who you are and it takes up too much space in your life.
It’s ok to never send the letter to the person to whom it’s written. In some cases, that person may not even be alive. The act of forgiveness is for you, not them. It’s ok to get angry in the letter, if getting angry gets you to a place of forgiveness. Often, it does.
If you’re forgiving yourself for past choices that you view as mistakes, take this opportunity to consider ways that your life is better for that mistake. A mistake is only a mistake if we fail to learn something from it. Forgive yourself for the momentary lapse in judgement and then commend yourself for soldiering on since then.
10. Swap ‘If-Only’ For ‘What-If’
The If-Only mentality is a sneaky little limiting belief that convinces us we aren’t ready to start — that we don’t have the resources, worth or skills to act upon something. Another version of this is ‘My Life Will Be Better When…’ mentality. In other words, you believe that what you have now is never enough. And it’s simply not true. It’s an excuse.
Instead, write a ‘What-if’ List. This is a list of endless possibilities. Then, consider all the things at your fingertips right now that can get you one step closer to any one of those possibilities. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things we need to do to accomplish our goal, but success doesn’t happen all at once. It happens step by step.
So, write that email to someone you admire and ask if they’ll mentor you. Reach out to that publication and ask if you can write a guest article. Go to that yoga studio down the road and ask if they’ll display your artwork. Begin with what you have. It’s much more valuable than you think.
A Parting Note Some may be wondering where Meditation is on this list. I purposefully left it out because I believe that many of the actions on this list are inherent forms of meditation. The act of meditating is wonderful for curing creative block — and if you’re well suited for it, I encourage you to make it a daily practice. For those who aren’t, I hope you’re able to find the same benefits that meditation offers in some of the actions above.
Originally published at emilyartzfrench.com on March 27, 2014.