The Two Types of Creative Block

Posted by on March 8, 2016

McKella Sawyer Art

I’ve had tons of creative blocks in my life, and I’ve talked to many, many people about their blocks as well. After awhile, I started to notice that there are two basic types of creative blocks, and every creative block I’ve come across falls into one of these two.

So what are the main types of creative blocks?

#1 – External Blocks

When someone tells me that they wish they were creative but they aren’t because of x, y, and z, these are the kind of blocks I usually hear.

External blocks are blocks that occur outside of ourselves, or things that we at least perceive as being outside of us.

Usually, time, money, and space.

Examples: “I don’t have time to create”

“The supplies are too expensive” or “I can’t afford lessons” (Money)

I don’t have enough room. I don’t have the space. My kids would get into my stuff and ruin it.

A tendency to get distracted. Example: Sitting down to write and noticing how dirty your kitchen it. That’s a big one for me.

Sometimes, these can be really little things. A few years ago, I noticed I hadn’t painted in a week or two, which was unusual because at the time, I’d been really cruising with my art.

One night I actually felt like painting, but I didn’t want to change into my paint clothes. I can be pretty messy and I was doing a lot of big canvases, so I would completely change my clothes when I painted. It was winter, I was cold, and changing just felt like too much work. Something so little like that was keeping me from painting, so I found a solution: I started working with an apron instead. When I felt like painting, I just tied it on. It took about two seconds. Problem solved.

External blocks are like that and usually just require a little planning and tweaking to get through. Some, like my paint clothes problem, are really simple. Others can take a little more work, but they’re still relatively easy to solve.

The tricky thing about external blocks though is that they often hide deeper, more complex blocks. We might not even realize those deeper blocks are there, or we might be fully aware of them and still blame the external block because we don’t want to deal with anything deeper.

If you find yourself in that situation, using an external block as a cover-up, that’s okay and it’s very common. Be patient with yourself and know that the deeper blocks can be worked through and it doesn’t have to be a big scary process. Be gentle with yourself.

So this takes us to the other type of creative block, which you might have guessed, is the internal block.

#2 – Internal Blocks

This is where it really gets fun. Internal blocks are things that are inside of us. These are emotions, fears, deeply-held ideas and beliefs, internal things that keep us stuck. These blocks can be really intimidating, but they can be worked through, and it can be a really fun, wonderful process. These kind of blocks usually have the most to teach us, and we stand to gain the most from these kinds of blocks.

Fear is often the root of internal creative blocks. Creating can be really scary for a lot of reasons. Art and anything you create comes from your soul, from the very deepest parts of you, and that can be really scary to show to other people. It’s very vulnerable, and feeling vulnerable often feels unsafe. Our minds are wired to protect us from everything from packs of wolves to physical assault to ridicule to unpleasant emotions. When your mind senses vulnerability, it interprets that as danger and will do everything it can to fight or flee from the threat.

These are a lot deeper and take a bit more work to excavate, but it can be done!



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