Creative Block and How to Beat It

Ron Sussman / 3.29.2019

Oil Painting by Ron Sussman

We are blessed to be able to make a living doing something creative. But having to be creative on the spot is not always an easy thing. Sometimes you get blocked, stuck or just burnt out. It happens to every creative person. We have all heard of writer’s block, but the same thing happens with other artistic disciplines too. One of the things about editing is it can be difficult at times to “make it work.” So how do I go about dealing with the block or “hitting the wall” creatively?

For me, there are a few basic things I do when I get stuck or have a creative problem I can’t figure out. One, and by far the most effective, is to get away from the computer. Occupy the front of my mind with some other activity like taking a walk. Freeing my mind to wander usually results in the solution to the problem and allows me to get unstuck. Nature nurtures!

It’s amazing what 10 minutes out in the fresh air can do for my mind and body. Somewhat related to taking a walk is standing to edit. I’ve found that standing allows me to bounce around while I’m working. The movement of my body has been very beneficial to my work as well as my physical wellbeing. (If you don’t have a standing desk, get one. I can’t recommend it enough).

Two, just stop and literally sleep on it. I regularly figure solutions out in my sleep. I recently had an entire shoot day figured out while sleeping. Both walking and sleeping allow my mind to take a break and that usually frees me from the block.

Oil Painting by Ron Sussman

Another thing I like to do is work on some other creative endeavor. Even though it’s not an immediate solution, it has long term results. On weekends I like to make music or paint.

Oil Painting by Ron Sussman

I hear what you’re thinking: how can doing something creative help if you’re blocked from being creative? While I don’t have a scientific answer for this, I just know it works, and it helps me stay sharp and exercise the creative parts of my brain. Playing music and painting helps me keep myself in check. I am able to do this other thing that balances things out – something totally and completely different from my job. And it’s not like I just pick up my guitar or a paintbrush and create a symphony or masterpiece, I have to work at it. I’m not the world’s greatest musician or painter, mostly because I’m self-taught and kind of figure things out as I go.

That “figuring out” process is freeing. It allows for mistakes, and that’s where you grow. It is that growth process that carries over and refreshes the mind for when you have to be creative on the spot at work.

When all else fails, and you are just burnt to a crisp, take a few days off. Few things can recharge like a vacation, change of scenery or just sitting around and doing nothing. Go for a drive, visit with people you haven’t seen for a while, put yourself in a new environment. Sleep in until 10am.

Most importantly, if you get stuck, don’t beat yourself up. It will just make the hole you’re in bigger. Give yourself a break and take a break. You are not going to do your best work if you are fighting it.

Just for fun, I’ve included some of my paintings here for your enjoyment.

Until next time,

Ron Sussman

Oil Painting by Ron Sussman