Playing with Your Creative Block

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A creative block is an impasse in your creative process. It is when you want to create, but feel stuck, stagnant, and at a loss for what to do next. (The most well-known creative block is Writter’s Block. I use Creative Block because it less medium specific.)

Here’s the thing about creative blocks: your block is like playing with a strong willed three year old. You want to play a certain game, play with a certain toy, or play in a certain way, but she won’t join you. You really just want her to do things your way, but she will have none of it.

Think about the things we often do or say to ourselves in the process as we struggle to get past the block. As you try to force yourself to produce, you say things to yourself like, “Just write! Why can’t you just do this?!?” Of course she retreats from your mean and threatening voice. No matter how much reasoning, coercion, or force you muster, your creative block remains. The creative and lovely three year old simply doesn’t want to play your game.

Your voice may have something else entirely to say.

This doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want to play, she just doesn’t want to play your game.

The best way to get her to play is to join her in what she’s wanting to do or already doing. Listen to her. Play the game she is playing. Spend time interacting with her. Hear her out. Maybe, after some time with her, she might want to play your game. But she also may not today. Maybe her game is more important right now.

Creating is like playing with that three year old. Think about the ways that you interact with yourself around your creative process as if you were engaging with a child.

The best way through your creative block may have to do with creating something else.[Tweet that]

Sometimes the things that we want ourselves to create are different from the ones that we have within us that want to be created. Sometimes, kindness is the best way forward.

In the comments, what is your experience with creative blocks? Do you find the idea of playing with a child helpful? I want to hear your voice. Click here to comment.

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  1. so grateful for this post, dan. this gives me space for kindness, playfulness and some hope in the midst of my creative blocks, rather than resorting to harsh condemnation filled with “you should be doing ______, and because you’re not, you simply aren’t good enough to do it.”
    both the adult Mallory and the 3-year-old Mallory thank you.

  2. Dan, I think you nailed it!
    I have a history of only accepting my creativity if, after grueling scrutiny, it meets the standard of excellence expected of a trained professional.

    This pattern lead to my creative three year old self and me “the professional” meeting every so often, crossing our arms, and turning away until the next time I wanted to play.

    I made a sort of pact with my 3 year old self; however we dance will be greeted with a smile, laughter–delight, whatever emotions it aroused were ok–welcome. Here recently, I feel like I’ve begun to gain the trust of this three year old and I’ve been having a bunch if fun!

    I love this imagery!

  3. What a neat concept! I’m sure I will mentally revisit this visual the next time my fingers are hovering over those keys! I have noticed I will sit down to write about something and by the time I’m done a completely different (and often more interesting) concept has bubbled to the surface. Must be the three year old! : )

    1. I love it, Jenni! Your observation about writing something other than what you intended is exactly what I’m talking about here! I’m glad you’re able to push through to let good stuff out! Thanks for sharing.

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