It’s a moment that every creative dreads, yet most have faced at one point or another—artist’s block. In these situations, it’s easy to be hard on ourselves and wallow in pity, waiting for inspiration to strike. But the reality is, hard work and diligence is what moves you further along the creative path. So how do you move through a creative block and come through winning on the other side?
There’s no better way to get through a creative impasse than looking to other artists and writers who have lived through their own creative crises. We’ve gathered some inspirational quotes from different 20th- and 21st-century creatives to remind you that creativity doesn’t end even if you have a lapse of inspiration. It’s up to you to move the ball forward and keep producing art.
Art is Hard Work
While it may seem like a romantic professional that requires perfect moments of inspiration, the truth is that successful artists work just as hard—if not harder—than the rest of us. From the great Michelangelo to contemporary master Chuck Close, the truth of the matter is that the best way to break a creative block is to just keep working.
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” — Pablo Picasso
“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” — Michelangelo
“The idea of divine inspiration and an aha moment is largely a fantasy. Anything of value comes from hard work and unwavering dedication. If you want to be a good artist you need to look at other artists, make a lot of crappy art, and just keep working.” — Sydney Pink
“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.” — Chuck Close
“Show up, show up, show up, and after awhile the muse shows up, too. If she doesn’t show up invited, eventually she just shows up.” — Isabel Allende
Believe in Yourself
With such personal work, it’s easy to let doubts creep in when you aren’t in the most creative state. But in order to move out of a creative rut, you need to push aside these doubts and continue to remember your artistic worth. Remember, one moment without inspiration doesn’t mean that it will never come back. By staying in your head, you’ll block the ability for your mind to open up and take in new inputs to get the creative juices flowing again.
“I like to pretend that my art has nothing to do with me.” — Roy Lichtenstein
“Creativity takes courage.” — Henri Matisse
“If you hear a voice within you saying, ‘You are not a painter,’ then by all means paint, boy, and that voice will be silenced.” — Vincent van Gogh
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath
“There is no ‘right’ way to make art. The only wrong is in not trying, not doing. Don’t put barriers up that aren’t there — just get to work and make something.” — Lisa Golightly
Use Artist’s Block as an Opportunity for Growth
The work of an artist never finishes. There’s constant room for improvement and while developing your craft not every piece produced will be exceptional. But, it’s the sum of these small parts that will help you arrive at the final destination—you just need to give yourself room for experimentation.
“The troublesome parts of our work, the parts that are most baffling and frustrating, are in fact the growing edges. We see these opportunities the instant we drop our preconceptions and our self-importance.” — Stephen Nachmanovitch
“I think some of the biggest bursts of creativity and artistic growth I’ve had are usually preceded by a big creative block.” — Ashley Goldberg
“I think creative blocks come from people’s life journeys. If you don’t know who you are or what you’re about or what you believe in it’s really pretty impossible to be creative.” — Rainn Wilson
“I think it’s important to remember that making art is a process. It is never finished. The occupation itself is one of process, exploration, and experimentation. It is one of questioning and examining.” — Mel Robson
Shake Up Your Routine
There’s no better cure for a creative rut than breaking out of your comfort zone. Go out and sketch in a cafe, source new reference material, or spend time in nature. Remember, inspiration is all around you if you are receptive to it and it’s easy to be uninspired if you are doing and seeing the same things day after day.
“When I have a creative block, I take walks. I like to see what shapes stick out – so many legs rushing by at once, it can seem abstract. I don’t need to see great art to get stirred up. Music does that for me more easily.” — Caio Fonseca
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou
“All profound distraction opens certain doors. You have to allow yourself to be distracted when you are unable to concentrate.” — Julio Cortázar
“Routine kills creative thought.” — Scarlett Thomas
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light, and shadows.” — Jim Jarmusch