For artists of any kind, the most destructive mental blocks are the ones that stick around. They’re the ones that become so ingrained in our psyche that they dictate the way we create. They steal our confidence, they rob us of inspiration and they convince us that there’s simply no point to showing up. But perhaps Sylvia Plath said it best when she lamented that “the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Because the truth is that imagination isn’t easy and neither is turning vision into art.
As a creative reading back on Sylvia’s words, I can’t help but wonder how many of our artistic roadblocks are actually self-imposed. Are we sabotaging our own success? Unfortunately, I’m inclined to say yes. However, I also wholeheartedly believe in our power to change that narrative. So in the spirit of growth, here are four of the most irrational mental blocks holding you back, as well as some hard hitting truth to get you through them.
“I have nothing to say”
Even in the moments when the imagination feels as if it has been sucked dry from your being, the truth is, it hasn’t. Because here’s the thing about creativity: It isn’t a well of water. It’s a practice. It’s a living, breathing muscle that can be worked out, built up and strengthened day after day. So take a breath. Know that you aren’t destined for a life of mediocrity, and then get back to it. It may feel impossible at first, but you will rediscover your voice.
“Someone else has already done it, or done it better”
So, you’re not the first person to write about emotion or shoot a photo of a city skyline. Guess what? Neither was the writer or artist that came before you or the person that will do it next year. You see, if we’re operating under the assumption that there are no original ideas, then we must also remember that in the words of Barbara Grizzutti Harrison “there are only original people.” Ultimately it is your personal perspective, experience and voice that define your art, not the topic or medium you choose.
“People may not like it”
From an ego perspective, knowing that not everyone will connect with your vision is a letdown. However, the truth is that creative pursuits aren’t designed to be loved by all. They’re meant to connect with those that deeply resonate with the message they convey. And so, if what you have to say or produce helps only one person to feel less alone in this world, wouldn’t you say those efforts were worth it? If so, then you owe it to yourself to keep going.
“My best work is behind me”
If you’re breathing, you’re living and if you’re living then you’re adding to your narrative. Regardless of what you may or may not have created in the past, there is more to say, simply because your story is still being written. Of course it can be easy to let doubt creep in as you wonder whether or not you can “do it again.” However the reality is that creativity isn’t about external praise or professional applause. It’s about using your talents to move through the world. Just like breathing, your art is a natural and integral part of who you are. So, relax. You will continue to imagine and build and develop, not because it’s what you “can” do, but because it’s simply who you are.