The Blank Canvas Syndrome

I am sure you are familiar with the Writer’s Block, a problem all kinds of creative people face, no matter if you are a writer, a musician, or a painter. A condition primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown. The state ranges from difficulty coming up with original ideas to being unable to make work for years.

creative productivity

The Venus Work principle

The principle of “success breeds success” or “cumulative advantage”. The phenomenon is comparable to the economic or financial rule: “the richer you are, the easier to get even richer”. One can interpret this as follows for the case study: there is always a probability that an artist with no “Venus-work” in the past will create a first one. If this first “Venus-work” has success, the greater probability will be that the artist will produce another “Venus-work” and so on; if however, this first work is a failure or has no success, the artist will probably not create a second “Venus-work”.
– K. Bender (His Twitter)

Overcome the blank canvas syndrome

My personal experience tells me writer’s block has many different dimensions: to start a new work, continue working, and re-start working after a long time. Many artists told me they face fear and self-doubt after staring at the white canvas before starting a new work.

1. Start without thinking

One trick is just to put a stroke or a splash of colors or make a random background. The key is to break the emptiness of the white space. You can always paint over later; it won’t ruin your canvas. (Except for watercolor which raises a bit the difficulty)

2. Draft the big picture

My screenwriting professor’s method is to write a one-page story outline and go back to the outline constantly. This way, I know where I am and where I am going. It’s all about the big picture. I know some artists would draft a mockup or even random lines before picking up the brush to remind yourself what result you wish to achieve.

3. Don’t re-start, just go-on

Do you have the moment when you go back to the gym after a month’s holiday? Re-starting a project is way more complicated than starting a new one. You have the emotional burdens of the past, and you have the uncertainties of the future.

4. Make social challenges

Have you heard of the daily drawing challenge? This challenge is about drawing something every single day without interruption. You can let your family and friends know or join an online community of artists. You declare publicly that you will do this challenge (or any other challenge in this matter), and if you fail, you will invite everyone to an expensive dinner or bet $1000. The key is that the stacks must be high. Use the support of family and friends to get over the problematic start and establish a good habit of making art.

5. Find a ritual

Every artist, knowingly or unknowingly, has a ritual. It could be something as simple as arranging your tools, playing a specific playlist, or brewing that perfect cup of chamomile tea. By immersing in a familiar pre-work routine, you create a bridge from the mundane to the creative. Your mind recognizes this ritual as a precursor to creation, easing you into the art-making process.

6. Connect with Nature

Nature has answers to our most intricate dilemmas. When the brush feels alien, step outside. A stroll in the park, observing the rivulets of raindrops, or even gazing at a night sky can spark inspiration. It’s about syncing with a rhythm older than time, letting the natural world guide your inner compass.

7. Use past creations

If you’ve created before, you hold a treasure trove of inspiration. Dive into your older studies: The scribbled notes or the half-formed sketches. They’re not just art; they’re a narrative of your journey. Let them remind you of the artist you’ve been and who you’re evolving into. They can be the stepping stones across the intimidating emptiness.

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