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My Long Case of Creative Block

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

and how I unstuck myself

After finishing Uni in the U.S. with a degree in Advertising Design, i worked in fashion industry as an apparel graphic designer. Generally in fashion industry, there are 4 seasons, and designers work for the next season following a new theme each season. Apparel designers will then decide on the look of the season, fabric, and colors. Graphic designers then design artworks based on the theme, following color schemes. Fashion industry has tight deadlines, and I would keep going like this plus other projects for marketing and sales teams, without much break in between seasons.

A mood board, or inspiration board of floral patterns
"Floral" Inspirational board suitable for the brand Mimosa.
My graphic design on a dress by Mimosa.

Working this way for roughly 15 years, I had a real desire to create artwork for myself and not for brands or companies. But I had a big problem. I did not know what to draw, what to create! The more I thought, the more I felt this feeling of congestion, or suffocation, and I felt stuck. I had gotten too used to themes given to me to base my designs off of. Now I was facing a completely blank canvas (or paper, in my case), with freedom of unlimited possibilities, and it was like a huge white wall.

I was ashamed of this, and went on for years without being able to create any art for myself, feeling burned out to design for others.

I went through a few years of stressful personal situations, and decided to try meditation. When I got a hang of it, I liked it, but none of the guided meditations clicked with me. I have decided to try atmospheric music in headphones while I sat. I have tinnitus, so "silence" situation did not work for me.

A photo of a little ornament of a green frog meditating on a rock

Meditation had positive side effects! It not only helped me with stress levels, it also helped me clear my mind, but not because I "gently pushed aside" my thoughts and focused on my breath, but because I let myself think. It is almost like instead of focusing on my breath (which was my first step of meditation anyway), I focused on my thought. I realized when I am meditating, my monkey mind calms down and able to clarify what the priorities are, etc.

With the help of the atmospheric music, ideas for artwork started forming into my brain. And so I am here with more ideas than time!

Another cool thing about meditation, though I no longer practice every day, is that I found I am mildly synesthetic. Synesthesia is when you hear a sound and you see shapes and colors, or you have constant color associations with alphabets and numbers. For example, letter "D" is always orange for me. Some letters have no colors. Unlike some strongly synesthetic people, I do not literally see shapes and colors when I hear music. It just flows in my brain without trying, but it has to be music without strong beats or vocals. And I'd have to have headphones on, with eyes closed, and focused on the music. I find this fun and relaxing to do this. There are some online tests you can take to see if you are synesthetic or not. I took a couple and though dodgy-looking super short test told me I was not a synesthete, this legit-looking more thorough test told me that I was.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed, stressed, and out of ideas, I go back to meditation, without a goal to come up with ideas, but just to calm down, just to sit and enjoy the after effects of it. I truly highly recommend meditation for thinking.

Abstract watercolor painting made a little fuzzy
My synesthesia is often something like this, moving with music.

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