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Prompts & Circumstance: A Creative Scorched Earth Policy

On our most recent episode of Stoke the Wild, Joy and I discuss the use of various tools/mediums in creativity, and how that impacts our creative output. This post aims to bring forth a focused effort of ideas from the podcast; a "Sparknotes" version, if you will.

Let's set the stage with a few questions:


How do you overcome creative blocks?

Do different tools or mediums change the style of your creative work?


Both questions have a simple and a complicated answer. For me, both answers are linked.

When I think of my creative roadblocks I think of sitting at my drawing table, staring at a blank canvas or computer screen and feeling as if "inspiration" cannot be found. I used to believe chasing the muse of creativity often meant pandering to my wishful thinking that when "inspiration strikes," I'd be ready to put pen to paper. The truth is, as with anything worth doing, creativity has its fair share of disciplines, and with discipline comes the need to cultivate consistency.*

Ultimately, it comes down to five different approaches I utilize most often to burn the clutter of my mind, my work space, or my motivations to the ground.

This is my much needed and often used Scorched Earth Policy for my creative blocks.

1. Establish a routine.

  • Most days I create a list of "to-do's" that help keep me on track. I have found that if I. give myself to much freedom in my day-to-day, I end up squandering the opportunities for creativity.

2. Adjust your approach.

  • This may sound simple, but giving a project or idea a different approach by way of medium, tools, or even through perspective can often give you the opportunity to engage with your work differently. Maybe a piece you plan in watercolor works differently (and even better) as an acrylic piece. Or the poem you've been stuck on, needs a new circumstance to dwell itself in before it can be finished. Whatever it may be, sometimes a little adjustment makes a big difference.

3. Return to the basics.

  • There are many days when I feel "stuck" on a project. One of the quickest ways for me to break that feeling is to sketch or draw something which comes naturally for me. By returning to basics (shapes, character structure, etc) it gives me an opportunity to loosen up, have fun, and then tackle a waiting project with new momentum. For some, it is a simple as making a warm-up sketch or having a quick writing prompt a daily routine.

4. Take a walk.

  • Fresh air can make all the difference. It can be a 5 minute walk, or leisurely stroll during a lunch break. Wherever the space, with what ever time you have, a brief walk can clear the mind and bring about a fresh set of eyes to your project. Plus, as an added benefit, you'll get up from your desk a little each day and not feel so tied to your work space.

5. Have healthy boundaries.

  • This sums up a large portion of my missteps. Whether it is boundaries in collaboration, or in my own time, having healthy boundaries in my work allow me to maintain a positive momentum with the work I create. From my workspace being organized and clear of clutter to my inbox getting its replys on, I want to have a healthy boundary in my space. This also includes saying "yes" and "no" appropriately to things in life and work that can either fill up your creative soul, or diminish it greatly. Only you know for sure what you need to make those boundaries in your work. Only you can reinforce them. But taking the time to identify them will allow for you to focus with intentionality on what is necessary, and put aside what is not.

All that being said, how does it tie in to different tools or mediums having an impact on your creative output; does the method change the madness?

Again, I can only speak to what I know. As identified above, when I adjust my approach to a project (using a different tool or medium) I can break down a block in my creativity. I believe in doing so, the piece can take on a new life, or even become something different than what I ever anticipated.

What doesn't change is my vision, or motivation behind the piece. While tone, texture, structure, or visual identity may change from concept to construct, the reasoning most often does not. I can draw a character on paper, paint it in watercolor, paint it again in acrylic, and while the character is the same the piece will take on a whole different feel based on the tools or mediums used.

If I am writing, the same is true when I move from pen to computer. When I hand write short stories or ideas into my notebook, I often scribble (especially in the stories) as if I am the character writing a journal entry. This may never be seen by a reader! But it allows me to explore a different side of the story development. When I approach my computer to flesh the story out it often feels very clinical. At this point, I find myself focusing more on the aspect of actually writing a narrative, but my creative weirdness finds its spark with pen more often than not.

So now the questions are posed to you.

What do you do to break the creative blocks? How do different tools or medium shape your creative output?

What would it look like to establish your own Scorched Earth Policy for your creative space?

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Much love and many thanks!


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