In the dynamic world of drum & bass, creativity serves as the lifeblood of every producer, DJ, MC and raver. Even so, one question seems to rear its head again and again: do creative blocks really exist, or are they figments of our imagination?
In todays article we’re going to dive into the minds of artists who have shared their encounters with creative blocks. We’ll also shine a spotlight on the views of Dutch producer Subp Yao, who shared with me his view that writer’s block is intertwined with capitalism. Add to that a little sprinkling of tips that are designed to rekindle your creative spirit, and we’re ready to roll…
The Enigma of Creative Blocks
OK, here we are again, staring at a plain canvas, empty project file or a blank page. You know the feeling? These are the moments where the inspo appears to be elusive, and we’re wondering if our creative fountain has run dry. But do these creative barricades have any substance, or are they just mental hurdles we create for ourselves?
To explore this mystery, I will share a couple of real-life experiences from some of my clients who have confronted creative blocks head-on.
One artist recently made a deep decision: they decided to stop chasing money through music production and instead, focus on other creative avenues to make a living. This shift was driven by the hope of experiencing a more unrestricted flow of creativity, free from the pressures of bills and rent. Their journey highlights how the music industry’s focus on making money can sometimes suppress the genuine artistic spirit.
Another artist shared their ten-year struggle, during which time they had been extremely active in the industry. The demands of their job had totally sapped their creative energy, leaving behind a void where their passion for making music once thrived. This ‘all or nothing’ work-life dynamic blurred the lines between their craft and their profession, making it nearly impossible to tap into the fountain of creativity. Their thought process was consumed by concerns about how their music would be received or how they could turn it into a source of income. The sense of joy they once felt when making music had long gone and when they did manage to create music, it no longer resonated with their soul. This artist’s story shines a light on the toll that the music industry can take on an individual’s creative authenticity.
The Influence of Capitalism on Creative Blocks
Enter Dutch producer Subp Yao, who boldly asserts that creative blocks, often attributed to external pressures, are fundamentally linked to capitalism. According to him, when the pursuit of money within the music industry takes precedence, it disrupts the natural flow of creativity. In his view, if your passion for music is driven purely by love, creative blocks become a thing of the past.
Subp Yao’s perspective is clear-cut: “Your love for the music isn’t big enough if you get writer’s block.” He argues that when financial concerns take centre stage, creative hurdles emerge. To counter this, Subp Yao proposes a unique solution inspired by Questlove, drummer of The Roots. When faced with a creative block, Questlove suggests picking up any book from your shelf, opening it at a random page and selecting a word. You are then tasked with creating a piece of musi inspired by that word. This unconventional approach is a means to break free from the mental constraints and external pressures, resulting in a deeper connection with the music. For those of you who would like to learn more about Questlove’s creative processes I highly recommend reading Creative Quest.
And now for the big debate…Do Creative Blocks Truly Exist?
I’ll present some arguments for and against this concept and leave it up to you to develop your own stance on the debate!
The Case for Creative Blocks
The argument supporting creative blocks is based on a few important factors. First of all, there are mental obstacles such as stress, self-doubt and burnout that can genuinely slow down creative thinking, and many artists undoubtedly deal with these challenges. Additionally, the pressure to achieve commercial success in the music industry can be overwhelming, stifling creativity. Some people also believe that creative blocks are a natural part of an artist’s growth. These moments offer opportunities to rethink your creative direction and come up with fresh, new ideas.
The Case Against Creative Blocks
On the flip side of this coin is the belief that cultivating a strong mindset rooted in a genuine love for music can protect artists from creative blocks. When we approach music purely as a passion, external pressures may have less influence. Additionally, artists are naturally adaptable and tend to find creative solutions when faced with challenges, so what appears as a creative block may just be a brief pause in the creative journey. Various techniques, like Questlove’s unconventional method, are available to break free from creative blocks, emphasising the importance of experimentation in finding innovative solutions within the creative process.
Rekindling Your Creative Fire
If you’ve come to the point where it’s time to reignite your creative spirit and overcome blocks, try these strategies that have been tried and tested by numerous artists across multiple creative industries: When you feel stuck, take a break from music and find inspiration in activities you enjoy. Embrace playfulness and curiosity in your music-making, let go of perfectionism and explore different moods and emotions in your compositions. Collaborating with other artists and infusing ideas and new energy can also be powerful.
By approaching your work with the curiosity of a beginner, you will be able to rekindle your passion for making music if the fire has almost fizzled out. Picture yourself as a 5-year old, joyfully splashing paint on a blank canvas, vividly imagining new worlds. By tapping into that inner child and reframing your mindset, you can detach from the need for a specific outcome and immerse yourself in your creative process with passion and purpose.
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