Woodworking is a creative profession and when the inspiration is there, it can feel like you’re on top of the world. But when the creative well runs dry, it’s easy to be overcome by inertia. If you rely on woodworking to make a living, you don’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike. It takes effort to get out of a creative rut and back into your groove. Here are a few tips to help get those creative juices flowing.
Play and Practice
Overcoming a creative block requires you to keep working, whether you want to or not. When you feel uninspired and dull, it can feel like everything you create belongs on the scrap or burn pile. Think back to the enthusiasm you felt when you just began woodworking. You were enthusiastic and eager to learn how to master different techniques and tools.
• Recapture your initial creativity by gathering scrap wood and a few basic tools and allow yourself to experience the art of woodworking without the pressure of creating something following specific guidelines.
• Take the time to learn a new technique or tinker with a tool you haven’t touched in a while.
• Allow yourself to rediscover why you originally went into woodworking.
Even if all you do is score the wood, keep your hands moving – it will get your brain and heart to follow.
If you work per clients’ specifications all day, you’re used to working within a certain set of constraints. But those limits and constraints are set by others and they do little to encourage creativity.
To help overcome woodworker’s block, issue yourself a challenge. Limit the number or type of tools you use to complete a project. Sometimes working within a set of very rigid constraints can become stifling. This naturally leads to thoughts of what you’d rather be doing and all the ways you’d rather be doing them. A challenge can often give birth to new ideas.
Look for Inspiration
If you can’t quite bring yourself to create, spend some time researching the work of others, whether it’s the grand masters of the past or your contemporaries who are making big waves.
Scour the Internet, the library, trade magazines and additional sources to see how other woodworkers approach their craft. Look at projects with an analytical eye and take note of how the artist accomplished what he or she did. What do you like about the work of other woodworkers? What do you dislike? Sometimes all it takes to break out of a creative rut is to look to others for inspiration.
Try Something Different
Building a miniature grandfather clock featuring ornate scrollwork might be just the challenge you need if you’re constantly creating large pieces. If you find yourself working primarily with hardwood, consider working on a piece of pine.
If changing the size, scale or material you’re working with doesn’t banish your woodworker’s block, try going back to basics by re-creating your first build. Was it a birdhouse in scouting? A bookshelf in shop class? Revisit that project, but make it more ornate, more perfect, more expert. Take the knowledge, skills and techniques you’ve learned and use them to build something exquisite.
Even if you don’t have the time or budget to break your woodworker’s block with other projects, you can still try to kick inertia by staying focused on your craft. Make it your priority to eat, sleep and breathe woodworking for a while. Push yourself through your block and remember that nothing — not even a lull in creativity — is forever.