As I wrote in my last blog post, my blogging over the last year or so has been running on empty. It’s never a good feeling, feeling empty. However, all creatives will one day or another experience the well running dry. For writers it’s call writers block, but it’s no different for photographers, painters, musicians—or bloggers.
Julia Cameron, who has written the inspirational book, The Artist’s Way, calls the place from which we draw all our creative inspirations and ideas, the creative well. I like the expression and the analogue it plays with. Like a real well, sometimes it’s plenty full and we can scoop of an abundance of inspiration. At other times, it’s drained and needs to be replenished. Camero suggests treating oneself with something good and kind; if it’s just taking time to sit down in the neighbourhood café and enjoying a latte or treating oneself with a visit to an exhibition or attending a concert.
The thing is, a creative block is not a problem when you see what it actually is. It’s just you running on empty. It’s not about yourself, in the sense that you are a failure or aren’t creative enough. Creative blocks happen to us all—and there is nothing we can do to avoid them. It will happen to you.
The word block suggest that you are constipated or stuck when the truth is you are empty. I so well know from own experiences that the emptiness can destroy the creative soul, as do the shame and frustration that go with it. It can be a very depressing experience. You feel like the muses have abandoned you, or maybe just like they have given you a limited amount of creativity, maybe to do one book, or to photograph on good project, or put together a couple of handfuls of blog posts.
Just remember, they won’t last forever. Sometimes, yes, it will take time to replenish the well, but when you realize that eventually it will refill, it’s much easier not to fall head on into the empty well yourself. Accept the block and fill up the creative well again.
In her book, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott writes: “We have all been there, and it feels like the end of the world. It’s like a little chickadee being hit by an H-bomb. Here’s the thing, though, I no longer think of it as block. I think that is looking at the problem from the wrong angle. If your wife locks you out of the house, you don’t have a problem with your door.”
Her solution is acceptance—which is something we’re taught not to do. We are taught to improve on uncomfortable situations, to change things, alleviate unpleasant feelings. But if you accept the reality that you have been given—that you are not in a productive creative period—you free yourself to begin filling up again.
As Lamott points out: “I encourage my students at times like these to get one page of anything written [Lamott is a writer and have taught writing], three hundred words of memories or dreams or stream of consciousness on how they hate writing—just for the hell of it, just to keep their fingers from becoming arthritic, just because they have made a commitment to try to write three hundred words every day. Then, on bad days and weeks, let things go at that.”
Her advice is applicable for all creative activities and all kinds of blocks.
In the beginning, when you are first starting out with some creative endeavour, there are a million reasons not to create, to give up. That is why it’s of extreme importance to make a commitment to finish sections or parts of whatever you are doing, to driving through to the finish. The discourage voice hound you—“this is nothing but a pile of shit”. What you are doing may just be practice. But this is how you are going to get better, and there is no point in practicing if you don’t finish.
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