“Dear Maz. I know creativity is my therapy and outlet for all manner of negative feelings, but I can’t seem to muster up the desire to actually create. If you can help kick my creative arse, I’d be incredibly grateful. “ Sarah
I’ve a few private messages and public comments recently, on Facebook, Instagram and email, sharing the frustration of the creative process. Or, more specifically the frustrating bits, the stuck bits – the bits that make you go grrrr… What’s wonderful is that we reach out to each other when times are tough, because there is no doubt that relationship and community are the most golden and fruitful of resources when it comes to working through some issue or another, whether it is creative or personal, or anything else. Yes, sometimes I need to get my head down and power through on my own, but more often or not I extend a plaintive hand to my ever growing community of online friends to help me get unstuck, or out of a rut, or back on the confidence cart (from which I have a regular tumble!)
In answer to Sarah’s question, I think the clue is in working out why we want to create. For most people I know who consider themselves creative, there is a recognition that creativity helps to boost wellbeing. It makes us feel good. When we look at our wellbeing, there are several (scientifically proven, don’t you know 😉 ) factors that contribute. For me, art ticks all the boxes. Firstly, it generates positive emotions. Experiencing creativity and beauty and art in the everyday generates a range of positive emotions from general contentment to joy and even euphoria. Secondly, the feeling I get when I’m fully engaged and ‘in flow’ is unbeatable. It’s a healthy, legal and sustainable high! It’s great for building new relationships and exploring and deepening existing ones. Art is a language that we all speak, if we are open to it. It gives meaning to life, and although the creative process itself is valuable, there’s a huge sense of achievement in producing an end result. So, all in all, no wonder it makes us feel good. * (Read about the P.E.R.M.A model here) .
So, if we know it’s good for us, why do we resist what we know is going to help?! Ain’t that an age old question? Why, when I knew I was sensitive to sugar, did I succumb to my cravings daily? Why, when I know a walk will do me good do I cling steadfastly to the sofa? And why, when we know it’s the best tonic, do we not pick up our pens and paints and open up our journals or place a new canvas on the easel? One thing I know for sure is that the act of creativity is made up of a multitude of process, emotions, habits and reactions- and we must embrace whatever arises. It’s all part of the rich tapestry of the artistic life.
There are many books on our tendency to block, but sometimes you don’t even want to read any more, you just want to get on and do. It occurred to me that what I need is a ‘first aid kit’ or ‘Ten Commandments’ for when I can’t move forward. Arriving at a clear desk and thinking ‘what next’ is one of the scariest feelings for me, guaranteed to propel me into shut down.So I got to thinking, what would be in my first aid kit? I came up with the following band-aid instructions….
1 Make one mark. If it’s a new project, just do one thing and expect no more of yourself. If necessary, turn to a new sheet of paper and do it again. One colour, one tool, one mark. No expectations. There, you’ve started. Come back later to your mark, or keep going until something is triggered, and off you go.
2 Use a prompt. Or three. A word or phrase picked at random from a book. (I just tried this by sticking my finger into the book sitting on the desk next to me. I found “we become responders, not reactors. “ Now, isn’t that a great prompt to write, or draw, or paint something?) A prompt could be a picture torn from a magazine. Tear out the first thing you see- don’t deliberate. (Choices= panic ) Or pick a colour or a medium (pencil, pastel, ink) and work solely in that for 20 minutes (Read up on the Pomodoro technique; it works for me)
Write a list in advance; black pen, red/ scissors/ tape/ word/ red pastel/ cut your prompts up and have a prompt box that you can dip into when the going gets tough.
3 If you’re in a long-term slump, take a workshop. If taken online workshops from Dirty Footprints, Jane Davies, Pauline Agnew, Carla Sonheim , and Julie Pritchard in the last couple of years. I haven’t regretted a penny I’ve spent. If you’re process driven, sometimes being told what to do hits the button. And you get to learn great stuff and connect with awesome people. It’s a win win win J
4 Meditate. Sometimes we get so caught up in the need for constant inspiration and stimulation n order to create that we send our poor frazzled brains into overdrive. By focusing on the breath, Meditation helps us to be present and aware, and helps to untangle the myriad thoughts that tie us down. I find it hard to meditate, but I still practice daily. I practise yoga for at least an hour daily; as I’m better at a more active meditation- it has the same effect for me. It boosts focus, clarity, and insight. And it feels darn good.
There are plenty of mediation resources on the web and it may take a while to find one that’s a good fit for you. Here’s one you can try for starters.
5 Give yourself permission NOT to create. Do you know what? Maybe you are not meant to be doing this now. Just maybe the universe is encouraging you to make space for something. But don’t use this as a get out just because things are tough. You’ll know in your heart of heart if this is the case or not. Just leave yourself open to the idea.
6 Cut something up. I’ll often paint large sheets, especially when using the gelli plate, or as a means of cleaning off excess paint on brushes. Or occasionally when I end up with something I really don’t like. Cutting it up offers a completely different perspective and a new starting point. And it allows you to VENT! Wield those crazy scissors!
7 Copy someone else’s work. Artists have done this throughout the ages. It takes the pressure off, and you learn a lot.
“Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find your self.”
Austin Kleon- Steal Like an Artist
8 List three things you have left unfinished and finish one of them. Finishing feels good. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece.
10 Use Instagram. If I feel like doing nothing else, I can usually manage to take and upload a picture, and I instantly feel I’ve achieved something, however humble, and I feel connected, too.
What would you add? Which of these would work for you? I’d love to know.