Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Creative Block

I'd be remiss if I didn't address the dreaded Creative Block. For writers it's known as writer's block. I've even heard it called creative constipation. However colorful the term, the idea is the same. The creative juices have stopped flowing. The well is dry. Life is over (yes, that's dramatic, but we creative types are dramatic). Or is it?

I don't think, for one second, we are ever truly blocked from our creativity. I think we experience burn out. I think some days are more productive than others. I think we stop listening to the subtle signs our body and mind offer us. But creativity is always there. Let's explore the process...

I'll use writing as an example. When we first embark on a new creative project, we're inspired, excited and everything flows perfectly. For a week, a month, or if you're lucky, a few months. Then things start to slow down. We have to work a little harder for the words to flow and ideas to form. Our excitement wanes and our motivation disappears (much like our New Year's resolutions). But hopefully we push on. The pages fill, one word at a time, and our story takes shape. Then life gets in the way. Maybe it's the daily stressors we all experience. Maybe it's a huge life change. Regardless, we're stressed. When we sit down to work on our project, nothing happens. Which piles on more stress. We try to force the ideas to flow, which usually backfires. And when nothing happens, we experience Creative Block. Oh the horror! (I said we're dramatic).

That's when you need to take a step back. Really, it's that simple. Sometimes a week or two away from our project can make all the difference. Other times, we might need to re-evaluate our project, or even our creative process for aspects that aren't working. Shaking up the routine can also bring you out of the creative funk. There are dozens of books/websites/blogs addressing this particular problem. I'm here to tell you one thing: The worst thing you can do is sit and whine.

I do know a few writers (I use the term loosely here) who've stopped actually writing, and have made an art out of whining about their writer's block. But folks, that doesn't pay the bills, it's unprofessional and no one wants to listen to it. The more you fixate on your lack of creativity, the more you perpetuate the problem. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just take a break--an hour, a day, a week (or three), and then get back to work. A break from your project can yield a clear mind and a fresh set of eyes.

I don't believe in writer's block. But I do know I need a break every now and then. If I don't take that much-needed time for myself, my work suffers and it trickles down to other areas of my life. The bottom line is, life happens. We get stressed, we get stuck and eventually, hopefully, we get over it. Whatever you do, don't quit. Don't whine and create an actual block where only a little breathing space was needed. Your creative well is always full.


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