Being creative when creativity feels far away...
Although I believe that our creativity never leaves us, I do know that sometimes it can feel harder to tap into. I don’t tend to use the term Creative Block because a block seems to suggest a solid wall, which we somehow have to break down in order to rescue our creativity.
It makes it seem like we need to do something radical to change the situation, or that by allowing ourselves to sit and feel it, we are somehow not doing, or being, enough.
But, when I am feeling less creatively productive, I don’t see my creativity as being held hostage. I know it is still inside me, but that there are other factors at play in my body too. Perhaps tiredness is seeping into me, making it harder for my mind to connect the dots. Perhaps pain or worry is distracting me, giving me too many things to think about.
Creativity, for me, has a basis in problem-solving and making connections. When ideas come to me, they feel visual - it’s like I see one thing in my mind and then start building maps around it, figuring out the how’s and the why’s. When my brain feels tired though, the map building becomes misty. I may get an idea, but the connection-making that would usually fire up and spread out from it gets muddled.
So, for me, I guess I think of it less as a creative block and more of a creative fog.
Fog is just weather. Fog will clear at some point, and even at its thickest point, you can still move within it. Sure, you may not move intentionally forwards, but you are not forced to stand still.
When creativity feels further away than usual - and the motivation to try is lessened - it’s about just doing something. Anything. There doesn’t need to be a point to it, it’s simply about giving your body an action to do while your mind drifts.
In a fog there are fewer anchor points, so while I’m in it I try not to feel frustrated if I can’t spot them. Instead, I let myself just do.
Recently, I was in the midst of feeling very foggy. My mind and body felt drained of energy and, while I could feel the passing of time and feel the frustration of my unproductiveness, I also couldn’t bring myself to focus. I had creative projects which needed to be worked on, but they seemed to require more brain power than I had to give. In thinking about them, I just couldn’t see their maps in my mind, and so I couldn’t move them forward.
So I went for a walk. I let my body wander through the metaphorical mist and my mind follow along behind. I took my camera along and took photos of crunched leaves and tree trunks. I didn’t think about why, they just appealed to me visually. I picked up the odd leaf or twig, popped them in a box and brought them home with me to stare at. I figured I would draw them. No bigger plans than that. I would just look at them and draw them, without planning any other outcome. Little actions have value.
In getting into the shed, I suddenly had an urge to pull out the watercolours, so I went with it. I still have a long way to go in doing watercolour painting well, but this painting session wasn’t about practising or getting better at it. It was about how nice it felt to waft a brush over the paper. It was about how my mind zoned out swishing the paints about in the palette.
When it’s hard to focus on a creative project, and it feels as if the project is stalling, it doesn’t mean that we are creatively dried up.
And if we try a different path it doesn’t mean we have given up on our original one.
One of the main reasons I embrace creative variety is that it is fuel. Allowing ourselves to do different things lets our minds both rest and recharge whilst also feeling productive.
During this time, I also started doing some crochet again. Nothing fancy, just one stitch at a time. Having a pattern to tell me what to do, and something for my fingers to work around, stopped me feeling wholly rubbish about my inertia.
And now, I can say that the fog is lifting again. The maps are starting to reform and I am starting to see the landscape once more. Motivation for my creative projects is returning, as I knew it eventually would.
So, if you have creative fogs too - it’s ok. They won’t hang around forever and they don’t have to stop you from doing creative things. You don’t have to feel creative to let yourself still paint, or sculpt, or draw. You don’t need to be channelling your muse every time you sing or dance or play guitar. Something you write doesn’t have to be profound; something you knit doesn’t have to be wearable.
All it has to be is an action, a movement however small.
Thanks for reading, Keep making happy!
Love Gem x