The creative process is a journey, and like any journey, there are times when things are going smoothly and you are just humming along. And then there are the times when everything feels frustrating, blocked, and in a tangle. The sticky times are never fun, but what makes them even worse is when you buy into a popular belief about creative congestion that sounds something like this. “If I were a real artist everything would always be effortless and I would never come up against any obstacles. So the fact that I’m struggling means that I am doing something wrong.”
The truth is, creative blocks happen. Stopping, starting, frustration, ecstasy, agony, despair, triumph, agitation, pleasure, movement, and monumental blockage are all part of the creative experience. Wrestling with your creativity demons is a great way to have high drama and intensity in your life without losing your integrity, your marriage, your reputation, or your good credit rating. And it’s what makes creativity so much fun! When you are painting or writing or playing music, you are in relationship with a primal force, like a hurricane, that blows hot and cold and then whips you around and throws you out the window. And your job is to get your self up, climb back in over the ledge, and say, “Okay, cool. Let’s do that again!”
It’s important, especially when you are stuck, to stay in the game and to keep your butt in the chair. You never want to give up on your process when you hit one of these tight spots because what feels like a suffocating creative narrows is always a creative birth canal. And learning to work your way through the anxiety, boredom, and the blankness of not knowing what to do next is always a great way to build your creative self-confidence.
If you are feeling immobilized, it’s very likely that you have lost contact with your self and what is most important to you. When that happens, you need to get back to the first rule of maintaining creative juiciness: simply follow the energy. If you are stopped, it is likely that you are caught up in your ideas about what is supposed to be happening. You are probably off in the fantasy future or hanging around in the long-gone and quite dead past and are no longer in the dynamic, living present. When you are in your head fretting, preparing, or planning, you immediately lose connection to your endless supply of raw, creative power.
In some ways, this should be the easiest task, because following the energy just means asking yourself the question, “What do I want to do now? What do I want to paint or write or dance now? In this very moment, what will allow me to feel the greatest sense of excitement and aliveness?” But we are trained to be suspicious of what we really want. If we want it, it must somehow be wrong. We must be serious artists and not waste time on frivolity and feeling good. If we are not suffering, we must not truly be doing art. We get bogged down in trying to figure out what we should be doing and looking for what will gain us the most approval, brownie points, and pats on the back. We end up asking all the wrong questions, and then feel shut down and uninspired and wonder why we can’t be more creative!
A creative standstill is never a catastrophe. Rather it is a priceless opportunity and invitation to wake up to the present moment and reconnect with your heart’s desire. So don’t be afraid to ask that one magic question that will open your creative floodgates again: what do you want to do now?
By Chris Zydel