Thanks Alison for stopping by sharing your thoughts with us and I think you’re right about the importance of getting out of your head in order to recharge. We seem to live in this culture where we are told to keep going and keep pushing harder until we succeed. Even though I think this idea of persistence works well if we are talking about our overall career, but on a daily basis, I think there is something to be said for respecting the ebb and flow of your creative process. Although we might be able to force productivity, I think it’s far more difficult to force creativity.
Music is always a good option to unwind, however for myself, I find that I usually need to physically change locations. Get away from the computer, go to the bookstore, take the dog for a walk, or even (if I’m really desperate) hit the gym. I find that I usually need some kind of physical activity to release all the mental congestion inside my head.
When I read this, it struck my heart unexpectedly. I used to be able to create such wonderful stories as a child, a love that followed me through college to be a Sequential Artist. Due to funds I was unable to finish my schooling. Something will not let go of the creative aspect, a part of me really does scream “Where did it all go?!” And sitting down and staring at a canvas to paint, or a blank screen to type, or a piece of paper to write in, it all just feels like a lie. Perhaps I am afraid of taking the title, but only because I feel underachieved and so old in the face of others that still fighting for their dream. Thanks for such a good read. :)
Thank you so much Mia for letting me know that this post was able to connect with you. I’ve always said one of the biggest dangers in living this creative life is that too often we feel alone in it.
I think there are a lot of us out there who feel underachieved and on the verge of being too late to make significant contribution to our art. It’s not too late for any of us. Who knows what we may have become if we had started sooner, focused more, or worked harder — but it doesn’t really matter. We can only start with this moment. All we can do is pick up our paintbrush, dust off our keyboard, and do what we can with what we have. That feeling in your gut is there for a reason. It is telling you that you need to honor that part of yourself, even if it’s only for yourself. Now get to work :)
[…] into a creative funk is not the same thing as having writer’s block, which is when you may find yourself temporarily […]
Yeah! I’m sorry but thats all can write. Stuck in a rut and its kicking my butt. Thanks for the post!
As I do with everything in life, I just push through it. I can honestly say, however, I’ve never been hit hard with writer’s block. Usually, it means I’m not focused and I need to get alone with my thoughts. Because I’m a lifelong professional singer-songwriter and have faced mental lethargy many, many times, I borrow from that experience when writing. With music, I just play until something comes. With books, I write until something comes. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be written. Doing this with pen and paper really helps; once the debris is cleared I then go to my laptop.
Although being unfocused and distracted is pretty much a constant with me, I absolutely agree that sometimes you just have to find a way to start the process and then keep going until something comes. It always reminds me of that famous quote by Picasso that says, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” This idea of movement to prime the creative well is something that often gets forgotten. We wait around to come up with that one really good idea before we get started, instead of simply picking up the guitar or paintbrush and getting to work.
I find writer’s block to be quite simple. It’s my intuition’s way of telling me that what I’m trying to write is stupid, that I should scrap that idea entirely and never look back on it.
Let’s say, for example, I was writing a traditional good vs evil fantasy story, and everything has led up to the climax battle at the end. I’m about to start writing the climax, and all of a sudden- writer’s block. Now, this battle HAS to happen. Everything has lead up to this point. What do I do?
Don’t write the battle. My idea was wrong. I need to write something else here instead. Instead of trying to figure out how to begin writing this battle, I scrap it entirely and try to figure out what I can write instead. Perhaps I left behind an important side character, and this bit needs to be from that character’s perspective, or perhaps the battle can’t even happen unless that character is present. Perhaps the battle itself is boring, and I should cut directly to the aftermath. Perhaps the battle is so epic that it can’t be adequately described, so I should use a different method such as writing about it’s immediate effect on a nearby town. No matter what I do, however, the original idea I had was wrong and needs to be scrapped, and replaced with something different.
I agree with you in the fact that writer’s block is often our subconscious mind’s way of sending us a message. Sometimes it may be telling us that we’re on the wrong track, and sometimes it may be telling us that we need to dig a little deeper or approach things from a slightly different angle. The danger here, however, is when we give into the blockage and take it as a “sign” that we should stop. Sometimes being blocked is an emotional response (fear, doubt, etc…) which is often when we may need to put our head down and push through until our emotional state changes. Sometimes, however, as you mentioned the blockage may also come from a logical disconnect. This can happen when you realize that something doesn’t make any sense at this particular point in the story, or you find that your character is suddenly heading down a dead end path. This is when you have to be willing to let it go and change direction instead of trying to force it into the narrative. This isn’t always easy to do, especially if you like what you have written.
The problem is that sometimes fear and doubt disguises itself as flawed logic and vice versa, so you have to be careful and take the time to figure out if it’s time to change course or simply push through.
When I’m out of inspiration, it’s usually due to stress or having so much going on that I have little time for (or by) myself… it’s like I mentally shut down at that point and have nothing left to contribute to creative pursuits, if that makes sense. I’ll put my headphones on and listen to whatever music I’m in the mood for, and zone out by playing Solitaire on the computer. It sounds strange, but it’s the way I recharge. My mind doesn’t have to think about anything beyond the music so I can get lost in it while my hands absentmindedly click the mouse and move the cards around. It’s like driving on autopilot – ever have those times where you can’t really remember the drive from point A to point B, but you just got out of the car at point B so you know it had to have happened? During that time, your mind softly drifted wherever it wanted to while your body drove the machine, but when the trip was over you found yourself exactly in the place where you needed to go.
I can’t say if it’s the music itself that sparks inspiration, or if it’s the fact that my mind isn’t being forced to come up with ideas for a little while, but one way or another it seems to open the pipes up again. For me, at least.