“Anything that hurts you can teach you, and if it keeps hurting you, it’s because you haven’t learned.”
I just wrote about creative blocks and how to get past them, and yet here I am with a creative block.
I know where it came from, and I know how to fix it, but I’m not fixing it. Why? Because of fear. Because I’ve settled back in to the old habit of comfort. Luckily, I’ve already written two posts that really came in handy in getting me going again: My Blueprint for Creating Art that Matters and Fighting the Fear of Sounding Stupid.
Part three of the series (to be read in no particular order) then, is about identifying the causes of the block. Obviously I’m still struggling with these things, and I’m sure I’ll struggle with them forever. But knowing what they will help me avoid creative blocks in the future.
1. Tv shows are creativity killers. I know it. I can look back on the last six months and see it: the times that I was the most creative, I was not actively following a TV show.
But lately, (*guilty pleasure alert*) I’ve gotten in to the habit of watching “Once Upon a Time” almost every night. And as fun as it is, TV doesn’t offer me any inspiration. It doesn’t fill me up like books do; instead, it leaves me grasping for ideas and even the motivation to get started.
2. Good books are vital to inspiration. While I was reading What are you looking at? by Will Gompertz, I was on fire. Every time I picked up that book I had to have a pen and notebook on hand to write down ideas and quotes. It was the same with Monuments Men and On Writing Well.
Now I’m reading In the Garden of Beasts. I’m sure it will be an amazing book, and hopefully it will give me some inspiration. But right now I’m just in the early pages and I’m not feeling the fire.
I know now, I hit my creative sweet spot when I read two things at once: a “fun” book that can be about anything, art and writing related or not, and a “constructive” book that needs to be about art, writing, or pursuing a passion.
3. Consistent reminders of passion are kindling for the fire. Michael Hyatt put it so well in his recent blog post: “The truth is that anything worth doing isn’t all fun, it’s almost never fast, and it certainly isn’t easy.” Inspiration is only half of the battle.
At the beginning of a project, I get an idea and I’m so excited. I can’t wait to wake up every morning and work on it. The ideas are pouring in. But inevitably, that excitement falls away and I’m left with this project I’ve committed to: it’s not fun anymore, it isn’t happening as quickly as I hoped and it’s hard.
Consistent reminders from blogs and books help me continue to move forward despite the difficulty.
4. Other good things in life can be distractions. My job, for example, often gets in the way. I love my job, and I care about the place I work. Because of that, wonderful things like more hours and greater responsibilities can distract me from my deeper passions.
When life is going well I sometimes think I can live without my own art. I get so busy with all the positive things, it’s hard to find time to do it. But it’s when life isn’t going well that I need this. Like a relationship with God, I can’t stop and go according to how much time I have or how well life is going. It has to be consistent through life’s twists and turns.
5. Fear can be paralyzing. It is the root of my current creative block. I chose my domain name and set up my blog on WordPress this week. I immediately felt anxiety and terror at the realization that there’s no turning back — the “this might not work” thought. If I hadn’t experienced that feeling before, I would have quit right then.
But it’s a familiar feeling: submitting a big paper, sending a text to a crush, getting on a plane to Scotland for grad school. Luckily good things followed the uncomfortable feelings. The paper received a good mark, the crush became a fun boyfriend and the plane ride to Scotland began the most amazing year of my life.
I know to chase the fear. Fear is a good sign, it means I’m on to something good.
Armed with knowledge of the source of my creative block and the factors that feed it, I can reduce its impact. See? My creative block can help me, and it can help you too!
Have you identified some causes of your own creative blocks? What stops you from moving forward with eagerness?