So many creatives I work with struggle with the collision of their art and the vulnerability of asking people to support their work. Here’s a great TED talk from Amanda Palmer on that very subject.
Here’s a great article on dealing with a creative block by Lisa Wiley, LMFT:
After the creative person has been in an immersed state of creative flow, at some point he or she must exit this space. Whether it’s the result of having to tend to other responsibilities or ideas have run out, departing from this creative bliss can feel terrifying to the artist.
As one steps back and reviews the work that’s been created, this leaves the artist susceptible to self-doubt and self-criticism. During this pause, anxiety and panic can resurface. What felt like an intense and energized period of creating can suddenly shift to self-judgment and a lack of self-confidence. For this reason, one may have difficulty re-entering the creative process and instead find themselves creatively blocked.
It’s important to understand that this is a normal occurrence for anyone who is creating. Accepting that this can happen at any moment during the creative process is the first step to better understanding one’s own creative practice. It doesn’t matter how many years of experience, how well one has mastered their skill, this still occurs with even the most advanced creative professional.
How does one re-enter that flow of creativity after exiting a phase that seemed so productive? It’s important to turn to alternative realms of immersion in order to avoid becoming blocked. Immersed experiences happen outside of one’s regular creative work. They ignite inspiration and offer ways to connect to oneself and others. Other forms of immersion, nurtures and refuels the artist, preparing them to reengage with the creative process.
Forms of Immersive Experiences
Connection with Nature
When one steps out of his/her home, office or art studio and into the outdoors, it’s as if the creative spirit takes in a deep breath. Something about blue skies, sunlight, and fresh air transforms the artist’s frame of mind. This could be as simple as a walk through a botanical garden, or a hike through a state park. Connecting with nature can offer a way to revitalize one’s creativity.
Other Forms of Creativity
Exposing oneself to other forms of creative work can reawaken inspiration. For instance, take a stroll through an art gallery or get lost in book of poetry. Listen to a beautifully composed piece of music or go to a concert to see a favorite group perform live. See a movie that conjures deep thinking and alternative ways of looking at life.
Going inward and connecting with yourself and your body can be an immersive experience. Being forced to slow down and be mindful in the present moment can remove unwanted busyness from your thoughts. When we allow ourselves to go inward we connect with our authentic self and get back in touch with what our creative soul most needs.
Experience Other Cultures
Stepping out of your comfort zone and outside of what’s familiar is a great way of exposing yourself to new and exciting things. This can renew inspiration and shake up new ideas. You don’t necessarily need to go out of the country. Sometimes simply attending an ethnic festival or going to an exotic restaurant can provide a similar adventure. Immersing yourself in a new culture can provide a whole new perception of colors, stories and rituals.
Connection with Others
Artists have been known for living solitary lives in order to do their art. Although a certain amount of alone time is essential for the creative process, what is equally important for the artist is connection with others. This deep connection can be with a parent, partner, friend or therapist. Relationships provide a meaningful source of support, strength and courage for the artist to continue to face the creative process.
Create in a Different Medium
Sometimes without even knowing it, we get trapped in the routine of creating in the same medium day after day. Exposing yourself to a medium completely different from your usual skill can help get creativity flowing again. If you’re a writer take a sculpting or a dance class. If you’re an artist, learn an instrument or write poetry. Sometimes even the simplest creativity like decorating a room in your house or selecting the right flowers for your garden can provide an immersive experience.
Make it agoal to seek out and fill your life with experiences that will revitalize motivation and inspiration for your creative work. Just as getting enough sleep or eating the right foods is essential to a healthy body, having immersive experiences is necessary to sustain one’s creativity.
“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day. But we need unstructured time for creativity to foster, down time in which we mess around and let our disconnected thoughts gel into something cool.” – Tim Krieder, 2012
I love this video. Jessica’s positive thinking is cantagious and makes me think I can do anything as well. While we might not have the energy (or agility) to recreate her morning affirmations, the idea behind positive self talk is worth taking a look at. Maintaining a negative outlook makes it difficult to cope with stress, impacts relationships for the worse, and is generally not good for our overall psychological and physiological well being.
Treat yourself well. If you value yourself through action, positive thoughts will often follow. Sleep, exercise, diet, and appearence matter.
Find humor in every day life. Make an effort to smile and laugh often – it feels good.
Surround yourself with positive people. Be open to new perspectives.
Check in with yourself periodically to assess if your thoughts are positive or negative. Look for ways to reframe or put a positive spin on defeated thinking.
Be kind to yourself. Don’t tell yourself anything you wouldn’t say to someone else.
Be patient. It takes practice to shift the way we think. Pay attention to when you succeed.
In June 2012, game designer Jane McGonigal spoke at the TED talks in Edinbourg, Scotland about the online game SuperBetter which is designed to encourage post traumatic growth and build personal resilience. Boasting to add 10 years to your life, the game SuperBetter focuses on four key areas:
It’s pretty common for me to encourage physical activity for clients in my Austin-based counseling practice. Whatever form it takes on, use your body every day. From boot camps to a walk in the park, my clients consistently report improvements in mood when they physically move.
Challenging yourself mentally can help clear out the fog. Focusing on a mental task, even if it is menial, can help build the skills needed to slow down racing thoughts and bring you into the present.
There’s a long standing formula that encourages increasing positive emotions 3:1 over the negative. It’s easy to allow negative experiences to erode ruts in your thinking over time. It takes work to get out of those ruts. Consciously doing things that encourage positive emotions can help form new ways of experiencing the world.
I often encourage my clients to consciously pursue connections with others throughout the day. Whether making small talk with a stranger in the checkout line or texting a cheesy poem to a lover, small investments in those around you can yield remarkable gains.
Jane’s talk is entertaining and thoughtful and, at under 20 minutes, it is well worth watching. If you would like to talk more about how you can build personal resilience and/or discover way to grow out of trauma shoot me an email at email@example.com or give me a call at 512-739-4882.
Here’s a great little video by Matthew Johnstone for the World Health Organization on depression. If you have any questions about depression or treatment options, send me a message from the contact page.
I got this note a while back from a client in my counseling practice in Austin who saw it online. Whether staying to work on a strained relationship; taking a hard look at past wounds that haven’t yet healed; or creating change in your life that is full of uncertainty, sometimes the thing to do doesn’t always feel good. We spend an awful lot of emotional energy trying to fight against being afraid when in many instances it is a perfectly normal response to normal life stuff. Sometimes, really good things happen when we are able to move towards the things we fear rather than fleeing from them.