Monday, March 22, 2010

Artist's and Writer's Block

If you're a creative person, it's inevitable that at some point in your career (or hobby) you're going to bump up against a blank wall. The feeling can be frightening, even devastating, but it doesn't have to keep you down.

Over the years I've discovered a few things that may trigger these events. I'll share some of my thoughts with you, knowing that your trigger's may also be different from mine. For whatever it's worth, here are my top four:

1. Fatigue and lack of sleep. I know, it sounds simplistic, but you can't create in a sleepless fog. When your tail is draggin' so is your mind. Your perspective gets out of whack, and life seems sadder, badder, and meaner. When you wake up refreshed, you're ready to tackle almost anything. Get your Zzzzzs.

2. Depression. This is a real deep-down feeling of helplessness and worthlessness. This baby will pull you into a downward spiral that has no end. Mild depression is a part of life's ups and downs, but clinical depression can drag you into a dark abyss where life has no meaning. Get help! If the cause is a bad marriage or an abusive relationship, get out!

3. Low self-esteem. Negative words or harsh criticism can throw you for a loop. People can say "sticks and stones," and believe that words can never hurt you, but they do. Bullies can knock the wind out of your creative sails. Failure can push you flat on your back. The only answer is to grab hold of a power bigger than yourself and get up again. Quit worrying about what other people think. Your opinion of yourself is the only one that matters.

4. Lack of exposure. Sometimes you need to shake things up a little. Get out and experience life. Change the scene. Surprise yourself -- do something new. Try something you've never done before. I'm not suggesting going overboard and getting yourself into trouble. I'm only saying get out of the house. Go somewhere different. Try to see the world with a new perspective. Get some fresh air!

I remember my first art show after letting my skills and brushes lie dormant for many years. I was terrified. How would people react to my artwork? How would they view my lame attempts to restore those lost years when my own self-esteem was dragging?

I muttered a prayer, something like "Oh, Lord what am I doing? What if I look like a fool?" A warm feeling and an encouraging thought came to me: "Give it a try--you might be surprised."

On that simple note, I displayed my paintings. I know some of them were pretty awful, but not all. Two women, I swear they were angels in disguise, bought one of my paintings right off. That sale gave me the confidence and the courage I needed to keep on keeping on.

And there you have it! My secret formulae for getting out of a "funk." Next time you can't think and your mind's a blank, start writing, start painting anyway; anything--anything at all. Pretty soon the blood will get moving and you'll push right past that blank wall. Of course, a little prayer never hurts!

Thank you to my friend Kelly who gave me the idea for this article, and for my friend Inez Ibis who was the inspiration behind my picture book: "Inez Ibis Flies Again, The Story of a Courageous Ibis Who Never Gave Up."  Celebrate E-Book week by checking it out:  or a FREE sneak preview of the book at Better yet, use the link on my Facebook page: Carol Allen Anfinsen.