Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Artist’s and Writer’s Block (Repeat of a blog from 3+ years ago)

(Photo from a friend in Uganda)
If you're a creative person, it's inevitable that at some point in your career or avocation 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:

(Putting the drawing in place)
  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 Zzz's.

  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. A few negative words or harsh criticism can throw you for a loop. We can say "sticks and stones," and believe that words can never hurt us, but they do. Bullies can knock the wind out of your creative sails. Personal 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 we 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!
"Hey, Coconut Man" mixed media on canvas
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 slumping?

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.

"Twirling" Charcoal sketch (Drawing quick sketches releases my imagination.)
And there you have it: my secret formula 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!
(Below is my favorite sketch "Siesta" done purely from imagination)