Creativity Unblocked!

Creativity is Universal
Creative challenges and blocks do not only apply to artists, writers, and musicians. Everyone has creative aspects about their lives and personhood.

Early last year I was involved in creating a series of paintings for a solo show scheduled for 2013 in New York. I realized with a shock that I only had 10 months to prepare for my 2012 solo show at the Washington Printmakers Gallery. I had been thinking about an idea for the show, but no images had come into my mind. The more I thought about what I was going to do, the more my mind was a blank. I began to feel very anxious

and even had thoughts that I didn’t want to have this show. The anxiety blossomed into my first major episode of creative block. This would be my 18th solo show.

Looking for HELP!
I turned to the internet and found a number of resources. I found suggestions, cartoons. Everybody had different solutions that worked for them. The most important thing I learned is that creative people experience creative block and they get past it. I also have an extensive art library, which includes many self-help books for artists, some of which I have found to be helpful. People get their help in different ways.

Finding Answers
For me the answer came from yoga. My yoga teacher taught me the importance of focusing on the breath. You have to breathe slowly and deeply, first in, a short pause and breath out. Then pause again and repeat. It is an important part of the relaxation and oxidizing of the body and one of the benefits of yoga. I realized that creating is like breathing. It’s natural but it can’t be forced or rushed. When I overload my creativity, it’s like hyperventilating. There isn’t enough coming in to allow the creative energy to flow out. This “aha” realization removed the pressure and anxiety. I relaxed and allowed the process to work naturally.  And it did.

Giving Myself a Break
In the past, I have found other ways of overcoming creative challenges. Usually after a long period of intense creative involvement, I take a break and give my artist a rest. I spent a few months organizing 16,000 photos into albums and duplicate files including archiving the negatives. During another break, I organized all of my digital photos beginning in 2000 on my hard drive. You can only imagine how many there are. Another time, I started outdoor sketching. Those sketches led me to a 2nd sketchbook and became an unplanned catalyst for my eyetinerary solo show in 2009.

Just Pick One!
Sometimes I face creative challenges because I have too many ideas or images in my head. I don’t know where to start and that can also be a stumbling block. When I started working on my environmental show Earth Matters, I was overwhelmed by the issues and the choices that I had to make. Frank Wright, one of my art mentors gave me some very good advice: “Just Pick One.” Those three words from an artist and teacher whom I respect, were really helpful. I picked one issue to start with and the other choices fell into place. Then I had my flow.

Very Interesting
Sometimes creativity gets a jumpstart because something interests me. Like the inspiration that came to me when I saw Cozy Baker’s book about kaleidoscopes. The catalyst for Vibes, my show about images inspired by kaleidoscopes and music.

Some Self-Help Insights
I would like to share some insights about creativity that have worked for me and helped me. I’ve learned to be open to what interests me. Being in touch with what I feel and what moves or troubles me. Being present with who I am and where I am. This awareness helps to open creative my flow.

Museums, Galleries and New Directions
Every month, I go to museums and galleries and I try to see something new that opens my mind to new directions. Not because I want to copy someone’s work, but what I see can be a launch pad for a new way for me to start thinking about my art, moving forwards in new directions or rethinking the media that I choose to work with.

Other Artists Have Struggled Too
Reading artist’s biographies and learning more about the struggles and triumphs of their artistic journeys can provide support, inspiration and empowerment.

Fuel for the Creative Furnace
Most important, as my most recent experience has taught me, is recognizing that there is an ebb and flow of creativity like the waves of the ocean. When we are in an ebb stage, that’s not a bad thing, its part of the regeneration of our creativity. Maybe it’s a time to take a break and focus on our friendships, relationships and other activities, going to galleries, traveling, exploring, and putting new fuel into the creative furnace.

Anticipation Anxiety
Sometimes creativity can be blocked when we have ideas and creative vision just because of the anticipation of the intensity of the creative experience and the energy that it takes to complete a creative endeavor. There is the conscious or unconscious fore knowledge that the involvement will eclipse other aspects of our lives. Like when the novelist is deep in his writing or the composer is completely taken over by his music. Creating is a huge high, but it takes over and takes a lot of energy to follow thru–so before starting the marathon there is anticipation that one might not have the energy to follow thru to take it to the finish.

Belief in the Process
By recognizing these feelings, and the trial and error of creating, there can be an overall belief in the process–that we might take breaks from it, but that doesn’t mean we have lost it–just that creativity is regenerating in its own time, and that is OK.


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