Creative block. A complete dearth of ideas. For a “creative person” who makes their living from their creativity, that’s a pretty serious and painful situation.
Over the past few years while the UK has been through all kinds of political turmoil, I’ve struggled to keep my creative mojo – that motivation or desire to create. And when I did get some vague stirrings that I might want to do something new, I came face to face with creative block. I just didn’t have a Scooby Doo what I wanted to create, or how, or why.
Why is that? Why is it that instead of doing something that for years of my life just came naturally, something that was a natural state of being, I was just flailing around, not knowing what to do?
Quite simply – the well had run dry. Creative block is largely a symptom of other things: more specifically, other things you’re not doing. Things that are essential for a creative life. Things like being curious, being open to ideas, exploring, soaking in new experiences and points of view. Things like reading, getting out and about and going to new places, trying new things, experimenting, playing in a sketchbook or noodling about with scraps of fabric and thread to see what emerges, going out into the world, taking photos, collecting ideas and pictures in scrapbooks, listening to a new podcast, watching something inspiring on telly or going to see a film, or maybe going on a course and learning a new skill, or meeting new people and becoming aware of alternative lives and viewpoints….
All these things and so many more can either directly trigger ideas and routes of potential exploration, or they can be stashed away in our unconscious waiting for their moment – the occasion when we are in the mood to create, and we need an idea. But. We need to actually do them.
Ideas don’t just come to us out of nothing. Like pearls forming around a grain of sand, ideas need to have a starting point, that spark of inspiration. And that spark is always there, but it’s knowing how to find it. And that leads us to the most important thing about creativity.
I believe we can only find that spark when we stop trying – stop seeking and pushing – and start listening and living.
As well as all the things I listed above, the most important thing about creativity is attitude. Being open and curious, taking time to step outside of yourself and your routines. I learnt the hard way over the past few years that you can’t be open and curious when you’re anxious and angry.
Getting out there – wherever that may be – the woods, the fields, the world in general – more specifically, out of your own head. And getting doing: something, anything – that’s the key.
Ah, but what about procrastination? Different cause, same effect: nothing’s happening. When I’m procrastinating, I’m not doing – but for completely different reasons (more about procrastination coming soon).
And because procrastination is “not doing” the knock on effect is to be totally out of inspiration and ideas for what I want to do anyway. Stuck. Which is why I end up clearing out a kitchen drawer or reorganising my socks.
But while I am very good at it, I don’t always procrastinate. When I have an urgent deadline galloping up on me, I’m a true workaholic. And lo, suddenly I’m full of ideas too – because I’m doing! But because of my earlier procrastination, I’ve no time to do anything but the most urgent, time-critical things – so I can’t explore the new ideas and eventually the creative well runs dry again.
And that’s where you find me right now. I’m drowning in seascapes, working my backside off, but I did have a day out I’m the woods on Friday to learn a new thing. It was one of those things – I had to book it when I saw it, because courses with Ruby are so darn popular. And I’m so glad I did; it was wonderful.
I can now make string – or cordage, if you’re being posh. And I know which plants to forage to make it out of natural material, as well as knowing how to process them into a form that will make a successful cord.
So obviously, I now have ideas. Lots of them. And no time at all to investigate, at least, not until Seascapes is done!
More about procrastination next time (because I’m so good at it) but meanwhile, I’m up with the lark and cracking on with all things maritime!
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