Trying to Bust Through Creative Blocks Like the Kool-Aid Guy
(Important disclaimer: I don’t endorse sugary drinks, but I do support breaking through walls when necessary.)
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a superstitious person. Not as in salt over my shoulder or triskaidekaphobia, but more like the belief that if I talk about something like insomnia or writer’s block, I’ll just bring it on or make it worse. Usually, though, keeping quiet about these things hasn’t delivered improvements. In fact, if I may ask myself to lie down on the couch and do a little self-analysis, thinking I can dodge the issues by ignoring their existence has just made them worse.
I might as well be up front about this. I’ve been cycling in and out of major creative blocks for a long time. I frequently wax nostalgic for the days right after I graduated from college, however many years ago (exactly how many years is not important), when I would sit and write for an hour, two hours, straight. Just like they said to do in those books on writing exercises: Set the timer and go and don’t stop moving your hand. Sure, I was writing mostly crap, but I managed to work out some intricate lives for the people I watched through my window. I may have even jotted down whole outlines for long stories (I was too scared to use the word novel), in between thinking about grocery lists and how long until dinner.
At some point, I gave up that practice – it was probably more of a gradual decline than an outright drop. I never followed through on the outlines. I started to understand the cult of the frustrated writer. I rationalized my avoidance of the page by telling myself that it was OK to have fallow periods, that I was always a writer at heart, that someday ... But it never felt good. On top of getting in my own way, frozen with the fear of failure, fear of success, etc., I was turning off all my other creative outlets. When I worked in a restaurant and had to create daily specials and menu items, I found that my well was dry. I hadn’t realized how much I needed to give back to myself after all that daily creative excavation. I would go for long periods without reading, writing, knitting, or cooking just for pleasure, and I was miserable. I didn’t really understand what was happening until I picked up one of these creative outlets and started to feel good again.
I recently bookmarked a review of Alex Cornell’s Break Through! Overcome Creative Block & Spark Your Imagination on Brain Pickings. I keep going back to the page, finding inspiration and humor and camaraderie among the wisdom from blocked and un-blocked folks. I intend to buy the book, but maybe my good ol’ superstition is holding me back. I’ve been feeling less blocked lately – feeling more in creative flux than I have in a while – and if I buy the book and keep putting the word block at the forefront of my mental landscape, will it become a self-fulfilling prophesy?
How do you bust through your creative blocks?