Let me begin by saying that I am not a trained or educated sociologist or any other “ologist” for that matter. I have read a fair amount of things written by people way more educated than myself on the subject of creativity. But, and I think this is possibly more important, I have spent a great deal of my life in creative pursuits. From visual art, to music, to writing, back to visual art. From commercial endeavors to art simply because I had to make it. And along the way I have fallen into barren ruts and seemingly bottomless pits of artistic emptiness. I have had times of prolific output and times of being blank, without even the inspiration to create, much less the feeling of being driven to. And that life has led me to reflection and some thoughts and ideas about living creatively.
One of the keys, and this can seem like such a cliche’ in so many ways, but I find it to be true, is; Follow your bliss. Joseph Campbell was one of the first I heard say it. Simple. So very simple, yet at times incredibly hard to do, or so it seems. But when you’re walking your path, when you’re moving in the direction of your dreams, the things that draw you towards them, well then the Universe, or God, or The Goddess, or whatever you choose to call it, if in fact you choose to call it anything, well it moves towards you. At least this is what I’ve found when I’ve been “in the groove”, or “in the zone”. When I’m following my bliss, I’m playing, I’m not working. Doors open and connections and new thoughts come through. Life seems magical in a sense. There is a flow to it. It feels seamless. The components of life blend together and everything seems to feed everything else. Possibility flourishes. You see everything differently. Opportunities not objections. There’s a fit to things. One thing truly does lead to another.
But following your bliss, or your path, or your calling can certainly seem difficult at times. Even impossibly hard when we are deep in the mud of creative drought. The wasteland of our creative souls. This is where we bleed out. But chasing down your bliss is a choice. Actually a series of never ending choices to embrace the possibility of creativity. And it can seem like such a freaking tall order when we’re in that wasteland. When we feel like creative shit. A fake, a fraud an artistic charlatan. And all the rejections and failures of the past are held up in the high court of our internal monologue to shame us and show us just how worthless we really are. Oh yeah, I been there. Been in that place several times. The black hole from which nothing can escape, certainly nothing creatively good. Excuse me, but fuck that place.
We have to choose the bliss. And choose it again and again. And we can choose it as an action, choose it as a prayer. Choose it as a mantra to be recited over and over. But we gotta choose it. But here’s something to consider; it doesn’t have to be a monumental task, a monumental choice. You don’t have to write, or paint or sing or whatever, your masterwork. it doesn’t need to great. It doesn’t need to be good. It just needs to be. The Creativity Police won’t be coming by to get you if you make crap. Trust me, I’ve made plenty. And I haven’t been arrested yet.
We tend, especially when we’re not really on the path, not really feeling, when we know that we aren’t doing what we love, to be so deeply mired in the mud. There seems to be no way to get out. We will never have a decent, much less good idea, or inspiration ever again. That place feels like a 400 foot pit with black ice walls from which there is no escape. But there is. And it needs to start small. We’ve gotten to this dark place, where any creative act can seem like a mountain to move. But it always begins with just doing. Because the true key to creativity is simply doing. Anything. Even if it’s not in your “field”. Actually, I’ve found that stepping outside of your area is often best. Less expectations for greatness. Less pressure. More play. And play is a key element. When you’re in that pit, who the hell wants to “work”? Play breaks us through. Any kind of play. Doing is everything though. Just mess about. Play. Why do kids, especially very young children, seem to flow through emotions so quickly? Because they don’t dwell, they just do. They don’t analyze shit. Or if they do, they’re damn quick about it. No, they’re open to possibility. Wide open. And they play in it. So should we.
So let’s say that you’re a writer. And you’re feeling that drought. writers actually have a name for it, lol… writer’s block. There’s no “painter’s block”, now is there? Writers have it extra tough. 🙂 What it means is that there’s something in the way of getting from between your ears to the page, to the screen. You sit, and you stare. You start and you stop. You have no flow. No feel. Time for you to play. Play outside of writing. Because when you’re in that place, well writing isn’t play. It’s slave labor. Time for some fun.
So what does a blocked writer do for creative fun? Get outside yourself. Get outside of your head. Your mind. Go to a resale shop. Browse about. Buy some old encyclopedias. Buy an object. Buy a piece of clothing. Take it home. Get some paint (could be leftover house paint), get a marker. Make fast crude drawings on these objects. Draw on the pages of the encyclopedia. Paint an end table or a chair. Draw or, heaven forbid, write on it. Just play. break the pattern. Don’t stop. Don’t look. Just do. Make sloppy, messy “art”. Make play. I find that if what you do puts you in front of a computer most of the time, it’s really helpful to get physical with your play. Screw it. Grab a cheap canvas, or an old window, or any damn thing, take it out in the back yard and make a “Jackson Pollock” out of it. Throw some paint. Let it drip. Let it play. Don’t freaking judge it. Let that shit go. Just play. Make a mess. I mean really, the grass while survive your assault and the patio furniture won’t mind a stray drop or two. What will the neighbor’s think? Really? The neighbors? Does that actually matter? Do you think you can control what your neighbors think? No one’s coming over to grade you on cleanliness. No one’s coming over to grade you at all.
The key is to choose doing. Choose play. And here’s a secret… you don’t need to be creatively blocked to do that. Although when you’re wide open, it always feels like play. But if you are having trouble getting started. Just begin. A small step. A little thing. Choose it. Choose doing it. For five freaking minutes. Today. Tomorrow. The day after. No direction. No expectation. No Herculean task. This isn’t your Sistine Chapel. This is five minutes today. Truly can we honestly, actually say, we don’t have five minutes? We can’t create 5 minutes? I call bullshit. On all of us.
Play. Do. Play. Do. Repeat. Which made me think of this… go buy some Play Dough, lol. Go to a toy store and buy a coloring book and some crayons. Buy a toy for yourself. Garage sales are great for this sort of thing. Make found object art. Unless that’s what you usually do. In that case, go write something, lol… or collage. Buy some magazines and just tear or cut (if you must be neat, lol) and paste away. You’ll be creating an idea book. Get out of the normal. Your normal which is not normal at all. Play. Do. Less knowing. More doing. Create some velocity, some air speed. You want to get your dreams off the ground? Say fuck off (again, excuse me) to fear and do. Something small. Something tiny. Tiny turns into bigger. Today’s five minutes create tomorrow’s 8 minutes and next week’s two solid hours. Movement creates possibility. Possibility creates openness. Shit truly happens.
But you gotta choose possibility. Choose to do. Choose to play.
As always, I’d love to have your thoughts and ideas on this subject.
Here’s a link to one of my favorite books on the subject. It’s a doing book and I’ve gone to it on many, many occasions and I can tell you that it works. That the methods and techniques the author, Julia Cameron gives us, will, if applied, cause forward motion and an expansion in your the things that are most important to you. And you don’t have to be an “artist” of any kind to benefit from this wonderful book, It’s called “The Artist’s Way” and here’s a link to it on Amazon.
Yours in creating the possibility,
P.S. I am grateful and thankful to so many people who have inspired me, taught me, expanded me. Teachers and friends. Stray people I passed on the street. And of course, my beloved girl, Zen Girl. Everything is connected through the threads of our creativity. Everything that goes in has an influence. Everything surfaces.