If you are a creative person you have no doubt suffered a creative block or two, if not then you are neither a) lying or b) bragging, in which case, I say “knock it off, asshole.” I am a long-time sufferer of creative blocks. I’ve always just accepted it as a chronic condition and tried my best not to beat my head against the wall between me and my potential greatness. It had not occurred to me to ever figure out where these blocks were coming from, until now. Instead of looking inward for the answer, I looked to Google, as I do for most everything in my life. I read a slew of articles, most of which, outlined the same reasons for creative blocks. I compiled the top five that I felt pertained to me.
1. Too Busy
We all lead busy lives. That is what life mostly contains really, task after task all needing our attention preferably now rather than later. I have a 14 month old son who not only demands but deserves mommy’s undivided attention. That in itself is enough to keep anyone busy for 12 hours a day. I also have a husband who gets pouty if he’s ignored too long. Along with my pouty husband, I manage a home filled with chores, projects, pets, and laundry… sweet jebus, so much laundry. I also have a social life that I try to attend to that book up most my Saturdays. To top it all off I also hold a full-time job that doesn’t care one bit about the other balls I am currently juggling because, well, they pay me for my time and without that salary it all falls apart.
“Don’t mistake movement for achievement. It’s easy to get faked out by being busy.” –Jim Rohn
We all have laundry lists (ugh, more laundry) of things that keep us busy. But one thing I have learned about being busy is that it’s a fairly relative term. What keeps me busy might be a cake walk for another person, while others may think it would be impossible to get all the things done in a day that I do. Time is what we make of it. Everyone can find time if we really tried. The trick is prioritizing. Our passion is worth more than an spotless house or an extra hour of sleep. Why? Because passion fuels the person we truly are. And we need to put ourselves at the top of that priority list.
Sometimes being a perfectionist has its benefits. When I set out to accomplish something I will bust my hump to get it done right. I hate half-assing anything. If it deserves my time, it deserves all my time, sometimes obsessively so. Perfectionism lends itself to every aspect of my life. For example, our son turned 1 at the beginning of March. I wanted to throw a little get-together to celebrate the occasion. The little get-together turned into one of the biggest parties we have ever thrown and required over a month to plan. I have become known as the one who “always goes all out.” I can’t help myself, no matter the cost, the time, or the distance I need to go when I set my mind to it, I will kill myself getting it done, perfectly.
“Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough – that we should try again.” –Julia Cameron
The problem with perfectionism is that a lot of things get put on hold until we have the proper time or resources to tackle them because, heaven forbid, we do anything just to get it done. I have been trying to be mindful of this predilection because if I waited until all the planets align in order for me to actually write something… I will never write. I have to remind myself to just sit and write and not care if I fill the page with trite garbage. I just need to fill the page. And so do you. We, as creatives, cannot allow our need for perfection keep us from creating altogether.
I have the best of intentions. Most of us do. I also having trouble balancing my wants versus my needs. Right now, I want to text my pouty husband to see how his day is going and to ask what he wants for dinner. However, I need to write this article you are reading right now. Admittedly, my wants oftentimes trump my needs. As I am surfing the web I am telling myself, “15 minutes more then I will tackle that stack of invoices I should have done last Friday.” The problem is my self-allotted 15 minutes turns to 30, then it’s time to make my “rounds” of checking email, Twitter, site stats, Facebook, my RSS feed… and oh yeah, I need to respond to that text message! It never stops. My wants are plenty and constant so my needs sit and wait for the day I pull my head out of the clouds and get to work.
“It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
There is a reason why needs are important. However, importance doesn’t always mean it’s immediate. It’s important to meet that client deadline but that’s not until the end of the month… I have time. We bargain our time in order to meet our wants but what we are really doing is lacking the foresight to see that if we keep putting the important things off there will be consequences. The thing about creative endeavors that aren’t our paying gigs is that the consequences aren’t as evident as a displeased boss or client. When creatives put off being creative we are short-changing ourselves and the importance of what our art means to us. I have gone for years long stretches without writing a word. My life marched, on as it has a tendency to do but I can tell you this… I was unhappy, unfulfilled, and at times a bear to be around. The consequences are there and in some cases, much worse than a missed deadline.
4. Lack of Self-Confidence
We are our own worst critics and in some cases we have told ourselves how much we suck so often that we are left in a heap on the floor… or maybe that’s just me. Here’s the thing: As much as I fancy myself a “writer” I think I suck. I lack so much self-confidence that I only let a very select few read my actual writing. And when I offer it up I sit on pins and needles waiting to hear back if they liked it or not. I am pretty pathetic that way.
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” – E.E. Cummings
Confidence is gained by practice. And by putting in the time and energy to get better at our craft confidence will, undoubtedly, follow. Of course, that pit in our stomach will always be there when we put our creations up for scrutiny. No amount of honing will ever take that away. We, as artists, are offering up a small bit of ourselves every time we put ourselves out there. Not a well-crafted, carefully-chosen bit of ourselves but our true selves. The soul of the artist is what makes art beautiful. The confidence that is gained through practice is the confidence to allow ourselves to be seen.
Now you are officially ready to create, right? Well, not exactly. There is still one stumbling block that gets us every time… fear. The fear of rejection. The fear of failure. The fear of success. Most of us are creatures of habit. We like things just the way they are. Upsetting the status quo would really mess up our perfectly content existence. Fear is meant to protect us from danger of all kinds. It’s meant to keep us safe. The main problem with fear is that in its effort to shelter us from the rain it is also keeping away the sunshine and we need both of those elements to grow. Nothing will ever change in our lives if we allow fear to keep us for trying.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” –Yoda
I want to know what you do to combat creative blocks. That may seem like a ploy to get you to comment but it’s not, I truly want to know. I need more weapons in my arsenal against that which is insistent upon chasing away my muses.