As a painter and visual artist, I have had many times in my life when I felt stuck and deeply dissatisfied with my work. If this creative malaise gets too entrenched, my internal critic gets the upper hand, and I create less and less, because, after all, “what’s the use?” I know many creatives who have experience with this kind of paralysis, and yesterday I mentioned Morning Pages, a very effective practise of writing three pages first thing.
Cameron’s The Artist’s Way is a complete program. I highly reccomend you get the book and join or form a group to work through it all. She applies a 12-step framework to the creative life: your higher power (pick your denomination or guiding principle) wants you to create. You are made in the image of the Creator, as in , you are a creator. It’s beautiful, and full of rejuvenating concepts and exercises.
Throughout the book you are urged to “take it to the page.” Whatever life is dishing up, work on it through your creative medium. If you are a pianist who is angry, play from your fury. As a self-critical painter I began to make images about my self-hatred and its effects, or just to warm up the painterly hand and eye by dumping out my frustration with mark-making. From Morning Pages (remember, completely uncensored!) I learned to bitch and complain and wibble until I had cleared that dreck out of my head. As I kept writing, other things would emerge.
Over time I found that stories would arise out of the mess, without apparent conscious intent. Or, a character I was writing would have insights, a crisis, healing about the issue that was moving through me.
I think the key there is moving through. As I was crafting that last sentance I started with ‘roiling inside’ and realized, no, that is what happens when I’m STUCK. When there is a flow, the issues, concerns, emotions flow through and change, and the art moves with them. You might even say it’s fueled by them.
So, for today, what’s bugging you? Start with a word-dump and just scribble or type without any editing whatever is top-of-mind, no matter how ridiculous. Keep it up for at least 300 words or 3 long-hand pages. Play with it: name the ‘character’ that’s speaking inside you. Write a scene where you tell [your boss, mother, congress…] exactly what you think of them. Let what wants to happen, happen.
And look for the breadcrumbs that will lead you somewhere new. I promise, they will appear!