I think just about every profession goes through a creative block at some time or other. That feeling when you don’t seem to be able to do anything.
Often called writer’s block but it affects artists of all kinds, indeed anyone who is trying to create something. It might be a book or a blog, a painting or a sculpture, a new concept or a different way of working. All of us in one way or another have reached that point when no matter what we do the page, canvas, notebook or screen remains stubbornly empty. So here are my five five thoughts.
Keep a storeroom. Always seek inspiration from others. Reading, watching, listening and recording are, in my opinion, essential to creativity. Keep a notebook, scrapbook or online gallery of things that have inspired you or made you think or you just liked. When barren times come wandering around this storeroom will, I promise, spark your creativity. You will find stuff you had long forgotten, dusty and neglected that will trigger new thinking. If you are not already doing this start today, it may be a while before you see the benefit but it will help. This blog would not have been written without visiting my storeroom.
Try a bit of demolition. Any task can seem daunting and overwhelming. Being overwhelmed is not good for the creative juices. So break the project down. Find elements you can do right away. Start with small bricks and soon you will have a wall and eventually a temple. I might have pushed that metaphor a touch to far but you get the idea. War and Peace starts with one word, then one sentence.
Get on with it. Work anyway. What stifles most creativity is the screwing up of paper and throwing it in the bin. Whether metaphorically or in reality. Get some stuff done, it might be utter rubbish but you will have done something and once you get over that hurdle you’ll be surprised how ideas start to flow. Keep everything and then come back to it. It might be days, weeks or even years later. Some of it will still be crap but there will be others things you find are actually little gems.
Listen to music. The theologian Karl Barth said he did his best work to Mozart. Music can lift the spirits, get the blood pumping and inspire you. Play something that lifts your spirit and if you can play it loudly.
Realise great work comes from great struggle. There are times when things just flow. You can barely keep up with the creativity coursing through your brain. Hey, savour the good times but don’t beat yourself up when it doesn’t come quite so easily. Sometimes it is the struggle that makes it all worthwhile.
I would love to know the sales figures for Moleskin notebooks, To Do pads and organisational apps in the first week of January. There is something about the New Year that makes us all want to be better organised, me included, so here are my five thoughts on the subject.
1. Getting organised is not the same as being organised. So much effort is put into devising systems, writing lists and planning and not enough into actually doing. Organising yourself with journal entries, to do lists and bullet points is just another form of procrastination.
2. Organisation is a means to an end not and end in itself. Organise yourself so you can be productive and you life has some balance.
3. The size of your To Do list is no reflection on how good or how busy you are.
4 “While we complain that our ‘to do’ lists are endless, let us not forget that we begat those lists; no one from outer space came when we weren’t looking and implanted ‘the list’ in our brains. Okay, let’s say we really do need to jot down a few things of importance, like needing to buy milk or to have a colonoscopy, but when that ‘things that must be done’ list goes into the hundreds per day, we should be concerned. Maybe we keep adding new things in the the fear that, even if we ever got through our list, we’d have no purpose, no reason to take another step. If you were suddenly list-less, would you just grind to a halt? What happens when that happens?”Ruby Wax from her excellent book A Mindfulness Guide for The Frazzled, available now.
5. Seriously, no one is interested in the size of your To Do list. Honestly, we’re not. Stop tweeting and sharing your list and get on and do it. Then post a picture of you enjoying a cocktail or cup of tea because you’ve finished your list.