It's an unfortunate predicament to which we've all been a victim... the dreaded creative block. Burrr.... It elicits shivers with its very presence in this post, I know, but it's a necessary conversation to have with ourselves regarding our own creative journeys.
So, what does it mean to have a creative block? There are many theories and definitions but, most notably, it's defined as an inability to access the inspiration that drives our creativity. Whether we are trapped in a repetition of normalcy and the expected, trapped by our own expectations and fears, overwhelmed with unstructured work ethic, or faced with the stress of ordinary life, creative blocks are a hardship we all must endure once in a while.
Now the question comes.... how do we combat these blocks? How do we re-open the door to our creativity and productivity? Here are a few suggestions I've found works for me.
Sometimes, when we allow the creative block the space to complete its cycle, we find that what we create on the other end of it is a masterpiece!
Happy weaving everyone, and get creating!
"Laugh at yourself, but don't ever aim your doubt at yourself.
Be bold. When you embark for strange places,
don't leave any of yourself safely on shore.
Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory."
I'll open a shop.... when I'm ready.
But I need all the best tools to be good at what I do!
I just don't have the time.
And... worse of all....
I'm not good enough.
These are just a few examples of the lies we tell ourselves, the lies which hamper our creative souls and which shut the doors to opportunity, excitement and revelation! But I get it...I totally get it, because these are all lies I've told myself and, worse, convinced myself were true! I'm looking at you "there's no way anyone cares what you have to say" voice in my head! I shake my fist at you!
While it's important to be honest with ourselves about our goals, aspirations and, yes, even our talents, it's equally important to believe we are better than the opinions we have of ourselves. The two are not mutually exclusive. Honesty and self-realization harmonizes beautifully with, and balances, a desire to be our personal best!
And recognizing that fear is not only an essential part of the human psyche, but also an amazing motivator, is the first step in recovering from the belief in the lies we tell ourselves. We may never be "ready", we may never have the best creative toys at our disposal, we may never have the time, but we are always good enough and we are always capable enough and we are always, always the embodiment of a creative soul worthy of a voice and an audience. Let your freak flags fly, let your imperfections capture the truths of your own imperfect but beautiful soul, and definitely give a middle finger to self-doubt!
We've got this. We've totally got this.
So apparently an addiction to stationary is a thing. And I have it. And I have a basket full of washi tape and planner stickers and journal cards and notebooks and inserts and it's getting out of control. It's truly a sickness. The best possible kind.
And, though I try to live green and move towards digital solutions whenever possible, one area in which I felt there was a lack of commitment was my productivity. For months I'd wake up, dress in the shabbiest clothes I could absentmindedly grab from my closet (sometimes, I admit, they weren't always clean) and find a multitude of excuses not to work. When you are you're own boss, this is not good. Not good at all. It was a self-indulgent funk and, while we all need self-indulgence on occasion, parking there permanently is dangerous.
Oh, I kept a Google calendar, and my phone calendar with notifications and reminders, but I didn't feel that kept me accountable. Then, one day while searching "Productivity for the self-employed" on YouTube, I stumbled into the black hole of planner videos and stationary addictions.
There's no return from this darkness.
I used to keep journals as a teen. I loved to write. I loved the smell of new journals and blank books. I used to buy them, not to use them, even, but to be reminded of the promise those blank pages held. Crazy, I know.
But there's something about the physical act of writing that, dare I say it, typing will never match. There's a quickening in my soul when I journal or write, hold a beautiful fountain pen in my hand (yes, an addiction to pens is also a thing), and feel the light scrap of it across the stark expanse of paper. It is its own poetry, I suppose, and it's a gorgeous thing to behold.
So, I bought a new planner. I even bought a second planner that I cannibalized because I loved it's layout, and I cut it down to fit in my ring-bound planner. I decorated the pages with washi tape and motivational quotes, I filled in my month-at-a-glance with stickers to remind me which days are dedicated to which tasks. And, I'll be honest, I felt my anxiety melt away. All the stress I'd been placing on myself to be productive, and then to fail at it, was an emotional nightmare, and the physical act of planning, writing plans, setting goals and holding myself accountable was a pleasant undoing of the anxiety that had begun to build. I spent an afternoon penciling in my tasks, detailing tutorials or videos or projects in the notes, and I've since stuck to each page like glue, ticking off one than another and feeling a rush of accomplishment. It's been a fabulous journey.
I started to get dressed for the day. I know, radical right? But really, I put on nice clothes, did my hair, applied make-up, even if only to sit at my desk in the comfort of my own home, because something about the act flipped a switch, told my brain and body it was time to work and excuses wouldn't fly. And my productivity continued to improve. I even keep journals for food and diet, which also holds me accountable. I write down recipes, prep for a week of health by logging my exercise. All of these things, though they may not seem directly related to "work", motivated me to.... well... work.
I know it seems old school, actually stepping away from our digital reliance, and stepping back into a love with paper, but it's helped. If you find yourself unable to commit to the levels of productivity to which you aspire, might I suggest you try a pocket planner? It might surprise you. Make it fun, dress it up, decorate it. Whatever you have to do to want to plan, to want to tick off your to-dos. Who knows what you can accomplish then?
"Art is the desire of a man to express himself,
to record the reactions of his personality to the
world he lives in". ~ Amy Lowell
Self-expression is one of the greatest gifts allowed to us, and we can utilize it in such an abundance of ways that we then, hopefully, share with the world. This relationship with creativity, expression and sharing is what, I think, keeps the world a positive and healthy place. Which is why it's my goal to find new ways of expressing myself this year.
Though I like to write poetry, take photos and (of course) make jewelry, one of the areas of my life lacking in attention is my art. I honestly can't remember the last time I've taken the time to really draw something for the sake of drawing, and not because I have an end goal to justify the time spent doing so.
Time. Ah yes, that fickle mistress of our lives which dictates what we can and cannot do. There's always something else to be done. Projects to finish, goals for which we strive, both personally and professionally, family and friends. All these things utilize (rightfully so) our time. But there are moments of peace that we only find doing things for no other reason than the act of doing and sharing. There is no other end game, and the person best effected by it is ourselves.
Perhaps that's selfish in some small way, but still a necessity if we want to maintain some sense of creative and self-expressive balance in our lives. Take time for ourselves, for our joys and passions, however that manifests itself in our lives, and then share that infectious joy with those around us. That's where the magic happens!
So, I plan to dedicate small pockets of time, in the coming weeks, to my art. To expressing myself through that art and allowing that expression to tell the world who I am, who I want to be, what I dream and where I hope life takes me. I wont be afraid to try new things, pull out the watercolors I've never used, or (gasp) actually draw in ink, where mistakes have to be incorporated in the work and not conveniently erased. Fear of failure, of mistakes, is the dark devil of creativity and self-expression, and I wont be a victim to its charms!
How do you plan on creatively expressing yourself this year?
The water lily is symbolized, in antiquity, as a representation of universality, resurrection, supreme spirit and unity, to name a few. I felt it was appropriate for this post, in which I wanted to express my gratitude to all of you.
Gratitude for your continued support. For the community you've created and braced upon your own backs, a community for which I've been incredibly honored to be a part. And every day, while I indulge in this creative journey of mine, you've all journeyed with me, moved me forward with your encouragement.
I couldn't be more thankful.
Four years ago, I set aside my fears (or at least briefly ignored them) and fell into this work full time. It was new. It was scary. It was, if I'm honest, a wide-eyed jump from the cliff of predictability. And you all managed to catch me. Not just catch me, but keep my artistry afloat with a system of support I've rarely known and, even now, sometimes barely comprehend.
I'm not sure I can say that enough. I'm not sure I can express my gratitude at any level equal to that of the support you've shown me. I'm amazed and humbled. I am, to put it simply, awed by each of you.
Thanks to you all.
I love having you all in my life. I love this amazing opportunity to share a small piece of myself with you. I love this remarkable gift you've given me. And for however long I have it, I'll cherish every moment.
Strong emotions effect most of us, I suspect, on an almost daily and sometimes unforgiving basis. We experience sadness and fear, joy and unadulterated excitement, depression and, yes, also grief. These are all part of the intimacy we share with one another and the world, the great human enterprise, if you will, and often an incompetency we struggle to master.
The good emotions... those are easy. They come to us in a great rush, and we swallow them whole, barely allowing ourselves time to drift in their aura. And, before we've even begun to appreciate this beauty, they float away from us a specter, a pale but lovely memory. Sometimes, we forget to hold on to them. Sometimes, we take them for granted. And sometimes, for many of us, perhaps all of us, we are lucky to have these moments translate themselves into creative expression. We are all creative in some way. We all allow the things we make, do or say to somehow become a vessel for the emotions we experience.
When I am happy, oh those are the beautiful moments of creativity. It's a lovely verse those moments make. When I am anxious, I turn to my work and grant my tension passage into my craft. When I am angry, I hammer. And hammer. And hammer until something takes shape and, in its birth, the ire I felt dissolves into art. And those moments are beautiful also. They are the tangible results of experiencing life and, when life is littered with adversity, they are the complex, physical embodiment of getting past those difficulties.
But what about grief? It seems to be it's own ugly beast, angry and set on proving every other emotion it's unqualified companion. It presents itself as greater than the sum of all others. How does creativity remain our unwearied collaborator when grief takes root and crawls up the walls of our emotional shelters?
On January 2, 2016, a half a world a way, my best friend passed away. She was 40. It is the first great loss I've ever known.
And it has been a struggle to allow creativity a presence in this pain. Grief wants its house empty, to pack the happiness in a box and carry it to the curb. To close the curtains against joy, however faint the light may be. Grief is an unforgiving mistress who takes the excitement of discovery and turns it hollow, if you let it. And, for a time, I did. For a time.
But even when the shadow of grief darkened my door, I worked. I worked at remembering, at opening the curtains and cleaning the windows and allowing the sunlight back in. It was dark, and I was tired, but I worked at creating and allowing those creations to say something about my life with her. Through my art, she was speaking to me, and the power of grief can hardly compare to her beautiful song. You should have heard her voice. Maybe, just maybe, you still can.
And soon, I found that I wasn't working at remembering. I wasn't working at combating the presence of grief because every day of my life with her worked itself through and out of me. She was never content to allow me to live with grief, silent and accepting. And creating is the embodiment of her lust for life, which fuels me when I haven't the energy to nourish myself.
And yes, while I may still meet with grief in the shadows and silence, often and unrelenting, I've begun healing through art. Grief will throw down at my feet its gauntlet and, heavy though it may be, I will pick it up and make something beautiful from it, if for no other reason than to honor the experience of loving someone enough to grieve for them.
It is not a cure.
But it's a start.
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