Sunday, March 13, 2005

Why I never get blocked...maybe.

I’ve (so far) never experienced artist’s block, writer’s block, or any other type of block, even while slogging through depression. I think it’s because I don’t stop working just because I run out of inspiration. Inspiration can be found. Ideas can be found. Work goes on. Inspiration can be lost. Ideas can be lost. Work goes on.
On and off, for all my life (so far) I’ve had periods of dark vision. I don’t consider this a blessing or a curse. It’s just how my brain works and my brain works this way because my chromosomes got lined up just so by chance or by hook or crook of fate.
I’ll go with chance, for now, but I begin to suspect some sort of pattern----which isn’t to say design. But nearly so. Anyway, yes, some of the sculptures I’ve done have come in flashes of…insanity.
That said, it’s not always like that. Every piece of work I make doesn’t come with a fanfare of angelic trumpets. Some of them sort of discover themselves as they’re being made. The only way I could block myself is to stop working. Sometimes illness or circumstances stop it for me.

Sometimes, when that happens, it’s not a good thing. Too much stuff gathers in my head.
So, generally, I keep working.
But
I don’t always feel inspired.
I work anyway. If I don’t have a specific idea that is setting me on fire, I just decide to make something ‘nice’. It can be a figurative thing---like a simple nude figure, or a design thing---like a shape or a movement.
Or it can be an essay on a subject plucked from the collection of post-its and slivers of paper taped or magneted or otherwise stuck all over the studio refrigerator.
It’s a good idea to keep plenty of post-its and pens and slivers of paper handy for inspired moments. A blank refrigerator can be handy too. You can refer back to it in tough times and keep stuff cold in it too.


When I feel most uninspired, I drag my sorry ass to the studio, or to the computer and I start working and, without fail, I get into it and a twist or play on words or metaphor emerges and grows into an idea. Music helps. And coffee. ( Yes, caffeine is a drug. If something works, use it. Just know that everything has a price and other people besides you matter.)

Use the force, Luke. Ok. That's corny. But, really, sometimes you just have to let go and let give.
Once in a while you have to stop driving and just see what happens. Not by standing there and staring at the blank page, but by typing something, drawing some lines or punching at a lump of clay.
A lot of writers and artists believe that we can train our brains to be ‘on’ by working at the same time every day. That makes sense. Why not? Everything else we learn works that way. But I believe that the act of working, whether it’s twisting some wire for armature or typing simply what we’re feeling at the moment, stimulates the creative process, no matter what time, and that exercising creativity makes it stronger.

At the very worst, by kneading some clay or sketching, we’re doing something productive instead of something from the long list of things we could be doing (which includes chocolate and HBO and Ebay) that are great to celebrate with but not to be substituted for working. ( or we should be beaten like a bad-bad donkey)

Anyway. Here were a couple of thoughts on how things work. I’d be interested in hearing yours.

I’ve missed you guys. Hope you missed me too. I’m tired of cold tablets and tissue and my bathrobe. If you’ve had this crud too, hope you’re on the mend.

G’night

7 comments:

Gregg P. said...

I know that when it comes to writing I am exactly the same way. At least when comes to technical writing, which is my job, as opposed to creative writing, which is what I'm TRYING to get back into via journaling. If I can't seem to get thoughts together on a project, the best thing to do is just start typing, and eventually, without fail, it comes together.

I've never really felt anything like "writer's block" in the typical sense. My biggest obstacle in creative writing, though, is a sort of self-defeating need to feel that I have something important to say before I bother sitting down to write. I think it's largely due to having such limited time to devote to creativity -- with all the standard work/family demands, I really have to feel that the result will be worthwhile before I devote the time to it. I know I've got a bunch of thoughts and ideas floating around that I'd love to express, but I just don't feel like they've gelled enough to know that, when I sit at the keyboard, something good will happen.

I honestly think a lot of writer's/artist's block stems from this sort of lack of focus, from an unwillingness to try something without knowing whether it will work out.

Jens said...

Those words are going up on my inner fridge. Thank you.

My problems getting blocked have more to do with finishing than starting. I can do as you say, just sit down and start to pound something out, and interesting things will happen. It's later on, after I think I have a good start, that I feel blocked, because I am afraid I won't be able to keep adding bits that are as good as what I have.

pam (yes, that one) said...

When I'm having trouble with a design (whether finding an idea or finishing a particularly obstreperous one), I get a lot of inspiration from colors. Unusual combinations of contrasting and competing colors. Something about the lime green against hot red seems to loosen my brain into accepting new patterns, seeing new possibilities.
Glad your back among the free breathing.

Miss Bliss said...

I've spent the last almost 20 years working off and on as a lighting designer in theatre. The great thing about live theatre is that, once I have the job, I have to show up and do it simply because other people are standing around in a theatre waiting for me to show up. The deadline along with the collaborative nature of theatre forces me to step up and get on with it regardless of how I'm feeling.

My writing on the other hand tends to stay neglected as a result of missing those things. Without the deadlines or anyone else relying on me producing something I tend to simply never get around to actually doing the writing. I know though that when I write on a regular basis I experience exactly what you described, writing begats more writing. It gets easier the more I do it because it inspires an energy that is quite powerful.

Issy said...

I do so many things that if I'm not inspired for one then I will work on something else, and if my art isn't turning out the quality I like; I either start writing or sit with my musical instruments and play with them a bit. Plus I always have to put aside some time to read to my son every day.

I also have been sick with the crud. I hope you are feeling better.

Carl V. said...

Glad you're on the mend...today was a better day for me as well. My problem with getting blocked in my creativity mostly comes from me not doing exactly what you do...just sit down and do something. I often find myself waiting to be inspired rather than diving right in and making inspiration work for me. I was very encouraged by what you had to say. Thanks...you were missed!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the inspiring, insightful comments.I was actually
"playing catch up" with your site
since I haven't visited in a couple of weeks, and this was just the message(s) I needed to get out
of this chair and in the Museum where I'm putting together an exhibit.
On the "threes" - since beginning a very strange relationship with a full-blood Eastern Band Cherokee,
the pattern of 3 occurs constantly. And crows are my companions as I walk to work. . .