“When you really intend to do something, and commit yourself to doing it and if you have integrity about it, you are forced to consider your motives and desires.”  — Peter Ciccariello


An important aspect of developing the energy required to break through creative blocks is learning to recognize the patterns of behavior and thinking, particularly those surrounding our work, which we tend to fall into, and further recognizing which of those patterns are helpful, and which are harmful to the activity of getting on with the work.  

One of the most suprisingly vital, but often little appreciated, tools in this area is simply intent.   Brought properly into focus, the power of our desire to make changes in our psychological environment happen is formidable.  There are tricks, large and small, which one can deploy in order to keep this intent in the foreground.  But the decision to address harmful patterns will have consequences only if you actively decide you are willing to make changes.

The blocks we throw up for ourselves, the particular devices we use to distract ourselves from doing the work, are essentially the same, but vary widely in form.  Some might use television, some sex, some might attend to mundane tasks about the home.  As always, it’s not the form that’s important, it’s the purpose.  It’s the content.

Thus, the first and possibly most important tool to keep in mind (or, more realistically, bring to mind periodically) is the simple question — What is it for?  The question has universal application, but is useful here as applied only to our own words, thoughts, and actions, not those of others.  If you can ask this of yourself as you go about your day — and stay honest with yourself about your answers — the veil will begin to lift. 

Get a stack of stickies.  Write “What is it for?” on one or two of them and place them in areas you occasionally pass by throughout your day.  As we go about our day, our week, it can sometimes be surprising to be reminded of our real motivations under ordinary activities.  Little notes to ourselves can be like little firecrackers that shatter the facades of our usual modes of thinking.  

Is TV a problem?  Consider limiting your time spent — you can remind yourself with a note on a sticky somewhere on the TV.  What about blocks you throw up as you’re trying to do the work?  Very often, we know just the kind of thoughts we use to sabotage ourselves (“i’m not talented enough,”  “not as good as so-and-so,” etc., etc. ad infinitum), thus we, better than anyone, know exactly how to write a note to ourselves that expresses the precise opposite of those thoughts, those little poison darts we throw at ourselves.  Find a quote from an artist which reinforces this idea if you can, and include it.  Place it in your work area.  

Habits can be broken, and this includes habits of thought.

Use the talents and motivation of your mind in this problem-solving mode to create tools for yourself that address the unhelpful thoughts your mind can generate in those problem-creating modes.

Another important thing — Prepare your work materials in advance.  If you are a musician, songs might need to be brought into usable keys, instruments tuned, equipment hooked up, etc.  If you are a visual artist, canvases might need to be stretched, or those brushes gotten down from the garage shelf.  Etc., etc.  The idea here is simply not to let the actions of preparation to create opportunities, to provide enough time, for old patterns to reassert themselves, for doubts to form, for excuses to rise up — we want to be able to begin the simple act of making quickly, before any of the thinking about creating can take hold.  Make it easy to get started.  Make it easy to play.

Lastly, it’s important for the blocked artist to remember that, very often, we didn’t get this way overnight.  Negative behaviors and negative patterns of thought develop over time, sometimes starting as far back as childhood, and can even become encrusted in a way, and sometimes — not always — it’s just going to take time to reawaken the part of us that can throw ourselves into the work and create without inhibition.  

So be gentle with yourself…as you do the work.

Be well.