There are often a lot of nameless, free-floating fears that underpin creative blocks.  This isn’t one of them.

Where are my ideas these days?  What if I don’t feel creative?  What if I’m out of ideas?

The idea that one has to “feel” creative is a common misunderstanding of the creative process.  Sure, yes yes, of course, it’s helpful to be in the mood, it can make it vastly more fun, it’s even preferable sometimes, but as it was said in Frank Herbert’s Dune, by the swordmaster who was training his young pupil, mood is a thing for cattle.  The unpleasant fact is, you can do creative work in any mood.  Push through a few times and force yourself to get down to the work and the truth of it will become apparent.  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Feeling like one has run out of ideas, on the other hand, is one of the more impressive methods we use to short-circuit the process and strengthen the patterns toward being blocked.  What better way to circumvent the challenge of the work than to unplug what seems to be the whole point of it all?

Only…for the most part, the creative process doesn’t work this way.   There isn’t a blinding flash of insight in which the final result springs forth fully formed from our brow.  Creative work proceeds wonkily.  The actual ideas that fuel art are usually not grand at all, but rather quite simple.  What if I turn this upside down?  What if I invert these elements?  What if I juxtapose these different things?  

What if I do this instead of that?  

In other words, the work takes shape under our hands, as we ask the little questions, as we do the next small task that is directly before us, as we inhabit the one moment in which we actually reside.  

So what if you don’t have a gigantic motivating insight for the day?  That is, I regret to report, not a real excuse.  You can shape form.  You can juxtapose elements.  At the very worst, today’s work will only be a study, but so what?  You stay away from the work for this reason and you only reinforce the idea that art is some big mystical thing that it, in fact, is not.  Further, even if today’s work is only a study, you’ll have spent the day working with the elements you — usually — love, and you’ll have become subtly better.

“Creative work defines itself; therefore, confront the work.”  — John Cage

Ideas come from doing the work.  They feed off each other.  Some days your rational ideas will have little or nothing to do with what’s taking shape under your hands.

And you will thank the gods for it, because this can sometimes unlock work you never imagined was in you.

Do the work.  Push through.

 


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