This happens to me. I also see this played out in my ArtLife workshops. People just hit this place and invariably say, “I just don’t know what to do!” It feels like the well has run dry and the last good idea that came out last week will be the last. There will be no more. Not today. Not ever. The Source is simply empty.
Despite what it feels like, I have discovered that the problem is not the creative Source within us but rather the mindset, the pathway to that Source.
For years, I have tried different ways to help people in my workshops breakthrough this issue. I have tried talking to them about what inspires them, I have told them to look at others peoples work that they love and I have even told them to just take a walk. I have had limited success.
What ends up happening to them, as it does to all of us, is that things just naturally shift after a day or two and then, amazingly, there is an outpouring of new ideas and inspirations. However, two days or even one day in a 5-day workshop is a relatively long time. I don’t like feeling this way for even 30 minutes.
How can we unblock faster? After many years being stymied by this question, I think I have found an answer.
It is really quite simple, but it works.
It goes something like this…
The mental orientation, your headspace that you are in when you are sitting staring at the problem trying to think your way out of it does not provide a reliable pathway to your creative Source. It feels like you are out of ideas, out of energy and inspiration. You are not. You just can’t experience both the creative, spontaneous, curios state that naturally exists when we are making Art while being in this super analytical, doubting, effortful place. You are either in one mental state or the other. They seem to be somewhat mutually exclusive.
The trick then is to figure out how to more easily switch between the two.
For my students, I demonstrate the answer in the following way.
I simply pick up a brush and without any plan or preconception of what I am doing, just begin putting a mark upon the paper. As I do this, as the deep blue paint floods across the white space the creative mind simply cannot resist becoming engaged. It needs the actual stimulation happening right in front of you. It doesn’t particularly become engaged in the idea, or the pre planning of picking up a brush and making a blue mark. It only becomes engaged once you are actually doing it.
However we hold back for so long from doing because our mind can’t figure out what to do. But we can’t figure out what to do because our creative mind needs the actual physical stimulation. It is a loop that unfortunately can go on and on, keeping us from making our Art.
Fortunately it can be broken quickly. All that needs to be done is to just begin. You don’t need a plan. You don’t need an idea. You simply need to pay attention. Especially once the blue paint begins to change the white paper. Or the crappy rough draft is starting to be written… Associations, inspirations, hopes and new ideas naturally come flooding in again once the actual doing is begun.
It is that simple.
And then the possibility for the new, the next great thing you’re about to make, can return.
the founder of Art2Life.
With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.