Inspiration and Creative Blocks: Where did I leave those keys?

Mufasa’s Ghost (2016)

If you’re ever thinking of embarking on the path of being an Artist, then nothing I say here is going to deter you from that path, so do it anyway. Not that I discourage it.

With that out of the way, you should know that like every profession — and you should be treating it as a profession if you want it to be one — it comes with its own demands and roadblocks that will eventually make you question it at some point; regardless of how passionate you are.

Every single one of them I’ve worked with so far, is insecure

-Paul Klein in his talk at Tandem Press’s 25th Anniversary, regarding TED fellows

One of the most common and formidable challenges we face as Creatives is Inspiration, or more specifically a lack thereof i.e. the Creative Block. It’s happened to me quite recently, too, as a matter of fact, which is why I’m taking the time now to write this.

I can’t speak for other artists; I can only share my own personal experiences with creative blocks when they do occur. And perhaps some underlying issues that contribute to something darker, as well.

What IS a Creative Block?

Ever had one of those days where you lost your keys and you simply cannot, for the life of you, remember where the hell you left them or did with them? It’s a lot like that. Replace ‘Memory’ with ‘Creativity’ and you’re nearing the realm of what it is like to experience Block for an artist in any form — professional or hobbyist. Also, sometimes instead of ‘days’ it can stretch for months or even years.

Believe me, it’s not (entirely) some BS we make up to extend deadlines or pass up bad work. It’s a very real phenomenon that, like many things within the Creative faculty, frustrate us as it’s difficult to put into tangible concepts or numbers. Plus, it’s not like we can just walk it off.

If you’re a client and you think it’s frustrating, then for the artist it is really frustrating. Not only because there’s no way we can convince you we’re not trying to be funny but also because our creative pride and functionality is on the line. We want to do a good job, believe me. But the magic just called in sick.

The Creative often has little choice but to work through it, and the Client has little choice but to give benefit of doubt. By the way, if you’re the kind of client who is generous with that benefit: we really, really like you. Don’t feel like a fool when your dear creative behaves like an ion every now and then and you’re taking it; think of yourself as a captain of a ship in particularly rough seas and conquering it.

Remember that you’re doing fine and everyone loves you for your patience.

An Insidious Germ

An art block can do a number on the creative professional’s cognitive capacity. In other words, it can really f*** things up.

But go deeper and at times, an art block ceases being a passing ailment and starts to become a symptom of something more insidious beneath the surface. This is another type of block that comes about from something everyone, not just artists, suffers: Depression.

Now that is a sizable word to throw around and it affects everyone in varying degrees. So are Anxiety, Insecurity, Self-Doubt, Self-Loathing, Melancholy. The thing they have in common in this context is that they all contribute in some way or another to the halting of the magic.

I went through this very recently and in all honesty, I can’t tell you if I’m better or not, now. I’ve had some really, really super people who believed in me and my ability even when I didn’t. And I still feel bad for having to put them through my sometimes aggravating working curve. They really were, at times, the only thing that kept me going. But a part of me knows that at the end of the day, I’ll keep drawing.

That all goes to show that at the end of the day, the inspiration that an artist receives mostly comes from within. A lot of it’s tied to our own wellness as people functioning in this world.

There is a common stereotype that Artistic folks are the ones who stick out of the board of conformity; dyed hair, weird outfits, weird gestures, etc. But I can tell you myself that I’m about as normal in appearance as they come. A lot of folks mistake me for a white-collar salary man. Because the reality is that a lot of Creatives are regular folks who go through the same struggles as everyone else. Our problems just get painted in a different way.

What’s the Treatment for Creative Block?

Jake Parker, one of, dare I say, the more important artists alive right now, recently mentioned in his video that one of the things we can and should do is to build our creative bank account.

He’s absolutely right and I fully endorse his ideas as a proponent to filling ourselves up with more, as artists.

We aren’t really “Creators”, so much as we are “Mediums”. There’s this egotistical notion we all have, myself included, that somehow we are the creators of what we make. Not really. There’s not a lot of pure creation in what we do. There’s a lot more of putting things together in a way no one has seen before. We need to get over that idea that everything we pull from our selves belongs to us; which it never was, anyway.

So once I accept that most of what I put out there draws from what I have filled up on, it becomes easier, for me at least, to be able to draw more stuff, more frequently.