Being someone who is a creative person by nature, I like to think (perhaps like many others) that creativity is something I can dip into without fail - a Mary Poppins' carpet bag of ideas and inspiration. However, there are times that I brush against the bottom of the bag.
How do you do that, though, when you're farming creativity? For me, a few practices have helped me move through these periods of creative rest.
I use Pinterest to curate a number of inspiration boards, as it's a wide variety of easily accessible sources (world wide web, baby), but you could also keep a journal or scrapbook. For the days I need to pause and replenish, I'll scroll through others' art and quotes, and pin those that attract me immediately, without second thought. I'll then go back later to look at it more closer and reflect on why I was initially drawn to the image. Was it the colours? Was it the composition? Was it the words used, or how they sparked a memory?
“[i]n nature, things that grow unchecked are often parasitic or cancerous. And yet, we inhabit a culture that privileges novelty and growth over the cyclical and the regenerative.”
To shift to regeneration, Andrea Stephenson notes that it's important to “observe the world around me without any creative agenda.” In my case, I'll go to galleries and look at art, read books, watch movies, attend plays and readings. (I like all of these when I'm producing, too, but I'm more mindful of it during these rest times.) It's about being an audience member in others' forms of creation, and then allowing yourself time to digest the content, without comment or question or, perhaps most importantly, self-criticism.
Create Differently Without Agenda
Ultimately, Be Kind to Yourself
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of creative block isn't that it happens at random, but that inspiration returns just as suddenly:
"I was cured but I didn’t know how or why the cure had happened. Since I hadn’t consciously discovered the key that unlocked the room inside me where these new poems and essays had been hiding, how could I trust that the room wouldn’t somehow lock itself up again and, the next time, what if the door never reopened?"
I can't explain it, but remember that fallow times don't make a person any less of a farmer, and the same for creativity and whatever label you use to describe your own creative experiences. And while I've never been able to predict when a fallow period arrives or how long it will last, as it is always variable, I try to remind myself that the fields will eventually replenish. You WILL be able to pull out another floor lamp from the carpet bag.
Personal blog for Bryn Robinson, PhD. All opinions are my own.