As you’ve read Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this series of essays on creative block, you may have discovered deeper truths about what keeps you from creating at your full potential. If you answered the questions in Part 3, you may know more than you might want to know. Your creativity deserves the courage it took to answer those questions. One of the great truths is that the truth shall set you free.
Here are five ways to trick your block. As you may have learned by now, trying to force your way through it almost never works. The layers of the block have been accumulating for years. Scrape away one and another appears. These five strategies are not easy to do. They may not be fun. They may not even work (as in: You find yourself back in the wild flow of your first creating.) Should you decide to use them, you’ll give your creativity the best chance by simply doing them as experiments.
1. Correspond with your creativity
Every morning before you do anything else (coffee not included) write a letter by hand to your creativity for ten minutes. Then for ten more minutes, let it write back. It might begin like this: Writing, I’m here. I don’t want to be here. I want to be anywhere else but here. I don’t even know if you are there…or here…
Use a free-write technique I’ve found to be powerful for my students and myself: Once you start writing, keep the pen moving. When you’ve finished your letter, wait five minutes doing nothing, then begin: X, what do you want from me? You live as though I don’t exist. I’m sick of waiting for you…
2. For a month, create only if you want to.
If you are on assignment, do the bare minimum…better yet, see if you can move your deadline for at least a month. If you can’t, bite the bullet and do only what you have to. Most often, our actions tell our creativity what we really want. In this case, your actions are telling your creativity not so much what you want, but that you will get a job done, then get back to your deeper work.
As you move through your day, keep a Field Notes journal. Use your senses more than your thinking. Jot down any inspirations that come to you. Let yourself feel what it is like to NOT be able to create from them. Let yourself feel what it is like NOT to create from your deepest gift.
3. Don’t talk about feeling blocked.
We tend to talk away our deepest creativity: tell a story/film/essay before we write it. It’s much easier to sit with a friend and whimper about what we aren’t doing. Every negative word we tell others and ourselves set up patterns in the part of our brain that creates. Suffer in silence. This is between you and your gift.
4. Read, watch films, look at photographs as much as you can.
Too often, we leave behind the writing and art that may have first inspired us. Writers forget that the best training ground is reading. Photographers forget how Edward Weston, Diane Arbus, Dorothy Lange and others first inspired them. Filmmakers fear being derivative and back away from studying their masters. We are always learning. We are always refining our craft. If that isn’t true, we are stagnating.
Stop trying. Put your pen, computer, cameras away for three months. If you create to earn your living, find a part-time day job. Lock your tools of your craft away and give the key to a friend. Live without creating. Pay attention to how you feel. It will be a hard lesson. You will not be able to imagine how you will feel when you unlock your tools and once again, hold them in your hands.
When the three months are over, take a whole day for the ceremony of returning to your work. You might celebrate alone or with friends. You will have returned to a place you belong.