Working On Those Art Blocks
I want to share something personal, and talk about my progress with dismantling art blocks. I think a lot of people could relate, or maybe are struggling with the same thing.
In 2015 I was beyond stressed out. Work at the marketing agency was taking its toll. I was absolutely overwhelmed. The anxiety go so bad that at the end of the year I literally couldn’t swallow food without choking. I had to step away from some projects at work but it was not enough. My wife recommended meditation. I had nothing to lose, so I started meditating. The first few times were difficult. I wanted to scream. My body was shaking. I wanted to cry. But I carried on and in time I started to see some change. Breathing was helping. We discovered a local mindfulness group. And in 2016 we took an eight week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class together. This was the real beginning in helping me work though stress & anxiety, but also in tackling these art blocks. It was there I started to learn to slow down my mind, put space around things. At the time I didn’t realize that the anxiety and art blocks were related. Or rather, that how I was reacting to anxiety was related to being creatively blocked.
Staring down at a blank page would overwhelm me with anxiety. My brains response had been simply, “this is unsafe, you should go somewhere safe”, and then off I would go to things that made brain happy; video games, mindlessly scrolling junk food internet, movies/streaming, food, anything that wasn’t that scary blank page. I had a few failures at trying to burst through the wall that hurt. But I was determined. I was drawing a lot more, and taking courses on skillshare, etc, to help me to regain some confidence in some basics that I had felt I lost over the last 10 years.
By now it was 2019 and my wife saw me struggling and recommended creativity coaching with Tricia Poulos-Leonard. Tricia helped me to develop some concrete steps and plans for facing the blank page, and facing the many challenges in making art. Because of her tutoring I was doing a decent job of making art, and in fact I created more that year than I had in the previous 10 years. Such progress! But I was still struggling. The art blocks always seemed to rebuild themselves. Small failures would become devastating and would lead to large droughts and eventually to nearly abandoning it altogether. There was still a lot to work on.
So along comes goddamn 2020 and the pandemic throws everything upside down. After all the yard work and distractions were done and over, I was left to sit with myself and face the fact that my art blocks are still there, and I don’t even know what they really are. All I know is they exist. I also know that until I understand them I am not going to be able to create. And like magic, my wife comes through, again, with another incredible recommendation, this time in the form of a book: “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.
This book is amazing, and has helped to bring some clarity to what art blocks actually are. The book is presented as a 12 week course to help you with “artistic creative recovery”. The book was written in the early 90s and you can tell, but the lessons and tools are still valid. The author has some exceptional exercises designed to root out some core beliefs that keep you blocked. I learned a lot. I have new confidence and understanding. I will continue to do “artist dates” with myself, and I have been journaling daily. I have been able to connect some pieces with the anxiety to creating art. The core of which is unhealthy attachments to the artwork. I am revisiting some past failures, learning from them, and actually trying to salvage them.
I completed the book at Christmas 2020. It was a big deal for me and I am celebrating the success of not only committing and finishing the thing, but celebrating the changes in attitude towards creating art. I really feel I got to the root of some things. So much work has been done and still there’s so much to do, but now at least I can sit at the blank page and not freak out.
My wife is my champion and I love her dearly. I realize that so much of this has been because of her support and gentle nudging.