My Creative Block, My Fierce Inner Critic usually shows up when I’m wearing too many hats and just squeezing in studio time between all the other demands of a wonderfully full and rich life. It happens when I am worn down and bone tired. When “The Funk” malaise settles in and my creativity becomes frozen. The voice of my Creative Block is tireless and repeats phrases like – “This stuff is crap and it is going to end up in the land fill anyway so why waste your time. Do something productive. This is all so self-indulgent.” Behind this voice is fear of failure.
If you haven’t read Elizabeth Gilbert’s newest book, Big Magic, she has a terrific section on all the negative things we say to ourselves that keep us frozen. Needless to say, when I find myself in this icy land of unworthiness, I get discouraged, and set aside whatever I am working on. This usually makes matters worse because the creative process feeds me in a way that nothing else does.
I always return to my studio table in a terrible funk, wondering what on earth is wrong with me. When I settle down into the process, I usually find my way into whatever prompted “the funk.” When things are not quite speech ready, when the messiness of life rumbles just below the surface, my practice of art making usually rescues me.
Advice from Artists on How to Overcome Creative Block, Handle Criticism, and Nurture Your Sense of Self-Worth
Over the past year, I’ve created some artwork that I just couldn’t seem to finish. Creative block strikes again. I refer to them as my frozen pile, my works-in-progress. There are a handful of encaustics that I just couldn’t quite wrap up, a few paintings needing something, and some mono-types begging for more attention. Rilke’s words of wisdom became my creative mantra.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.”
But the questions were going on way too long and I was becoming frustrated and blocked. I felt frozen. Maybe the best place for these frustrated artworks was the sacred BONFIRE, something I have always wanted to do but haven’t had the nerve. It seemed too murderous.
The Thaw Begins
My thaw began slowly in November when two Tibetan Buddhist Monks came to Columbia to create a Sand Mandala for Healing Icons 20th Anniversary. Witnessing this incredibly patient and intricate process made me realize I simply needed more uninterrupted studio time. My hummingbird approach to making art was just not working. I needed larger chunks of devoted time. I also fell in love with what they created. The sand mandala of healing was full of vibrant colored, patterned symbols that literally pulsated with energy. I wanted my art work to have that same life force.
Travel – Getting Outside My Normal
My journey to Morocco, a couple weeks later, further enlivened my lackluster creative self. As one who has always been filled with wanderlust, I love the challenge of stepping outside my comfort zone into a different kind of breathing space where my senses open into things I have never seen, smelled, heard or tasted before. Morocco did not disappoint.
It is a country brimming with wild contrasts – the modern and the ancient living side by side. The fortune tellers, magicians, gypsies, snake charmers, minstrels, and storytellers, live within “modern” Morocco. The overwhelmingly chaotic serpentine souks (markets) of Marrakesh and Fez are the perfect fusion of color, energy and vibrancy. It is palpable. My creative side was charmed, soul and spirit enchanted.
Alchemy of Gold, Copper & Silver
When I returned to my frozen pile of Works-in-Progress, I knew that the end of 2015 had paved the way for me to breathe life into the unanswerable questions. Gold, Copper and Silver leaf have become my saviors.