In this episode, Jessica talks about the growth 2019 has forced upon her and the internal work she had to do in order to move past her creative blocks and finally get back to work.
Artist Dates are assigned play.
The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that
interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly
“artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.
You are listening to the art stuff podcast episode 5. And today we are going to talk about creative block breaking.
I don’t want to be the kind of host who is constantly apologizing for not being around. But today, especially since it has been such a long time I am going to talk about how my 2019 has gone.
Shortly after launching the podcast my life took a hard left turn. And it started with a family emergency.
My sister had moved to buffalo and needed to be rescued from an abusive relationship. And she ended up staying with us for a while.
The truth is it doesn’t really matter what happened. We have all had life events that throw us out of whack. That throw off our groove and leave us trying to find center again.
As the family situation progressed I had a big battle with a serious bout of depression. I could feel it coming on, and I did my best to fight it but it takes time. Nothing life threatening, but I had to fight against my brain chemistry to find myself again.
As I did come out of the depression I found myself faced with the biggest dose of creative block I have ever had.
Creative block. That feeling where you want to do art , want to be creative but just can’t make yourself do anything.
The days ticked by and the more I didn’t do the bigger the guilt became. My creativity became an albatross. A weight. A chore.
Did you hear that a chore.
And that’s when I realized I had to approach this differently. Because art and creativity should never feel like a chore.
Do you know what is a chore? Dishes are a chore. Mowing the lawn is a chore. Folding the stupid laundry is a chore.
If your art gives you the same feelings as when you have to go clean the kitchen then you are doing it wrong.
So today I’m going to share TK things I did that helped me get past my creative block.
Now, before I get on with the list I’d love to hear about your creative block experiences. You can send me an email at EMAIL and I’m going to read some of the responses I get in the next show –
This is the first thing I did and probably the most helpful.
I started to talk about my art as a should. Like I should be painting right now. I should be drawing or sketching.
So the first thing I did was allow myself to stop feeling like I should. There is plenty of time for art. It isn’t a limited time experience. Allow yourself to stop making yourself do it.
Some people can have success with this technique by learning a new medium. Go take a pottery class, or learn some pastels if you are an oil painter.
For me, as a creative magpie who loves all the mediums I had to let go of “art” entirely.
So what did I do?
As a second part to just walk away is the concept of self care and the creative well. We can only make art if we are filling our creative well.
What is the last thing you did for yourself? While taking a bath or going for a walk is great that isn’t necessarily what I’m talking about. If those things help that’s great. But I’m really talking about the concept of the artist date – an idea I first read about in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s way.
Now that you’ve stopped guilting yourself for not doing art. Start doing things that just make you happy. Take photos in the park. Go to a museum.
I started working in my garden and got back to baking bread. And mostly, I stopped thinking about art.
One of the best quotes I found on this is from Adam J. Kurtz who says Forcing ourselves to be creative is pointless. Which is so true and runs completely opposite to the adage that we professionals don’t wait for inspiration. They just do it. Or the quote by NAME who said, I only write when I am inspired. It just happens that I am inspired every morning at 9 am.
Depending on how big your block is, I think you’ll find giving yourself permission to not do art helps more than you think it will.
We need to talk about stress. Stress is so bad for us and our health and yet it seems to be as American as apple pie. We are all tired and stressed. So first, thing is get some sleep! You are probably not getting enough. Put your phone down (face down so you can’t see the screen and make sure its on sleep mode. Read a book before bed. Give your brain time to rest. Reading makes my eyes tired and provided the book isn’t too awesome it will make me tired.
My sleep routine involves Taking a benedryl, drinking some sleepy tea, and when I’m really having an insomnia night I listen to the Sleep With Me Podcast.
So for the second thing I’m going to ask you to do a stress evaluation on your life. What is causing you stress? And how much of that can you control? Are you stressed out because you want to change something and can’t? And if you can’t is that really true or do you just not want to change it and are saying you can’t.
For me, I had to look at everything I was trying to take on, and see that not only did I not have to do everything myself, but that I was literally the only one who expected me to handle it all alone. I asked for help. I got my daughter to help around the house a bit. I told Chris what I was struggling with and we worked on doing more things together like cleaning, and me just letting some things go. They aren’t super important.
I did a lot of meditating. I’m not saying you have to meditate, but it is an activity that helps me a lot. I use the insight timer app (because they have TONS of free content) and I love a good guided meditation, but also I use the crackling fire sound to just listen and focus on the sound. I aim for 20 minutes a day.
I’ve meditated on an off through my life. To get me back into it I researched it online and I ended up reading about the law of attraction. Before you skip away because this is a little woo woo hear me out.
The short version is you get what you think about. If you are stressed out, maybe about money because you don’t have enough. (This was one of my issues. As an artist in the summer it can be scary to earn less while people go vacay at the beach) It is so easy to get caught up in focusing on how much money you don’t have. How hard life is. How much everything would be easier if you had money.
Yes. This is all true. But focusing on the problem is not going to give you a solution. You have to let go of that truth and try to find something happy to focus on.
You probably won’t be able to turn on a dime from a stressed out do everything yourself person to a happy go lucky person. But you can start every day and try to focus on the positive.
The two things I did that helped me:
First, make an out loud and written in my journal commitment to try to be an optimist. For me that meant stop looking for the negative. Stop trying to plan how to get around the bad things that might happen. At the beginning I wasn’t sure how to be happy so I focused on not being negative. If a negative thought came up I really just said, everything is going to work out. And tried to let it go. Realizing my worrying wasn’t going to change anything in any way was huge and helped me step back and be more ok with not being able to control the future.
Second, keep a happiness journal. I Write down three to five things that actually made me smile or happy. Not the things that should make you happy. If your kids are shit today then dear lord don’t write down you are happy to have them. That makes it about them. This is about you.
I have written down, the brownies I ate were exactly what I was craving. Chocolate. Gooey, warm. Like a hug. And I got goosebumps when Chris kissed me on the neck. My sheets were really soft when I woke up.
The point of this, is to make a point to notice the good parts of your day.
This habit didn’t take long before I was standing in the kitchen and actually smiling. Because I could finally see how things were getting better. Or rather I was letting myself be happier.
I want to talk about the book Finish by Jon Acuff. It is an absolutely stunning book and helped me in so many ways. If you struggle with perfection or getting things done you should go read this book.
The essence of the book is that if you struggle with finishing things, you are probably a perfectionist. Even if you don’t know it.
Additionally Jenny Lawson is an incredible writer whose books make me feel like someone really understands my crazy.