“writing about a writer's block
A dear friend of mine contacted me recently, sharing with me that she was desperate for the act of creating in her life, but was worried because she had no ideas. Was it possible to completely run out of ideas? She wanted to know my thoughts on this question. She was also wondering if she would ever have any ideas again...ever... or were they just gone now that they didn't seem so readily available as they once had been.
First of all, so grateful to be called upon in such a situation, it truly warms my heart and reminds me that I am following my own path in an honest way. Which, many times, I need those reminders and encouragement just as much as anyone!
Secondly, really great and challenging question. Where do ideas come from and can they go away completely? Can you truly "run the well dry"?
I have been through times in my life where ideas were no where to be found. I knew I had art to make, but no structure on which to hang my creative desires. Sometimes my creative energy has just swirled in a pool of diversions without much direction or purpose. Then there have been times where I have had a million ideas! This seems great...except for one million ideas makes it hard to concentrate on any one thing and makes it impossible to truly explore and delve into something. In this situation you never really flesh anything out or bring it into reality. Honestly, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I think this is all a part of the game. Of course, we are all seeking this ideal balance where things flow daily and are full of awesome-ness. But sometimes, one must swirl and one must go through the Winter of one's own creativity.
There are still choices we can make with intention to create an environment and attitude in ourselves where our ideas will flow a bit more freely. These things help us through the dryer times and bring us into the Springtime of our creativity, which just feels more productive. But both are necessary.
A few things to ponder when struggling with the, "I don't have any ideas. Where did my ideas go? When will they come back? I want to create but have nothing to create! Will I EVER have ANY ideas AGAIN???" panic mode.
1) Keep a notebook/journal/sketchbook with you at all times. Those who have the practice of doing this are tilling that fertile soil of their creativity on a regular basis. When the time comes to create, they aren't running on empty. They have been churning up the good stuff every day. Some people fill it with drawings. Some people fill it with writing. Some people add cut out articles, picture clippings and other such found inspiration. Some people fill it with lists. Whatever you fill it with, don't get too rigid and precious with it and don't leave it behind. This kind of thing keeps your fingers on your creative pulse.
2) Watch and pay attention to your chosen diversions. We all have them and sometimes they seem like really healthy and good things. Sometimes we just need to watch some tube when we get home at night because our day was draining...just pay attention to when it becomes a habit. You may realize you have spent 12-20 hours of your week doing something that isn't a big priority for you.
3) A little trick with ideas and cultivating your creativity is that you have to be open to them. You can't say 'no' over and over and over again to your own thoughts and ideas and expect them to continue to come around. If you are constantly denying and putting away that voice inside of you nudging you in a particular direction, it will become more quiet. You are ignoring yourself. In this process you are disconnecting and not re-connecting or strengthening your connection with yourself and your ideas. So instead of saying 'no', be more open and say at least 'maybe' or 'we'll see'. If you are feeling kinda brave, maybe you even say ' yes' or 'let me search for some ways in which I might truly pursue this wild idea'. Saying 'yes' and entertaining the possibility of your own ideas is a better way of wooing them out of yourself then constantly putting your ideas down with a straight up 'no' every time. A designer friend of mine tells me that he has to say out loud everything that crosses his mind, even if it is completely awful, just to get it out and even if he eventually takes it out of the mix. He says every idea, strange, off-topic, bad or indifferent. All of that leads him through the idea field to the good stuff.
Make the ideas feel welcome and more will follow. Follow through with some ideas and see where they lead. Don't get hung up on results. Ideas are like kids and mostly they need your presence and attention, not you forcing them to be something you desire.
If you fear your "wild" ideas...good. Fear is an amazingly accurate compass; usually pointing us in the direction of our truest truths.
Warm Regards on this Sunny Mountain Monday,
p.s. Art Nurture: The Simple Guide to Cultivating Your Creativity is coming out this Spring! You can pre-order your copy on the homepage!
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