Post from February, 2016

Overcoming Creative Block

Monday, 22. February 2016 2:11

Creative block comes to all of us from time to time and can constitute one of the most frustrating aspects of an artist’s creative life. Despite the abundance of information on what to do (A Google search yields between 15,800 and 2.2 million hits, depending how the search is phrased), it seems that nothing we can do will break the log jam. Ideas won’t come. And, if a person is active in multiple arts, sometimes it’s only one that’s blocked.

This happened to me very recently, and it had to do with writing this post. Now you would think that writer’s block would be impossible given that I have a blog idea file of some 720+ entries; none of them gained traction. I tried all the usual things that have worked for me in the past; no joy. Finally, I decided that the thing to do would be to write about the block, and headed off to the shower to think about it (It’s where some of my best thoughts happen.) Suddenly the log jam was broken. Ideas just poured. I almost couldn’t get my hands dry fast enough to push Siri’s button so she could record them. (The downside of shower ideas is that sometimes, like dreams, they disappear when there is a change of state.)

Here are some of the ones that came to mind. Of course, some of these sprang from the others, but that’s how creativity often works.

  • The art show that advertised itself as erotic but wasn’t .
  • The only person at that show who seemed to know what the word erotic means.
  • The variety of arts gallerists and promoters that exist.
  • Niche artists, especially those working in very tiny niches.
  • The very popular single-subject artist I met who told me about changing topics when she discovered that her current topic sold better than her first one.
  • How one develops his/her own taste as opposed to adopting someone else’s.
  • The complexity of feelings that artists have for their past works.
  • Whether or how the vanity press differs from self-publishing.
  • Vanity galleries and all the names and plans under which they operate.
  • The real cost of avoiding paying for professional expertise.

But they didn’t stop then. All morning, even as I was drafting this, ideas kept coming. Of course, all of these will be added to that same idea file. Some are likely to appear here in the future.

Upon analysis, what I learned about overcoming artist’s block is a rather simple two-part approach. Whether it will work every time or not, I have no idea, but it constitutes a creative tool, and one can never have too many of those. So I intend to keep in my kit.

The two parts are: (1) resolve to create something immediately, even if the subject matter is the block itself, and (2) do that. It may turn into nothing more than an exercise that removes the block, or it may, as in this case, turn into exactly what it was intended to be—a piece about creative block.

This was not the conclusion I had envisioned when I got into the shower, but this one is far more useful. Next time you’re blocked, give it a try—and let me know how it turns out.

Category:Creativity | Comment (0) | Author:

We Have to Invest

Monday, 8. February 2016 0:56

Two stories: (1) the drama department in which I work negotiated four inexpensive workshops for acting students which cover areas not covered in depth in any of the courses we offer. The offerings were based on a poll of students. Six weeks after the workshops were posted, only two or three students had signed up for each. In exhorting the students to sign up, I asked why the lack of response when they had said earlier that they were interested. The answers varied from non-answers to “I don’t have time.” One person with a Starbucks cup sitting on her desk told me that she didn’t have the money to spare.

(2) During the same time frame, a lighting designer I know complained to me over drinks about a favor he had tried to do for some friends. The friends, who are arts promoters, had wanted to combine performance art with one of their art shows and asked if he could give them some help with the lighting for the performances. Although he has virtually no respect for performance art, he said yes, and worked up a very inexpensive system, only to find out that what they really wanted was for him to provide the lighting equipment and set-up for no charge, as well as run the controls. Like most lighting designers, he owns no equipment and certainly was not interested in a five-plus-hour gig for no pay. The friends were determined to have something, so after much back and forth, he convinced them that the best they could get for a small amount of money was a DJ package which he thought would suffice for their needs. As he worked with them to set up their newly acquired package, he discovered that what they really wanted for their $500 was a professional-level lighting system designed to provide exactly the effects they had imagined operated by an unpaid technician.

The lighting designer suggested ways to enhance the function of the inexpensive system and suggested that they play with it for a while. My strong suggestion to the students was that they reconsider their priorities since it was their future careers that these workshops were designed to help.

My takeaway from both of these stories is that there are a number of people, both students and non-students working in the arts world who are reluctant or even unwilling to invest in their art. Teachers in the arts see this attitude all the time: talented music students who will not invest time to practice; painting students who will not invest the money required to purchase good brushes; dance students to refuse to invest in proper footwear. It happens outside of school as well: photographers who can’t seem to save the money to pay for good lenses; musicians who go out to perform with junk sound systems; singers who won’t allocate the time and money to continue voice training to maintain and improve their voices. Yet all of these people expect to succeed in their chosen art, perhaps by magic or luck.

Since magic and luck are in short supply, most serious artists attempt to leverage every opportunity that could reasonably contribute to their success or allow them to better their art. They understand that art is not easy, and succeeding in the art world is less easy. And most know that in order to develop their art, in order to succeed, they have to invest, usually both time and money. And that too is not easy because time and money are also in short supply. But if we are serious about our art and sufficiently determined to improve and succeed, we will find the time and the money. We must, because in order to grow as artists we have to invest in ourselves.

Category:Creativity | Comments (1) | Author:

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