What are some causes of our creative blocks? What are the emotional blocks to creative expression?
How can actors, writers, designers and other artists overcome creative blocks in their work?
“My biggest excuse to others and myself was that I had writer’s block, as if it was some kind of illness.” – Mary Garden (Scottish operatic soprano 1874–1967).
“If you know how to freestyle, you will never have writer’s block.” – Musician will.i.am.
Writer’s block is one flavor of creative block or artist block, often depicted in images like the above: “Writer’s Block” by Sharon Drummond.
This kind of image can relate to perfectionism, which can become a creative block when it is used in unhealthy or obsessive ways, rather than a motivating pursuit of excellence.
Shaming can deflate our creative motivations.
Stephen King recalls his high school teacher condemning his writing as “junk” and asking “Why do you want to waste your abilities?”
King admitted in one of his books, “I have spent a good many years since – too many, I think – being ashamed about what I write.”
These quotes of King are probably meaningful to many artists, and I have posted them in several articles, including Stay connected with your emotional creative space.
Like many artists, King has worked out how to get past those self-limiting shaming feelings.
His books “have sold more than 350 million copies, many of which have been adapted into feature films, miniseries, television series, and comic books. King has published 58 novels (including seven under the pen name Richard Bachman) and six non-fiction books.” [Wikipedia]
In his book ‘The War of Art’ – on developing creative thinking – Steven Pressfield writes about our inner dream lives, self-critical thinking and imaginings that get in the way of creative work.
He conceives of this blockage as “Resistance” and says:
“It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.
“What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”
He adds, “Resistance enlists criticism to reinforce the fifth column of fear already at work inside the artist’s head, seeking to break her will and crack her dedication.
“The professional does not fall for this. Her resolution, before all others, remains: No matter what, I will never let Resistance beat me.”
From my article Confronting Our Inner Demons To Be More Creative.
The photo is Nicolas Cage in the movie ‘Adaptation’ – facing the dreaded blank page and thinking:
“To begin…To begin…How to start? I’m hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think.
“Maybe I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin. So I need to establish the themes. Maybe a banana nut. That’s a good muffin.”
From my article on distracting ourselves from the creative work we really want to do: Why do we procrastinate in our creative life? How can we change?
Life circumstances can block or interfere with creative passion.
Actors and other performers can experience creative blocks like other people, and can also face some unique challenges.
After about three decades in film, Jane Fonda in 1991 announced her retirement from the film industry.
She returned to acting in 2005 with “Monster-in-Law,” starring opposite Jennifer Lopez.
Fonda said one reason she took such a long hiatus was her menopause:
“I felt so awful as a woman and I can’t be creative if I feel bad, so I just said, ‘I’m gonna leave Hollywood and be an environmental activist full time.’ ”
The photo is from a BBC article: Jane Fonda reveals rape and child abuse, 3 March 2017.
The caption is ‘Jane Fonda said she was “brought up with the disease to please.”
This aptly named ‘disease to please’ is another experience of many people – perhaps especially those with the personality trait of high sensitivity – that can interfere with self-expression and creativity.
In the BBC article, Fonda says “To show you the extent to which a patriarchy takes a toll on females – I’ve been raped, I’ve been sexually abused as a child and I’ve been fired because I wouldn’t sleep with my boss and I always thought it was my fault; that I didn’t do or say the right thing.”
One of my related Creative Mind network articles: Dealing with trauma and abuse to live a bigger, more creative life.
Jane Fonda describes more about how creative energy can be impeded:
“You can’t do most things well without being relaxed, not in sports, not in lovemaking, not in acting.
“Where it differs for actors is that relaxation is needed not to swing a bat well or run swiftly, but so that the body’s energetic flow is unimpeded and inspiration can rise and express itself through the actor’s spirit: in eyes, voice, and movement… the body as instrument.
“But it’s not as though you can get up in front of an audience and say to yourself, Relax, dammit!
“You can pretend to be relaxed, but pretending isn’t going to address self-doubts and hangups, often unconscious, that block the creative process and keep you from doing what you want to do in a scene.”
From her memoir My Life So Far.
Our emotional history can be a source of creative blocks.
Some of the quotes above by Jane Fonda and others remind me of this comment by author Ann Brebner about acting and actors – which can also apply to other artists:
“Coming to terms with our emotional history is as much a part of ‘our work’ as going to classes, interviewing, auditioning, and giving performances.”
(From her book Setting Free the Actor – Overcoming Creative Blocks.)
Psychotherapist Mihaela Ivan Holtz helps creative people in TV/Film, performing and fine arts with “their life struggles, depression, anxiety, performance anxiety, creativity, relationships and love, PTSD, and addictions – to become their own best version.”
She notes one probably common way we limit our creativity:
“When you overthink and overanalyze, you disconnect from your inspiration, drive, and desire to make your art.
“You get trapped in a creative block. It silences your calling.”
From my article (which links to one of hers) Are you passionate about your creative work making an impact?
Losing touch with your creativity.
In another article, Dr. Holtz explains more about what creative blocks are and how to break through.
Here is an excerpt:
You’ve been successful as an artist for many years. You’ve always trusted and felt confident in your creativity and ability to make your art.
Your art has impacted people and you have an audience that loves and respects your work.
You remember those moments when your creative process felt like watching a movie unfold before you. The images, the feelings, the music, characters would simply come alive and become your art.
But now, you feel you lost touch with your creativity.
You don’t feel confident in what you create. The story doesn’t flow. The work isn’t filled with the energy of real emotions.
You don’t know what has happened to you. You’re afraid you’ve lost something essential. You don’t trust you’ll ever be creative again.
What’s going on? You’ve always been a creative. You’ve always had the gift of creating and making stories and experiences for people.
Where are you? Where is the real you, the artist?
At some point in their career, many artists lose touch with their creativity and experience creative blocks.
For some, this is a scary experience. Creativity is their name, their identity, their financial safety. It’s the source of their stability, satisfaction, and fulfillment.
It’s their life.
You probably recognize that you are most creative when you’re in a certain emotional mindset and in a particular physical place.
That is your emotional creative space. In that space, you easily get in touch with your inspiration, creativity, and your passion. Your ideas flow.
This emotional creative space is unique to you. It’s part of your fingerprint as an artist.
From that place, you make art that is a unique extension of your voice.
Artists aren’t always in that creative emotional space, but they need to be there often enough to be able to create.
Sometimes an artist’s emotional creative space can be squeezed by life pressure, stress, loss, depression, anxiety, unhealed emotional trauma, or even transition to new creative endeavors.
These disruptions can happen to anyone. The trick is understanding these various potential stumbling blocks so you can meet each challenge as it arises.
- Read much more in her article, including how to break through a creative block and get back in touch with your creativity: Is It a Normal Creative Ebb and Flow or a Real Creative Block?