I confess: For a variety of reasons, I haven’t painted in about a year and a half. I miss it terribly. I often dream vivid, full-color dreams about painting. At the beginning of the year, I told myself I was going to get back into it, but then I had some business to wrap up… and a presentation to research and write… and a book to edit for a friend… and the studio’s a mess and requires a major cleaning… You get the picture. I’m making excuses.
Why? The truth is, I’m afraid to start up again. There’s nothing rational about my fears, but they are real. Why do I have this creative block? Have any of you ever experienced this? Where does it come from? What stops some of us from jumping in to the creative experience we say we love?
Somehow I did find time to attend a recent book signing party for a woman named Anne Paris, a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with artists, writers, musicians, and other creative types. She’s just published a book called Standing at Water's Edge: Moving Past Fear, Blocks, and Pitfalls to Discover the Power of Creative Immersion (available from Amazon), in which she explores a number of significant causes and cures for creative block. According to Anne, the best way to get past the block is to simply immerse yourself in the creative process. Pick up your paints and brushes and paint away with abandon, she says. Suspend judgment, she says. Let the ideas and emotions flow, she says.
This sounds great, and I agree completely, but my mind wants to take it one step further. See, for me—and I’m wondering if this is true of any of you out there—I’m always concerned about the outcome. Right now, my block comes from knowing that whatever results from such a flurry of artistic activity will not be good because I’m so rusty. Even when I’ve been painting regularly, though, I’ve had moments when my desire for getting everything just right has held me back from starting something new. You, too?
What’s making me feel better at this point is knowing that there’s another stage that comes after that wonderful immersion “in the zone.” After a frenzied, free-flowing emotional and spiritual release, there arises a new opportunity to go in and revise the work from an analytical or intellectual perspective. That’s the time to edit, adjust, refine. That’s the time to perfect the work… well, at least to make it as good as it can be.
Yes, yes, I know, nobody but me is ever going to see these paintings so why sweat it? Like I said, my fears aren’t rational. But it’s just how I operate, and I suspect I’m not the only one who puts this kind of pressure on myself, am I? But I’m confident I can get past this. I believe it’s possible for the artist part of me to have all the joy and exuberance of the art-making process, while the perfectionist part of me can relax, knowing she’ll have her turn, too.
Now, let’s see how long it takes me to actually get to it. That’ll be my next post!