Every field needs a rest before a farmer can sow again…
Sarah West Ervin, in her blog on ways to stay motivated, describes losing the urge to create as “like a balloon from the previous weekend’s birthday party, slowly deflating, losing all motivation to do anything, let alone create.”
Recently I felt my balloon losing its shape. Just as I began to panic, I remembered that I’ve been here before.. many times. As artists, we have this underlying ability to self motivate to the point where it’s likely to become second nature. What we teach ourselves is that the best fuel for creativity is the discomfort of being ‘in the dark’.
Harnessing the uncertainty we feel in this space can fuel brilliance and enhance creative thinking. It’s easy to churn out the same work over and over and get comfortable with your abilities and techniques, but is it healthy? Is it challenging?
If you are like me, you’ll be constantly breaking routine – just because you can. As an ‘agent for change’ I have always noted the benefits of it. Evolution doesn’t stand still.. But when creative block strikes, it’s like a ten pound hammer staking you to the ocean floor. You’re stuck. You forget how to breathe under water; creativity dies and productivity ceases.
Evolution doesn’t stand still..
Google throws up some cracking cliché’s on inspiring ‘creative motivation’ with 10-step illustrated programmes to keep you moving forward. Let’s face it, creative block or burnout is something we all experience during the course of our creative careers. But what if we didn’t wrestle it and rather relished the ‘grey place’ for exactly what it is… a pause, a rest, solitude, detachment, a place of refueling. What if we found complete joy in this space without the fear, guilt or anxiety?
American author and public speaker Scott Berkin writes about mastering burnout in his book ‘Dance of the Possible’ – and likens creative energy replenishing itself to a well, with water slowly refilling itself over time. Burnout, he says is entirely survivable. ‘Creative people get burnt all the time, to varying degrees, and many of them develop habits that allow them to come back, sometimes stronger or more motivated than they were before. ‘The well will fill again all on its own’ writes Berkin. As a creative writer, Berkin has experienced many grey, unproductive times, and with it, realised the importance of granting himself patience to pass through it. He calls it ‘vacating, in order to wonder and ponder’. I like that. To me it provokes a sense of healthy playfulness which is something I can relate to.
Some years ago, I embraced the idea of taking myself off on an Artist Date whenever creativity grew thin. Just me and my alone-time of pure indulgence in something different. It doesn’t necessarily have to be arty or cost anything. Sometimes a simple walk in the park filled with light flickering through the trees and the textures of bark catching my attention was enough. Other times a well-planned trip to a museum or art gallery followed by a decadent lunch or tea for one, and a bookshop or fabric store was what I needed most. As artists we spend most of our creative time alone, but it’s with a different voice that we carry when we take ourselves off for a little playtime artists date. Truth be told, we all need time off from our creativity… We need those grey days to curl up on the couch and splurge on Netflix. It’s part of feasting on things outside of our creativity… It’s the pause and refueling we creative’s need in order for the well to fill again.
With the start of a new year, fast approaching, I remind myself to embrace my well-earned time out this month … to thank my creativity for all that it has given me throughout the year … and to accept that every field needs a rest before a farmer can sow again.
Trayci Tompkins – December 2018