One of the most cruel twists in the life of a creative is the block.
For a writer, it’s the absence of ideas or even words, that blank page with gaping chasm right before it.
The same can be said for art, be it painting, sculpture, jewellery, music or otherwise.
One often repeatedly advised remedy is to retreat in favour of something else, giving the mind the space it needs to relax and digest whatever it requires for fresh inspiration and motivation from within.
If not in the right frame of mind, the blank page or canvas can be a great maw of intimidation and anxiety akin to the actor’s stagefright or the trepidations of an athlete in front of an expectant crowd. Unlike a live performance however, the staring at that canvas or lump of clay or preparatory sketchpad or whatever can become a persistent frustration, because creating is (typically) a solitary, unobserved act. There are no roaring crowds or anticipatory audiences – just the medium, the moment and the growling tummy.
For some, the block is precipitated by an unfortunate event or circumstance, exacerbated by anxiety, fear, lack of external encouragement or something else. Depending on life and life skills, it can persist, despite best efforts at countering strategies. The idea of stepping back and doing something else remains, however in some situations not even that is enough, and the creative is left to dwell in the darkness for a time, unable to speak out, express their feelings, emotions or passions through their chosen medium as they would customarily do.
It’s a cruelty that needs compassion, empathy and understanding, rather than the lash of the whip, angry impatience, dismissal of “over-sensitivity”, accusations of laziness or multitudes of other denunciations largely by those who could scarce comprehend what it truly means to be a creative whose inevitable fate is to nakedly bare ones soul to strangers.
As one prone to depression, the block is a common malady, and no measure great or small seems capable of countering it. This accidental inhibition condemns creative flow to be stifled for periods that are as emotionally frustrating as they are intellectually infuriating. Visits to galleries, reading great literature, listening to wonderful music and other nourishing stimulations can still end up with an empty internal response.
The mundanity of the everyday therefore condemns the blocked creative to alternative income sources, away from the possibility of climbing out of the block via their creativity, or being positioned to strike at their preferred medium should the block suddenly dissolve away.
[There’s] no way to hide the belly’s hungers – what a curse, what mischief it brews in all our lives!
– Homer, The Odyssey (17.313-314)
Such is the lot of the creative.