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How Do I Get Over a Creative Block?


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ARTS SHRINK is a bi-weekly column designed to answer questions from artists and arts groups related to their arts business and practice. The Arts Shrink brings two decades of experience as an arts consultant, teacher, and mentor to the table as she responds your questions.


Dear Arts Shrink, How do I get over a creative block?

-Orange County Writer


Dear OC Rider,

So glad you asked. A quick Google search confirmed my suspicions there are lots of recommendations floating around out there about ways to jerk out of a creative block. I suppose you could try any or all of them, but to me that just sounds exhausting. I'd like you think differently about this for a moment, my dear OC Rider. Be patient while I turn the table on you and ask a question back.

Question: Why are we all so eager to embrace the notion that creative retreats are negative?

I know we live in a capitalist society where success is increasingly measured by quantity rather than quality but, for the sake of this exploration, set that aside if you can. (By the way, are there any arts patrons, donors, gallery owners, publishers, producers, bosses, or designated arts leaders listening out there? All problems are not artist problems, you know.)

Consider that the natural rythm of artists is like, well, the ocean. When the artistic impulse is present, meaning your muse is screaming in your ear, you create. Equally important however is that when your muse is not screaming in your ear, it is perfectly normal and healthy that you go into a creative retreat. It's happening for a reason. And the reason is that you are not a soup factory, you are an artist. Whatever the creative impulse is and wherever it lives in the human spirit, it needs to rest.

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If you're willing to accept that creative retreats (I encourage you to remove the word "block" from your vocabulary) are natural and healthy, you are opening yourself up to potentially powerful possibilities. Like the possibility that, while not screaming, perhaps your muse is whispering. Or perhaps, if you listen carefully, you will able to hear echoes of past, unfulfilled, creative impulses. Maybe you're in a creative transition -- a powerful time when your work fundamentally changes, evolves.

We could incorporate the Japanese word ma into this conversation -- pause, interval, gap - equally important to creation. So, ssshhhh, my dear OC Rider, listen into the silence for a moment every day. Your sweet muse is closer than you think. Your weeping and wailing may just be drowning out her whispers and echoes. Be grateful for these intervals, they are critically important to maintaining or increasing your artistic integrity.

Now, dear arts patrons, donors, bosses, leaders, etc., it is equally important that you also consider the notion of creative retreat. If you too are willing to embrace creative replenishment as a natural part of the artistic process and take simple steps to allow for it or, better yet support it (donors), I think that you will find an easier, more creative and artistic flow of work in the long run.

Do you have a question you'd like answered? Send an email here.


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Top Image: Cody Geary /Flickr/Creative Commons License

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About the Author

Corbett Barklie is committed to deep engagement with artists and artist collectives whom she believes are the backbone of the creative community. It is the brave new work undertaken at the grassroots level that informs the field, ...
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