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Creative Block Now What? (Alt: Creative Book Recs)

Okay, so maybe this isn't how you should start a blog but I guess now is just as good as any other time.

I have really found it difficult to start new work lately. I have tons of ideas and also none. I have a wet box (container made to keep ceramics damp) full of little cups and the like but I can't bring myself to decorate them.

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. I may earn a small commission from purchases made. If you find any of the books or products mentioned interesting or of use I hope you consider using my links and supporting an artist. I will only link products or books I have used or would truly recommend.

So, why is that? What do I do next?

I won't pretend that I have it all figured out. Do we ever really have it fully figured out anyway?

In many ways I am still very fresh in my career despite having over a decade under my belt. After graduating with my MFA I was super geared up to go out and make art and then my second child was born and I decided to give myself and adjustment period. About the time life settled a little with our two kids and we got into a routine 2020 happened and none of us foresaw that. As you can imagine this really through a wrench in plans. At the beginning of 2021 I started working as an adjunct professor and have struggled to find the work, life, studio balance since.

As artists and hopefully individuals we are always learning and growing. I think it is completely normal and reasonable however, to have stages of stagnation. Being or becoming stagnant probably looks different for everyone but currently for me, it looks like being uninspired. I think lately my patterns are just not flowing the way they used to and it is hard to want to make work or decorate work when nothing seems to feel right. One way to get around that is to just keep making but it is a weird duality.

Again, I won't pretend that I have it all under control and can wax poetic about how to pull yourself out of the depths of creative block but I thought maybe I would share some of the things that I find helpful or I am exploring in the meantime. Today I thought I would start off with some books I have read or am currently reading. I often find inspiration in reading especially from other creatives. It is nice to know that I am not alone in these struggles and that it seems to just be a part of the collective experience.

This first book is exactly that. It explores the artistic experience and really highlights a lot of the struggles and feelings that go into making art or teaching art. About once a year or every other year I read "Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking" by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I also encourage every student to read this book. Its not a terribly long book and it is easy to digest. I think many creatives wether you are a painter, a dancer, or a writer, you can relate to this book.

This book was recommend to me by a professor ages ago and it has stuck with me. At times it is depressing but other times encouraging.

One quote form the book that I try to hold onto is from page 10.

" Quitting is fundamentally different from stopping. The latter happens all the time. Quitting happens once. Quitting means not starting again -- and art is all about starting again."

The book also frequently talks about this concept of how being an artist and the act of art making is so intwined with the individuals soul or being that it can have dire affect.

I feel that concept so deeply within my own being. When I fall into these creative ruts I often find myself becoming depressed. So that just compounds the issue. Am I feeling depressed because of chemicals in my body just doing their thing? Am I depressed because the world feels like a dumpster fire? Or is it all because I haven't spent my times in my sketchbook or in the studio? All are a real possibility.

Cue the existential crisis.

The idea of quitting sounds super tempting to my imposter syndrome but my soul quakes at the idea. Stopping and quitting feel like such a fine line. Would it be easier to quit? Sure, maybe. I fear I would cease to be myself. I am happiest when I am cultivating. So in attempt to keep forward momentum I found that just showing up is the first step.

Currently this looks like reading and making stupid crap and cleaning the studio.

Here's a little secret I tell students all the time but have a hard time following myself.

" Not everything has to be beautiful or perfect." This is extremely hard to admit and adhere to as a recovering perfectionist. However, I have found that when I allow the ugly and the mistakes to live and allow myself to play that is where the magic is.

(post on playing coming soon!)

This book has some simple and practical encouragement/tips to help you stay motivated. It is such a quick read that I plan to add it to my rotation alongside Art & Fear.

I am currently about 20% of the way through and it has been an interesting read. I will say that I look forward to reading more of the contemporary artists/creatives.

So far, the creatives I have read about existed in the early 1600s- late 1800s/early 1900s. Life feels so much simpler through that lens. Consider Jane Austen whose most pressing tasks were organizing the families breakfast and entertaining guests. If only...

As I mentioned at the top I have struggled to find a work, life, studio balance that makes sense for me and my family. I am the mother of two sweet girls who are still quite young but at a point where they can entertain themselves most of the time. My biggest pitfalls are wanting to spend time with them or my husband and figuring out what else to sacrifice.

I also have taught them how to make clay things and to love crafts. This is something I do not regret however, any time I head to the studio they too want to make and it really just isn't as productive as you might think.

So, sacrifice? Do I sacrifice my sleep or cooking meals? Who doesn't like sleep???? Also, meals are the way I express my love for my family I love to cook with as fresh of ingredients as I can and also love, lots of love. Cooking is also a way that I unwind it brings me a lot of peace and joy.

I am immensely grateful to have a spouse who is so supportive and has the skills to cook, clean, care for the children, etc. I just feel guilty adding more to his plate for the sake of studio time. I think if my career were a little more lucrative that wouldn't feel like such a burden. But again, sacrifice. If I don't make the sacrifices I need to be in the studio then how will I ever find that rhythm?

I hope that as I continue to read Mason Currey's book it might inspire my own sense of routine and balance. Especially, with summer coming I hope I can be more productive while I don't have work and students to distract me.

Thanks for reading. If you have any other good book recs on art, creativity, and the like let me know in the comments. Next post I will talk about playing and how I try to inspire myself back into the flow.

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