Four days into National Novel Writing Month, and I’m behind. I’ll admit it. Some types of writing I find come easier than others, and I got far too comfortable pantsing (for those unfamiliar with the term, that’s where all your writing happens by the seat of your pants.) About a month ago, I looked at the 48,000 words of raw novel ore I do have, and realized I’ve got that, hours on hours of audio recordings based in the same world setting, and a thousand and one nights more ideas for this little star system somewhere among the galaxies.
I looked at my work in progress and panicked.
Now, my 21 or even 24 year old self would have panicked, cried writers’ block, and curled up in a corner until the Fairy God Muse swooped in and wrote my Encyclopedia Vermillion themselves.
We talked about this. That’s why I buried the rotten liar. And yesterday in a conversation with another writer friend, I realized part of why we creatives have come to rely so heavily on this ephemeral concept of “the Muse.”
Unhealthy Is Not Artistic
See, there exists in our digital world a distinct creative culture, spurred on by what forces I couldn’t say. I’m not a sociologist and don’t pretend to be. However, this culture embraces all manner of practices that, in the end, lead only to obscurity, failure, and the idea that no one truly understood my genius. Nowhere is this more prominently displayed than the concept of the creative block. For writers, this is termed writer’s block.
It’s the idea that some force is preventing the creative from producing ANY NEW WORK.
I’ve met a number of people who want to create art of a variety of types for a living, yet claim they must rely on their Muse in order to work. Conditions must be perfect for them to “feel the flow.” They are artiste and so must be in the zone before the magic can happen.
Yes, it’s true, creatives – for whatever reason – seem to have higher rates of things like depression, anxiety, [insert other psychological condition here]. I deal with them too. We can’t let those challenges dictate our dedication to our craft. Remember, you are not your diagnosis. Neither is your art. Plus, I don’t believe these are truly the cause of creative blocks anyway. I suspect it’s fear. Fear of not producing at our best.
So let’s crack this open a little further. If we do face these kinds of challenges, but we still want to create, what do we need to learn?
Find Your Drive
Remember how yesterday we took the piece of the Muse we actually needed? Passionate drive and dedication will serve you far better than any Muse ever will. The fact is, your creative zone is a function of your mind.
I suspect it’s far easier for those in a physical artistic discipline to remember this, but The Zone comes easier with practice. I used to dance five days a week, twice a day three of those days. Finding The Zone in a dance was as easy as breathing during that semester.
Yet those of us who regularly practice an art that’s more based in the mind, whether it’s writing, drawing or painting, what have you, seem to cling to this notion that we have to wait for our mind to be ready. That we can’t find ways to MAKE it ready. And also, we seem, especially at first, completely unaware that the more often we give our mind a taste of where that Zone is, the more likely we are to be able to put ourselves in The Zone and stay there.
After all, you’ve heard of Neuroplasticity, right? In simple terms, it’s the trainability of the brain. Train your brain that this is what we do, and it will learn. Also remind yourself, especially if you want to make a living off your art, your writing, what have you…
This Is My Job
If you want to get paid, the creative block does not exist.
Why, you ask?
Let’s pick a job. Coffee barista, as an example. Let’s say you call in to your boss and say, Hey, boss, I’m having a “coffee barista block” today, I can’t work.
‘raises eyebrow’ …Reeaallly?
I think we both know that wouldn’t fly. In fact, I think I can hear the You’re Fired echo from here.
Most creatives making any living at all with their craft are A) not millionaires, and B) for the most part self-employed. We set our own hours (often outside of regular work hours, because many of us still need a day job), we sit down, and we make ourselves work. And if we don’t do those things, there is NO PAYCHECK. So we may as well fire the employee. Oh, wait, that’s us.
Maybe you have health problems. I do too. Maybe you struggle with a mental disorder or illness. I do too. That can make it tough. But it also makes the success that much more sweet when it does come.