I’m sure all creatives, people who try to make a living from their creations, suffer this at some point. And it’s not, by the way, confined to writers. I’ve been fighting with a new song all day, and it still isn’t playing ball. My ideas sound hackneyed, flat. And that’s just to me. I wouldn’t dare play them to anyone else. Their sympathy would kill me.
But I suffer from artist’s block as well. When the thought of picking up a paint-brush is just too much. When I sit staring at a blank canvas, and nothing comes to me.
All very depressing. And there is no doubt that the best remedy to any sort of creative blockage is just to keep going. To write, regardless, as one of my author friends writes. Paint regardless. Compose regardless. It doesn’t matter if the end result is not up to one’s usual standard. It can always go into the bottom drawer to be brought out again at some point in the future. What’s important is to keep working through the blockage.
But there is one thing which for me works best. Deadlines. And Commissions. If I know that I have to get a painting finished for a certain date, I will get it done. Even better though is if I’m working on the score to a TV programme. Somehow, working to the constraints of a moving image brings the ideas flowing out in a way which they never do when I’m working just for my own pleasure. I always knew that this is the sort of music I wanted to write. Little did I know that it would fit me so naturally. I have yet to experience sitting watching a film or documentary which is awaiting music, and to have no ideas come.
So writer’s block can be worked through, but for me it is less of an issue if I am working to someone else’s deadline. My own deadlines? They can be moved just a little too easily – so they are not really deadlines at all.
Having said that, for many years I have operated a to-do list. the joy I feel in ticking off one of the items for that day is immeasurable. In fact, if I get to the end of a day and I haven’t ticked everything off, I think of things which I didn’t write down, yet did do. I then add these to my to-do list, so that I can experience the joy of ticking them off. I know its sad, but that’s what makes me tick I guess. If you were to ask my wife, she would say I’m far too driven, far too task orientated. And she’s not wrong. But that’s the way I cope with times of great busyness, and times when the ideas just seem to dry up.
Keep working through. Writer’s block will not last forever. Says he hopefully.
What you may have guessed is that this very blog entry is me working through writer’s block. Just write anything. Anything that occurs to you. Make up a piece of music about anything at all. Base it on something else. It doesn’t matter – just keep going! Take small steps, a note at a time, a brush-stroke at a time.
Another thing I’m learning is not to be stunted by my perfectionism. Not every first draft is going to be wondrous. So stop expecting it to be. That strive for perfection can be its own worst enemy. Accept what you are able to do. It may not be the best, but it’s there.
Sometimes though, it’s good to take a break. Go for a walk. Come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes or ears.
If there were a fool-proof remedy for writer’s block, someone would surely have made a mint selling it. But I am discovering that there are things which I can do to get the creative juices flowing once more.