Creative Funk and Blockages

Writer’s block means that you are either processing something, have yet to experience something necessary to your development, or simply have too much to worry about. It is not something that you should ever put yourself in the position of fearing. As someone who has many creative strands to my work, I usually deal with it by using one of the others, whether that is making cartoons, games, artwork or helping other people work through their stuff.

Chatting to a friend earlier this evening, we were discussing why he does not seem to want to promote his acclaimed work. It turns out that bad experiences from his past prevent him, on the grounds that he is somehow jinxed. This, coupled with having had successful projects hijacked, has led to a creative block that has been extremely frustrating for me as the viewer, and extremely limiting for him. Despite this, he has managed several small projects, but is suffocated by what I can only describe as a sense of despondence and fear of success.

In this case, it is film-maker’s and graphic novelist’s block, rather than writer’s block. He, in common with another film-maker I have had dealings with, limits himself by not effectively working around the blockage. This is an intermittent, rather than a constant, problem, and in the meantime I take the rather selfish approach of involving him in my stuff (he does all the photography for the store, and is creating the covers for this year’s crop of books.) I feel quite bad about this, however, as his time would be better spent generating more of his own work and starting new strands, in a holistic development. You often find, on your downtime from one area that you work in, that you unexpectedly grow in a new direction.

I have many authors on my friend’s lists, and barely a day goes by that someone does not complain of being blocked, or that they feel guilty that they have not written that day. In comparison, I frequently do not write for months at a time, and feel nothing at all about it. As I have previously mentioned, Agatha Christie said that she knew she was a professional writer because she wrote things she did not like, at times she did not want to write. I have no plans to be in this position. Deadlines are helpful, but you do not become better by hammering out pulp. I am lucky enough to be feeling quite vital at the moment, but should this change, I have a game to construct and some artwork to do.

It often does not look as if you are doing anything at all, when your work is creative, and then you look back on your day and you have written a press release, researched another couple of textures, absorbed some patterns and shapes, tidied your workspace, sorted some materials for another day. If you look on your writer’s block in a similar way, your brain does need time to store information, process it, and proceed to output mode. You can try scribbling tasklists and notes to yourself in the meantime, to try to speed up this process, but it will happen by itself eventually. Mindmapping was a useful technique I used at university, and it certainly helps a lot with business plans and presentations. Plotting the thought bubbles sometimes makes things a lot clearer.

Negative events often cause you to remain in this state of blockage or funk for several years, when you could just break it down into neat chunks. I was very aware throughout this particular creative period, of what was going on, because I had seen it all before. Years ago, I might have bothered to meet Wolfe, on the assumption that there was some magical source of the waterfall of emotion, but even two years of personal misery did not deter me from the creative outcome, thankfully.

Be aware, as a creative person, that the bad things that happen to you are probably even more useful to you than the nice things. Relentless positivity is for insecure, easily threatened people that are unwilling to develop in a realistic way. The bad years, you will find, provide a more stable footing for your growth in the good ones, if you teach yourself to look on it the right way. My friend can now make well regarded film with minimal money, due to the horrific things that have happened to him. If I can just get him past this unwillingness to shout about it – there is no reason why he cannot expand on this if he wants to. It has taken probably the whole fifteen years I have known him for me to understand why he strangles himself with the hostile form of self-doubt that prevents us finishing certain projects. Which brings me to my final point – unfinished projects should not be binned – it is possible that your brain awaits a future event to teach you what you need to know. Growth is not always a smooth process, but it gets a lot smoother when you learn to protect yourself from shock, and that no material is bad material when you are a creative flower.

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