Monday, August 3, 2009

Creative block

I have creative block. I'm tired of the work I've been doing, and I find I draw no satisfaction from my job anymore. I chose a career that is so NOT about the money and much more about quality of life (I'm a professional artist), yet my work has been led by money for the past few years, and the quality of life and meaningful work has fallen by the wayside.

I have a lot of outside pressure to perform, and the judgment is completely money-based - whether I have job satisfaction doesn't come into it. I find this completely frustrating and completely contrary to my belief system. Not only that, the pressure and stress is making the process worse. I need time to fall back, evaluate, discover, review. I need to destress and have a chance to open my eyes to the world and new ideas without criticism. This is what will bring back the spark - based on my previous experience with painter's block.

I have reached the point, after three years of increasingly meaningless work, that I need to refocus and rethink. I've put it off and put it off, succumbing to the pressure, and have reached the point now that I simply can't do it any more.

I so need the criticism and the pressure to go so that I can get to a state where I can create again. If my work becomes a production line, just for the money, I may as well be working on a factory floor - it would be the same kind of mind-numbing, repetitive, soul-killing work (but I'd probably get better pay & benefits!).

Ughhh, it's so depressing.

I need to find inspiration again so that I can be fulfilled in my work.

There isn't any easy answer - no go-to website or manual for overcoming creative block - it is a fickle thing. I have found that for me, time and unfocused thought work. By unfocused thought, I mean a sort of creative meditation - a period of taking things in, turning ideas over in my head, observing life, colour, weather, all the daily routines - a time to consider and wonder.

There are a couple of sites that I find are useful for inspiring random thoughts, an ever-changing set of jumping off points or sparks. It is the thinking about new things that inspires more new ideas for me, and these help:
  • Science Daily - read about new research and discoveries in all fields of science, like the recent discoveries of previously unknown species in Laos (a new, bald-faced songbird, a rodent descended from a species that was thought to have been extinct since 11 million years ago, a striped rabbit), how noisy environments can affect language skills and vocabulary in infants, interesting articles about anything science.
  • The London Telegraph has interesting picture galleries. This week the paper art of Su Blackwell is featured - lovely and inspiring.
  • PaintBlog features a painting by a different artist each weekday. I don't always love each day's selection, but I do appreciate the eclecticism, and particularly the urban landscape artists that frequently show up on this site.
  • Found (click on Finds and sift through each day and the previous days) - a compilation of found papers, mostly, sent in from all over the world. They tend towards the amusing or odd, and can be fascinating glimpses into the lives of strangers.
  • PostSecret - another glimpse into life, in this case people have written their secrets on postcards and mailed them to an artist anonymously.
  • Overheard in New York - this one's more for entertainment than creative inspiration, but can be fascinating.
  • Etsy, of course, is full of creativity and can be inspiring - but there's a lot to sort through to find the gems that speak to you.
I'd love to hear about it if you have any recommendations of sites that inspire you.


  1. This is a really interesting post Emily. I am not creative in anyway so I haven't had an artistic blocks but I am trying to use my blog as a creative outlet and sometimes I have blocks about what to write. I try to do what my dad does (he is a playwrite) and just write anyway. He says to write and even if it is awful you have still written. It helps you to work past the physical act of writing even if the outcome isn't what you want.

    My sister has a BFA and she got discouraged by what she saw as the money aspect of art so now she is doing her PhD in art history. I will ask her what she did to deal with her blocks. She did do some painting but also multimedia projects.

    I am sorry to hear about your block. Those are really neat sites that I will check out. One thing that helps me with life blocks is traveling. Taking myself out of the routine and into a new place, new people, new sights. I have to say I think your work is beautiful, but maybe you need to go in the opposite direction. No more nature. Urban concrete instead. :-) My sister'area of study is urban landscape photography so I can always ask her for ideas!

  2. You listed some really good sites I will be checking out. Sorry your are going through writers block. HUGS mama!

  3. Just stopping by to say that I like your blog. I love Etsy too. I just ordered something on there.


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