Terrible, Heavy Creative Block.

I’ve never heard of a tropical storm in Montreal, but we are getting one today.
With a tropical storm on the horizon, the pandemic, and the insane amount of construction and roadwork in this city, it’s starting to feel suffocating.
I don’t want to complain and make a list of all the things going wrong because nobody needs that.

I want to write about the creative block that fell on me like an actual heavy concrete one.

I was doing well, working with my oil pastels discovering, and learning on my own.
I started to work with my mentor to help me with a long-time personal project. So far, two sessions have been magical.

Sketchbook with oil pastel landscapes

But as days went by and told myself that this was the best time of my life, it became harder and harder to believe it. Though I have time and creative space available, I was not making the work I loved.

I had an appointment with my therapist/counselor. To the common question: how are you doing? I said I’m fine.

The conversation went on, but all of a sudden, I found myself talking about being lonely. I’ve written a lot about my solitary nature. I can be alone for days without speaking to anyone, and I’m perfectly happy. However, I’ve never felt lonely. This is unexpected.

Silouhette against sky

So it all unraveled from there. I had to confront my ideas about friendship and how it fades. About all the friends I’ve lost because life happened, and we stopped communicating. Despite having a day filled with things I love, the phrase from the movie Into the Wild keeps popping up:

Happiness is only real when shared.

Of course, I share a life with my husband and my dog, but there is this whole other part of me, that I feel is building up. I miss deep conversations about all kinds of topics and different points of view.
Online, everything seems so black or white, there is no nuance, it’s an “either you’re with me or against me” atmosphere.

So what happens is that I withdraw, more and more, I stop responding, I get lazy, it takes too much effort to schedule a meeting with friends in person or even online. So as I spoke to my therapist about this, I recognized how my solitude is turning into isolation. My vast inner world is shrinking.

And if this happens, can creativity and art pull me out of it? Or is it too much to ask?

I feel at the same time, depleted and overloaded with information and ideas. My studio is bursting with stuff (hello compulsive art supply shopping). My energy is low, and my body is achy and out of synch. So what to do?

One thing I fear a lot is inertia (which can be a predecessor for depression). If you’ve ever experienced it, you know how difficult it is to get off one’s butt and move in any direction. I feel its tentacles hugging me: one more episode of this series, who cares if I don’t mend the hole on the pair of pants, who cares if my closet is a mess, who cares if my work table has piles and piles of work. Should I make an appointment to get a haircut, do I want to go outside?

I ‘ve come up with a few ideas for myself. They are by no means a to-do list or, god forbid, a challenge. But actionable things I can do to gently insert some novelty into my days and see if this opens up the creative momentum again.

Plan an activity to look forward to

Usually, if I want to watch a movie or documentary, I will just give in to the impulse of watching it immediately.
Now I’ve picked Tuesday evenings to watch a previously selected movie. I will buy special snacks, settle myself with the A/C on full blast, and sit under the covers.

Beauty time:

We can all admit that the pandemic made us unattractive. I cut my own hair, wear the same t-shirts, the same shorts, and procrastinate on body lotion. I wait until things are out of control to attend to them. Again, scheduling a “beauty routine” on a Saturday morning, maybe with a podcast, or not, will create the connection I have lost with my body.

Learn something that has nothing to do with art

… or how rotten the world is. Avoid how to’s and just learn ABOUT things. This will require some research as I don’t trust algorithms to suggest stuff to me. If you have some favourite podcast or documentaries, I would love to hear about it.

House Project

Finally, arrange that horrific IKEA open closet in my studio. It has tortured me for years, and I still haven’t found a solution. I need doors that close and a uncluttered workspace. This could be as simple as installing a linen curtain.

Reign in my shopping.

I tend to shop compulsively when I’m anxious. Usually, it’s art supplies, but lately, I’ve been filling up an infinite wishlist in Notion. It’s starting to be worrisome. From a clothes steamer to an RV. Not that I can afford an RV, but it’s there.
I recognize that it’s not only stress but the void I’ve been feeling that fuels this. We all know the brief excitement a parcel’s arrival gives us, only to disappear and opening that empty black hole again.

In my Art Practice:

  • Limit my colour palette to an extreme.
  • Work on simultaneous pieces with said colour palette at least for two weeks. (I will document this on Patreon).

For Flowarte

I want to improve my video making skills. Yes, I have started to create videos for my patrons. I’m so grateful that they are patient and understanding of how challenged I am in this department.

Opening up to teach private lessons on drawing and/or painting. Aiming to create connection and helping people start on their art journey by teaching things from a self-taught perspective and not from a strict set of rules.

To combat inertia, one has to get moving. Just a nudge, but if I keep sitting at my desk, trying to draw and paint for hours, I will sink into despair. Nothing I make is to my liking, which makes me go and see other artists sending me into a deeper spiral.

One can only work on art for so long. Even full-time artists have to break down their process into stages, and the actual art-making is just one part of it.

This is something that self-taught artists don’t consider. We only see the art-making bit and not the whole process, so we march directly into a wall or catch a creative block on our heads.

Writing this out is helpful because the feeling of days melting into one another also robs us of precious reflective time. Writing or journaling is always a good thing when we are tangled up in thoughts.

What are your go-to strategies for overcoming inertia? Chat with me on Twitter!