Fatima T, M·A·C Senior Artist, United States
I had to share this article with you because it is right on target. I’ve always believed that you can learn from and be encouraged by people from various professional backgrounds and this piece by Senior MAC Artist, Fatima, is proof. Whether you work in a creative field or just need to get your creative juices flowing in your life, Fatima offers some sage advice. Enjoy!
Everyone falls into a creative rut, a sort of mental ditch in which you can find yourself mashing the pedal, but getting nowhere fast. Creative blocks are normal and, though most of us fear and despise them, they can be great gifts that prompt us to evaluate and expand our creative strategies and processes.
The first step in overcoming such stagnation is to understand its origin. There are a few common enemies that sabotage free-flowing creativity, and they are the following:
Fear of failing or wasting precious time. Nothing can block a creative vein like a clot of fear, and it often masks itself with the next two issues, insecurity and the over emphasizing of outcomes. Fear can also disguise itself as anger and envy. Addressing negative feelings and unraveling them creates a path for creativity to flow.
Insecurity. This means doubting your abilities, measuring your work against others or even your own previous work. Insecurity has roots in our pasts. Many of us were exposed to someone—a parent, teacher, or peer—who was critical of our efforts and abilities. Mine was a college professor who questioned my “work ethic and creativity” in front of my peers. Shame on him! Little did he know, I worked two jobs while carrying a full time class load. I was sleep deprived and burnt out, so naturally my course work suffered.
Overemphasizing Outcomes. Make no mistake, outcomes and results are important, yet so is the process by which we arrive at them. Sometimes, we become so focused on the end result, that… the pressure staunches the flow of our creative juices.
One of the great things about being an artist is that you tend to know lots of other artists, all of who have fallen into a creative ditch at some time or other. Below is a collection of strategies, some my own and others borrowed from friends, that can get you out of that ditch and back on the creative path. My friends and I agree that a multi-pronged approach is most effective, so try incorporating several of these strategies.
Purge negativity. What Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, calls the “morning pages,” I call the daily brain dump. Each day, preferably upon waking or just before retiring to bed, write a few pages in a notebook. Be uninhibited. Don’t censor yourself. This is the place to express anything that you want, be it anger, aggravation, or fear. Dump it all. This way you get negative thoughts and feelings out of you and onto the page.
Take Notes. Always carry a pen and pad to capture those strokes of brilliance that seem to pop up unceremoniously. I also like to use a mini recorder to capture ideas.
Get Physical. Regular exercise helps to literally burn away stress, another major block to the imagination.
Designate A Creative Space. Whether is is an office, studio, or corner of a room, claim a space for your creative efforts. Fill it with your favorite music, images, and scent. Our sense of smell is very powerful and can trigger memories and evoke emotions. Find a scent that invigorates you and make it a part of your creative space.
Jog Your Brain. The repetitiveness of daily routines causes stagnation, and this, in turn, stunts our imaginations. It’s been proven that reading and doing brain puzzles help keep the creative muscle strong and flexible. Also, surround yourself with diverse, clever friends who can engage you in lively discussions on all sorts of topics.
Diversify Your Outlets. For many of us, our main skill becomes our only outlet for expressing innovation. Explore and add new outlets to your repertoire. Take a dance class. Join a creative writing group, or a drawing class. Learn to play an instrument. You don’t have to become a virtuoso—that’s not the point. You simply want to give your unlimited creative force many ways to manifest so no one outlet gets burnt out.
Feed Your Eyes. Make an inspiration board that features images, objects and words that inspire you, and then place it in your creative space. Update the board with new inspirational objects as you encounter them.
Meditate. Practice “not thinking.” Giving yourself a break from your mind’s constant chatter allows you to hear your inner artist more clearly. Even a mini-meditation break of two minutes can prove beneficial.
Enjoy The Journey. As I said earlier, sometimes we become so results-oriented that we actually stifle the path to the result. If your projects require a specific end goal, then take a moment to imagine it, and then work backwards through the steps you think will get you there. Be open and flexible with new approaches and, above all, enjoy the process.
Embrace Yourself. Appreciation of others’ talents should not come at the expense of your own. Recognize that we each have a powerful ability to create, be it visual, musical, scientific or otherwise. Claiming and honoring your unique gifts allows you to appreciate and learn from others without fear or envy.
Now, get out and create something wonderful.